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For IT organizations that engage in custom software development, the quality assurance role is a well-established function that has remained steady over time.
Among all organizations, the ratio of quality assurance (QA) and testing staff to IT staff is currently an average 1.9% across all organizations. Over the past three years, the ratio has held steady, as shown in Figure 1 from our study, IT Quality Assurance and Testing Staffing Ratios. There was a decline from 2.2% in 2009. However, the 1.9% ratio marks a return to a normal level after a brief rise during the recession, and the decline may have more to do with a restoration of other IT staff positions than a change in QA staffing levels.
Because only about half of all IT organizations staff this function, the average ratio is not useful for benchmarking. In the full study, we provide three benchmarks for staffing this function: quality assurance staff as a percentage of the IT staff, quality assurance staff as a percentage of the application group, and users per quality assurance staff member. The benchmarks are adjusted for outsourcing, exclude organizations that do not staff the function, and are segmented by organization size.
The quality assurance mission is to provide managers with independently determined visibility into all processes, status, and quality of software development and upgrade projects, and to maintain the quality level of those products over their life cycle. Quality assurance personnel review, test, record, and audit software products to verify and validate their compliance with standards and procedures that the organization has established to ensure software and system quality.
Some software development experts note a technical difference between the roles of quality assurance and testing. Applying the former means outlining and implementing development standards, processes, and procedures before and during development to ensure quality. The latter is the act of searching for bugs after development. In practice, however, the distinction often becomes muddied.
IT quality assurance has been around since the beginning of IT, yet even today organizations often underestimate the vital role it plays. A capable IT quality assurance group will improve IT processes and ensure the effectiveness of projects, especially in application development and maintenance. Quality assurance staff can uncover inconsistencies early in the development cycle, reduce errors, and prevent rework, easily paying its way. This report can help managers determine the appropriate staffing level for this function.
This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, IT Quality Assurance and Testing Staffing Ratios. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).
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