Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Selling QA

Due to various quirks of my job, QA in general, the seating arrangements where we are, etc., I find myself having to talk to non-tech types about QA a fair amount. These are usually not engineers of any sort; think sales guys, consultants, marketing people, and the like. And then the question comes up:

"What exactly is QA, anyway?"

My task, whatever it was before, just changed. Now I have to sell QA. And this one is a bit tricky. There are a lot of definitions of QA and testing out there. These examples are some of my favorites:
  • Exploring a system in order to provide information.
  • Gaining an understanding of a system and procedures surrounding the system, with an eye toward aiding effective business decisions.
  • Being an advocate for doing things well throughout an organization.

The problem with a simple definition is that it doesn't tell you WHY. Ultimately, that's what the questioner wants to know: why do I care about this function? What does it give me?

That's a little trickier. I tend to answer as follows:

QA's job is to minimize customer surprise.

Now, given the audience - usually sales, marketing, and support - this hits home. Customers value consistency, and problems are okay. What they don't like is to be surprised. So what you're telling your audience is not to worry about the specifics of testing or process or all of the other things that QA does. Just worry about what it gives you. And what it gives you is a customer who isn't going to get a shock and call you up unexpectedly.

So, how do you sell QA?

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