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Is “QA” too narrow?

Twice this week, with different people, I had a conversation about what to call the category of work that I’ve been focusing on lately around integrating automated tests into CI/CD pipelines and making releases as smooth and easy as possible. As part of the discussions, I floated the idea of it all being under the umbrella of QA, and the two responses I got (independently!) were:

Oh we can’t call it QA, that’s too narrow.

No, this is bigger than just QA.

I was surprised by that, though I probably shouldn’t have been. I’ve written about a similar thing before: I’ve joked about alternative terms and what I had to do to avoid a “QA” column on my team, largely inspired by Richard Bradshaw’s whiteboard talk and Michael Bolton’s insistence that testers don’t do “QA”. But this is something else.

That’s all about making sure we don’t limit the ownership of quality to testers.
In tester circles, the term “QA” seems discouraged because it refers to something that testers don’t really have control over. It’s the responsibility of the whole team and covers the whole development lifecycle.

What I’ve been doing instead is this: My official job title is “QA automation developer”, so yes I’m going to do testing work, but I also take that as license to improve everything I can around the entire development and deployment process. I get involved in feedback mechanisms and automation and pipelines and infrastructure and release processes and everything else.

I know people without “QA” in their title also get involved in those things, my point is just that I see that part of title as liberating, not restrictive. The disconnect is when I take my understanding of QA (or at least the Q) from Agile Testing, Modern Testing, UX, and DevOps and try to use it in a context where it has historically meant something closer to a traditional testing phase of development. That’s what I kept forgetting this week. Labeling something as part of “QA” is restrictive in that context, regardless of what I or anybody else thinks it should mean.

So now I have two options:

  1. Change what people think QA (or “quality”) means.
  2. Come up with a different word to capture the broader scope.

And before you say that a job title shouldn’t affect the work I actually do: titles do affect what people think.

I’m open to suggestions.

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