Spoken words fly away, writings remain.
That’s equally true when building software. Teams have so much to do and think about, ending up by forgetting important tasks.
Tasks written that are regularly reviewed have a much better probability of being completed, raising the question of how to identify such tasks in the first place.
One main asset to use is the collaborative intelligence of multidisciplinary teams that can identify the most important subject to implement.
This article shares the QE Notes, a Quality Engineering methodology that formalizes how to retrieve such collective information on the end-to-end software lifecycle.
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What are QE Notes?
QE notes is a methodology to collaboratively define important Quality Engineering topics to address before proceeding with implementation.
Derived from testing notes and QA notes, QE notes have the difference to be performed by the cross-functional team applied to the entire software lifecycle.
Ideally, we would not need QE Notes. But increasing the Quality Engineering maturity is a continuous journey so in reality, its use becomes easier with better foundations.
The method aims to be applied systematically to prioritize the most important gaps to cover depending on the context of each implementation.
Here are two examples of the two main types of deliverables in Quality Engineering: Quality Engineering Software Increments and QE User Stories.
QE increments: Allow customers to get more value by adding a payment recommendation engine for credit facilities to the checkout experience
- Architecture: Update the flows in the cartography
- Integration: Make sure to get testing accounts for all environment
- Testing: Add the test to the non-regression and performance campaign
- Data: Make sure to keep interactions data to measure the experience
- Security testing: Make penetration testing to go live
- Monitoring: Check payment means correctly appears in 24/7 dashboards
- Alerting: Make sure a business alert is setup
User Story: As a premium customer, I get recommendation for paying with a customized credit amount
- Integration: Configure testing accounts for all environments
- Error management: Check that nominal and error cases are logged
- Functional test: Add the test to non-regression campaign
- Security: Ensures traffic encryption in all environments
- Security testing: Make sure the API authentication cannot by bypassed
We will see afterwards how these notes were built, and what are the available options to choose from.
QE notes leverage outputs performed in early stages:
- One-Slide Problem Summary
- Non-functional requirements
- Architecture review as peer review
QE notes are then systematized in:
- DoR to consider ready for implementation
- DoD by adding the notes to sub-tasks
- Peer reviews mechanisms during implementation
This methodology relying mainly on manual activities can seem strange in the context of Quality Engineering—but it’s required for Quality at Speed software.
Why use QE Notes in Quality Engineering?
Quality Engineering is the paradigm constraining the entire software lifecycle to the continuous delivery of valuable software.
Its implementation relies on a progressive approach to gradually improve the level of Quality at Speed according to the organization maturity and size.
QE notes are an effective way to support the evolution of an organization to perform Quality Engineering activities and identify necessary reusable foundations.
How does QE Notes contribute to Quality?
Quality attributes have the challenge of being contextual depending on the stakeholders involved, from end-user, to regulators and internal actors.
Organizations searching to improve Quality have to find ways to identify, align and prioritize the implementation of quality attributes.
That alignment can only be achieved through collaborative interactions with a repeatable structure to ensure the alignment on the quality themes.
QE notes contributes to Quality being:
- Result-driven in defining quality attributes priority and notes
- Systematic applicable before starting increments and stories
- Scalable with a repeatable process adaptable to contexts and teams.
How does QE Notes contribute to Speed?
Teams with the pressure to deliver short-term results can end up taking shortcuts of quality to meet short deadlines.
But focusing solely on accelerating increases technical debt, risks and reworks that in the end, results in much less quality and less speed overall.
That’s why methodology like QE notes are useful in being a minimal method to identify what would be improved to balance Quality at Speed based on constraints.
QE notes contributes to Speed with:
- Focus on the essential Quality Engineering subjects to address
- Rhythm in being applied systematically and defining priorities
- Asynchronicity supported by collaborative process and documents
- Visibility on the quality attributes priorities for the defined increments.
How to start with QE notes in Quality Engineering?
QE notes is a systematic methodology that can be applied on a first team, to then expand in the rest of the organization.
Here are QE notes principles to follow:
- Preparation is essential
- Ensure end-to-end collaboration
- Keep the exercise focused
- Make choices of priorities
- Use notes for QE foundations.
QE notes can be applied at two levels to combine the perspectives on a global and local level:
The process should not take more than 2 hours in total as you rely on previously documented information, organize one meeting and have to take the minutes at the end.
