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QA Team – Centralized or Distributed? September 22, 2009

Posted by yvettefrancino in QA.
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My first assignment as a QA Manager at Sun was to form a centralized QA team, gathering the scattered QA resources from the development teams. As is usually the case with a reorg, it was met with some skepticism and resistance. The development managers were used to having dedicated QA resources.

Back in 2002, when this reorg took place, I wrote an article in StickyMinds explaining the benefits of the centralized approach. Basically, by forming a centralized team, the staff was able to share and standardize on best practices, tools, and processes, among other things. The new approach was a huge success.

I was challenged recently to provide the other point of view. Why might it be better to keep the QA resources organizationally in the development teams? The most obvious reason is that collaboration between developers and testers is absolutely essential! When QA is separated organizationally, it’s much more likely that a we-vs-them mentality will erupt, causing developers and testers to feel more like enemies than friends. They are literally on different teams and when you’re on a different team there can be almost a natural sense of competition.

Besides the inclination to be more collaborative with the development group, dedicated test resources are more likely to learn their applications under test inside out. They will be involved in the early stages throughout the development life-cycle rather than only at the end when the code is “thrown over the wall.” In today’s world of agile development, the tester needs to be involved and working side-by-side the project team members throughout the life-cycle. If the QA resources are stretched between multiple projects, only involved during a short test cycle, they are less likely to be as knowledgeable on any one project.

While there certainly are advantages to either approach, my take is that you can get the best of both worlds by keeping the QA Team centralized organizationally and form strong cross-functional project teams. There are certain QA staff members that will have a particular area of expertise such as performance testing or internationalization testing.  These experts do not need to be dedicated for the entire life-cycle to one project, but can participate on multiple projects.  Other testers may be dedicated for the entire life-cycle to one project, but still remain part of the centralized team which is setting organizational standards and policies.

Whichever approach is used, the key is collaboration and early testing.  Any walls between development and test need to come tumbling down.

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Comments»

1. Tony Bruce - September 22, 2009

I agree, it’ll work both ways, really just comes down to the people working together and communicating.


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