For code quality, best practices and tooling come together around testing. There are many approaches to development and testing, but for modern applications and software life cycles, it’s important to have a cadence where development and testing work hand in hand, said Karthik Ravindran, senior director of ALM at Microsoft.

Quality, he said, “is a full life-cycle practice. Every role has a role to play in quality. The QA department can be an enabler of agile, but there need to be quality champions.” He advised that organizations take advantage of the collective muscle of the team to move from quality champions to quality brains and ultimately to quality thought leaders, those who also enable agility.

“We’re strongly of the opinion that quality has always been a top priority of organizations whose businesses depend on software (enterprises, ISVs, service providers),” said Ravindran. “The trend we’ve recognized in such organizations is compromising agility for quality. Today, in an effort to capitalize on the modern business opportunities enabled by software, decision-makers and practitioners are striving hard to strike the tough balance—and this is where the challenge exists—between agility and quality without compromising either.”

Ravindran said Microsoft is seeing businesses and enterprises starting to modernize their software investments and move toward these modern business applications. But in this new world, the end objective is not always known upfront when people start working on these applications. In modern development, he said, “usually there tends to be a build-measure-learn hypothesis where people want to be able to go and do something, kick the tires, test the waters, see how it works, and then decide whether to do more or to do less of a particular investment.

“That’s a pretty different mindset compared to how people tend to approach the classic IT line-of-business type systems, with formal processes of baselining and pre-baselining and really knowing what does ‘done’ mean even before starting the investment.”

Traditional QA does not scale, so it cannot meet the demands imposed by a modern application life cycle based on agile practices and continuous delivery. If anything, it bogs down cycle time and adds costs by not fully engaging all stakeholders throughout development, which can result in a failure to notice that requirements were not met until late in the development phase.
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Part of that problem is that while organizations are transitioning their development and project-management teams to agile practices, they’re not doing that as much with testing and IT. “They try to do this and still treat quality as an afterthought, that quality is something which is predominantly the QA function’s accountability,” Ravindran said.

About David Rubinstein

David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.