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IT quality assurance has always played a vital role in IT organizations. However, the role of quality assurance as a discrete job position is in a state of flux. Most companies have abandoned, at least in part, the traditional waterfall software development model in favor of agile development methodologies, such as scrum, and other iterative approaches. Waterfall development models usually incorporate distinct testing phases where QA and testing staff are dedicated to detecting flaws in program code. This change, combined with the fact that QA staff is usually a small portion of the total IT staff, is leading to volatility in the percentage of IT staff dedicated to QA.
Among all organizations that staff the position, the ratio of QA staff to total IT staff is currently 3.3% at the median, a substantial increase from 2.4% the prior year, as shown in Figure 1 from our study, IT Quality Assurance Staffing Ratios. The ratio has fluctuated significantly in recent years, and at least some of that fluctuation has to do with the changing nature of the role.
“When someone with a developer title spends most of the day developing code, but part of their day testing and debugging, it can be difficult to classify that individual,” said David Wagner, vice president of research for Computer Economics, based in Irvine, Calif. “Some companies, like Microsoft and Yahoo, have very publically laid off large parts of the QA and testing staff. But the need for QA doesn’t go away.”
Though the QA staffing ratio may be volatile, in a very real sense the QA role is becoming more strategic. Freed from the drudgery of low-level testing, quality assurance staff can focus on establishing QA requirements early in the development cycle, coordinating user acceptance testing, and ensuring compliance. The changing face of QA is elevating the job position, making it difficult to properly staff this role. This report can help managers determine the appropriate staffing level for this function.
The full study provides benchmarks for assessing current quality assurance staffing levels. We present the five-year trend in quality assurance staffing. We then provide three benchmarks by organization size and sector: QA staff as a percentage of the IT staff, QA staff as a percentage of the Application Group, and applications per QA staff member. We conclude with recommendations for improving the effectiveness of the quality assurance function within the IT organization.
This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, IT Quality Assurance 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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