Market competition and an emphasis on great user experience drives innovation. And today, companies are innovating at breakneck speed. As product and service companies scale up their development teams to embark on new, attractive features and match the pace of their respective markets, they also scale up their QA teams to match the increased workload.
Or do they?
As it turns out, many organizations opt to stay lean when it comes to QA. For smaller companies with a fixed developer headcount, this might work for a time. But if growth is the goal, then a small QA team can easily become overloaded, overworked, and more likely to overlook costly mistakes.
As we’ve discussed before, there is no hard-and-fast, set-in-stone, golden ratio of dev to QA engineers. The answer to this eternal question is, as always, “It depends.” When deciding how to structure your QA team, you’ll want to closely consider the following factors; they will provide more specific guidance about your QA testing services than any golden ratio!
The types of testing and test configurations required
What types of QA testing will you need? Database testing, security testing, system testing, some other type of testing, or a combination of these? Every area involves a different skill set -- some more intensive, others less so. For more intensive work, plan on matching your QA resources with your dev resources.
Your desired number of test configurations will also affect the number of QA engineers you hire. Consider the various types of browsers, operating systems, devices, and screen sizes your product will need to be tested on. The higher the number, the more likely it is that your QA resources will need to match dev's.
The criticality of your product
Healthcare organizations looking to security test a mobile app that is used by millions of customers, for example, will want to invest in top-quality QA testing services. This is because their software is critical to users -- it connects them to a vital service that they use to monitor and manage their personal and highly sensitive health records and data. Skimping on QA resources could result in big problems -- security leaks, user abandonment, a PR fiasco -- that a simple post-release fix won’t solve.
Skimping on QA can result in problems a simple post-release fix won't solve. (Click to tweet)
A budding startup trying to break onto the scene with a simple product and strategically small team, on the other hand, can probably get away with a similarly small QA team. The consequences of running with lean QA are not as serious as they are for the decades-old healthcare company with sensitive patient data wrapped up in its product.
With critical products often come government regulation and certification requirements. Products serving the healthcare industry, financial industry, or any other specialized market that is regulated by compliance standards, should have domain experts on their QA team who know all of the applicable best practices.
The possibility of automation
How much of a product’s testing can be automated, instead of being performed manually by a QA engineer? If the answer is "a lot", then this can likely reduce the number of people dedicated to its QA effort. In this instance, working with qualified automation experts who have the expertise required to build out a reusable, sustainable testing framework can help you leverage automation over time. Learn more about how automated testing can change the way your team thinks about the software development lifecycle.
The type of testing methodology followed
Still rely on Waterfall? Count on spending more on QA engineers. Because bugs are found at the end of the software development lifecycle in this methodology, a period of intensive testing and reporting must be planned and resourced. Contrast this approach with the Agile methodology, which has dev and QA working together throughout the lifecycle. Errors are found and fixed as the code is written, allowing organizations to reduce the number of dedicated QA engineers in-house.
The types of integrations used
If a product calls on third-party APIs, QA engineers experienced in API testing should make up much of your QA team. Though technically it will require hiring experts, API testing will be better for it -- thorough, code-based testing helps organizations bypass the GUI, saving time and reducing the resources used in the long run.