Monday, February 8, 2010

QA to Developer Ratio

This week, during interaction with potential clients, I was speaking with them about their QA department and asked “What is your QA to developer ratio?” The answer was an embarrassed laugh followed by an explanation of how there were very few QA team members compared to the development team. This gave me a good idea not only of the immediate problems faced by the organization but also the lack of strategic thought, the lack of executive planning, and the longer term problems that the organization will face in the future.

I did not even bother to ask why they had a low QA to developer ratio as the guaranteed answer was going to be “lack of funding” or some variation thereof. Which, therefore, indicates that the management does not consider quality an important part of what the organization provides to the customers. Oh sure, if I were to state this directly to them, they would deny it vehemently but actions speak louder than words and the true meaning of their actions is that they do not give quality the importance that they claim to. Now, in certain rare cases, a low QA to developer ratio is acceptable and makes sense. This would be in low price, commodity items where the development process was very mature and error free and not a lot of QA was needed nor made financial sense to be deployed. However, in the case of complex software with a not so strong development team producing it, a QA to developer ratio of less than 1 to 1 is simply stating that you do not consider quality important. There is, of course, no one specific ratio that serves all organizations. However, in my opinion for most IT and software type of situations, at the minimum, a 1 to 1 ration of QA to developers is necessary. To really provide “Cadillac” service, in my opinion, a 2 to 1 ration of QA to developers should be implemented. The 2 to 1 ratio, while being expensive, really puts a lot of pressure off the QA staff and makes the QA process fun and not such a pressure cooker kind of an environment. However, most companies are very far from the 1 to 1 ratio so I won’t put too much emphasis on anything higher than that. Of course, in mission critical software where lives are at stake, the QA to developer ration has been known to go as high as 4 to 1 or even more which illustrates that organizations do spend on QA when they have to.

It really boils down to whether the goal is to squeeze out as much of a profit as possible for the quarter, or to truly plan for the future and be as well setup to deal with it as possible. As a QA team member in the past, I can assure readers that a high QA to developer ration is very, very beneficial and ultimately cost effective to the organization in the end.

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