Quality assurance managers are typically so bogged down in the hectic day-to-day operations of running their teams, that they may not notice the seemingly innocuous factors that are adversely affecting software testing efforts. One of the most harmful of these can be siloed information. Although it may sometimes seem as if test team leaders have more pressing issues to cope with, information silos must be addressed to effectively streamline processes and fully embrace agile testing methodologies.
TechTarget contributor Margaret Rouse explained that information silos are very common within organizations, particularly larger businesses. Without a concerted effort to share data with all relevant stakeholders, it will be difficult - if not impossible - to take advantage of operational strategies like agile.
"Information silos can also occur when departments compete with each other instead of working with each other toward the furtherance of business goals," Rouse wrote. "Information silos are generally viewed as a hindrance to effective business operations and organizations are increasingly trying to break down silos that are a barrier to collaboration, accessibility and efficiency."
These information silos greatly hamper a QA teams' ability to respond to change quickly and negatively impact their overall productivity. A Techwell contributor on AgileConnection noted that silos can exist when utilizing waterfall methodologies, but agile testing is practically impossible.
"Once a specialized process becomes the focus of an organization, time-to-market begins to slow... Organizations with this structure can manage waterfall projects successfully, but speed and change-tolerance suffers."
Information silos continue to plague QA teams
For all of the interest surrounding agile in the software development industry, many quality assurance teams continue to depend on technology and processes that encourage the creation of information silos. Perhaps the most prevalent activity that stymies agile practices is the continued use of Excel spreadsheets to track testing efforts. Many smaller organizations rely on these documents to handle their QA management needs because information can be quickly and easily added to them. They offer a no-frills approach to software test management that may appeal to smaller operations, but will ultimately be untenable for businesses with grander goals.
The problem with this approach is that it's very difficult for all project stakeholders to get ahold of information stored in spreadsheets, preventing them from using that data for analytics purposes. The alternative is to deploy a comprehensive test management solution that allows everyone involved in a particular project to view and modify information relating to the QA process. This means they can receive updates regarding development and testing progress as well as see how productive individual teams have been.
QA software tears down silos
Test management tools facilitate the use of software testing metrics to better analyze team performance at both granular and broad levels. Information can be collected pertaining to individual projects as well as teams across a long period of time. This insight allows QA leaders to make better decisions about their personnel and how they approach testing in general.
Furthermore, QA managers can share information with their superiors to demonstrate the effectiveness of their teams. Software testing can sometimes get a bad rap from others within an organization, because it is viewed as a time-consuming process. However, team leaders can use metrics to show how efficient testers are when identifying and addressing software defects. They can go one step further and highlight the relative importance of software bugs and other errors discovered by team members. This information will place QA in a better light across the organization, as it clearly shows that without diligent software testing, projects can reach the release with minimal defects.