Here is the detailed QE notes process:
- Book the QE notes meeting with your team
- Prepare the dashboard for the workshop
- Animate the collaborative workshop
- Document the notes for implementation
- Plan systematic reviews to identify improvements.
Book the QE notes meeting with your team
Getting end-to-end stakeholders in a remote-first environment with a tendency of having more meetings is not always easy.
That’s why booking the meeting in advance will let you ensure the level of quality and speed by having all the necessary people at the same time.
Even if the process could be done fully asynchronously, the collective intelligence materializes better by sharing directly, and also forces you to time-box the exercise.
Make sure to include end-to-end stakeholders of your cross-functional team, ranging from product, engineering, infrastructure, security, depending on your organization.
Prepare the dashboard for the workshop
The two main actions required to prepare the meeting are to collect previous deliverables useful for the exercise and structure the checklist.
The deliverables to collect are the ones giving the necessary inputs:
- One-Slide Problem Summary with a clear statement.
- Non-functional requirements that are prioritized
- Architecture review with scenarios, trade-offs and trajectory.
The content will then be used to write the notes based on a checklist covering the end-to-end lifecycle, and will support a structured brainstorming exercise.
QE notes checklist:
- Business (behavior, rules, validation, A/B)
- Organization (communication, validation, sync)
- Skills (training, sharing, reviews)
- Architecture (functions, application, data, flows)
- Measurement (metrics, kpis, value, customers)
- Data (model, storage, engineering, security)
- Documentation (product, patterns, cartography)
- Technology (pattern, templates, radar, coding)
- Testing (techniques, tooling, devices, tools)
- Integration (configuration, environments, accounts)
- Release (deployment, versioning, mechanism, partners)
- Monitoring (alerts, rules, hotline, recovery action)
- Observability (dashboards, reporting, metrics, logs, traces)
- Infrastructure (workload, cloud, storage, network, backup)
- Security (policy, regulation, tests, accesses, secrets)
- Legal (contract, compliance, external dependency)
You can use this list, tune it, let it as bullet points or use visual tools like Klaxoon or Miro.
Send all the documents beforehands to the participants, asking them to explicitly read the collected deliverables to have the topic in mind.
Animate the collaborative workshop
The workshop can follow the structure of silent retrospective that allows all contributors to equally contribute while keeping the collective intelligence.
Follow the following time-boxed agenda:
- 15 minutes : sharing of previous deliverables
- 10 minutes : people write in silence their points, flagging items not clear
- 5 minutes : regroupment and q&a to align on unclear items
- 5 minutes : each person can vote for 5 items from 1 to 5
- 10 minutes : round-table sharing on rationale adapting priorities
At that step, the QE Notes become a list of lists where the most important items are the ones to be implemented.
Document the notes for implementation
That step consists in transiting from meeting notes to actionable QE notes in the implementation.
After improving the wording, the formalization can be done by:
- Adding QE notes to the DoD of QE Software Increments
- Adding QE notes to the DoD of QE User Stories.
Backlog tools can add notes or checklists, there is for example a JIRA plugin for test notes.
For the sake of efficiency, I recommend that only one person does that exercise to remain consistent and done at once.
Plan systematic reviews to identify improvements
On top of improving the quality and speed of implementation items, QE notes are an effective way to see what you actually need on your software lifecycle.
The documentation of the most important QE implementations that are not available natively or not mature enough on your software lifecycle are valuable feedback.
You can capitalize on this data to prioritize your QE roadmap based on what your company needs on the concrete software pipeline, as well as improve your DoR and DoD.
That’s why I recommend centralizing the QE notes in a single space where you can duplicate pages and easily centralize them later with search facilities or consolidated sheets.
QE notes within MAMOS for Quality at Speed
Your Quality Engineering maturity is continuously evolving depending on what you deliver today and what you prioritize tomorrow.
QE notes is an efficient methodology to systematically prioritize the most valuable elements to improve Quality and Speed, and prepare for the future.
We can all have dreams and high expectations, but we can only reach them if we take concrete actions to take further everyday.
Delivering software at the high standard of Quality Engineering is a journey requiring continuous improvement transforming your teams in QE Units.
Which one will start with QE notes?
Jonathan Roe (2019), Writing Test Notes: Why One Size Does Not Fit All. QA World.