Evolving an organization to use more agile techniques often means re-evaluating the role of dedicated QA teams common in waterfall development processes. In software organizations that develop a large platform with a group of agile development teams, there is still a need to ensure quality at a product and platform level. As one solution to this, this talk introduces the idea of Platform QA, a dedicated team of QA specialists with responsibility to the entire product, and the platform that delivers it. Platform QA is a feature team that works on a backlog of quality risks and has ultimate ownership of shared artifacts such as end to end (BDD) tests and QA environments. This talk discusses differences between waterfall QA, platform QA and embedded QA, examples shared from my own experience, and conditions where this solution may make sense as a transitional or target organizational structure.


Outline/Structure of the Experience Report

  1. Agile and Large Scale Scrum ideas of Product
    1. Expansive product definition
    2. One product built by one team on a shared backlog
    3. Business Driven Development tests as product definitions
  2. Platform
    1. Bratton definition of platform (from The Stack)
    2. Platform as the system(s) that deliver the product
  3. Three team structures for quality
    1. Waterfall QA
    2. Embedded QA
    3. Platform QA and Tools relationship
  4. Platform QA as a transition or a destination
    1. Stealth or bottom-up transition

Learning Outcome

Recognize scale / co-ordination problems and some Large Scale Scrum solutions to that

Identify different QA structures, and understand the tradeoffs involved

Target Audience

Testers, Managers, Developers, anyone interested in team structure and quality

Prerequisites for Attendees

Familiarity with Agile techniques and terminology at an introductory or intermediate level. Working in a large organization. Testing software, their's or others'.

schedule Submitted 1 year ago

Public Feedback

comment Suggest improvements to the Speaker
  • Joel Tosi
    By Joel Tosi  ~  1 year ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Adam, thanks for the submission.  It is interesting, and while I personally wonder if this is a solution to a symptom or a solution to a problem, I think it is worth exploring

    I like these aspects of the submission, and they should be retained:

    • Good explanation of different options, where they fit, what to look for

    I think the submission could be improved by:

    • I struggle with if, after attending this session - I could make a decision or would have something to try.  I'm missing that bridge between ' interesting observation' and 'try this Monday at work'

    Could you help with the latter?



    • Adam Burke
      By Adam Burke  ~  11 months ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Joel

      I've put up a blog post on Platform QA


      Appreciate the talks for the conference are long ago closed, but if you were curious about it, this provides some more detail.



    • Adam Burke
      By Adam Burke  ~  1 year ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Joel

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments and perceptive question.

      I think this is a solution that applies when there is
      + A large organization of multiple software teams
      + Delivering a single product
      + Needing greater coherence and quality across systems and teams
      + Over a medium- to long-term period
      + Avoiding putting in place heavy project-management overhead at that product/platform layer

      On the specific evolution we went through - we went from waterfall, then embedded, then to platform QA. We were organized around component teams (the definition of components broadened over time). This supported a growth path through little or poor test automation (under waterfall), much more investment in component-level tests (embedded QA), to shifting to a maintenance and improvement relationship with component and integration automated tests.

      Organizationally, we shifted over time to a product/platform view and a more explicit product owner - but we never had buy-in from upper levels of management to implement practices like LeSS or feature teams as a sudden shift. (I suspect this isn't unusual.)

      I do feel that this is a solution that applies to particular circumstances, and don't want to overgeneralize from one organization, or propose it as a panacea. I even wonder whether some of the coherence and platform-focus problems it addresses would be lesser in other processes and contexts, but also that these are common problems. I have seen similar dynamics in shifts to feature teams (tragedy of the commons), and I also think it manages that shift.

      There are some similarities with team structures described in the "Google Way of Testing", which seem very google-specific, lack the product aspect, and also I haven't worked there. There are also a lot of organizations with traditional QA end-of-lifecycle teams that could benefit from reconceptualizing what QA is. Lastly I think this help incrementally teach an organization that they deliver a product, by creating specific artifacts that describe that product (the BDD tests) and people aligned with its delivery by a platform.

      Hope that helps

  • Liked Vered Netzer

    Vered Netzer - agile Leadership - why the army is the most agile organisation I've ever been in

    20 Mins

    It is time to talk about ‘agile Leadership’.

    Reflecting on 7 years of experience in the Israeli army I’ll be sharing stories and insights about how the army REALLY operates.

    The army is not as ‘Command & Control’ as people commonly expects – it is much more empowering and agile than you’d think.

    At the army, I’ve learnt the true meaning of cross functional teams, the importance of reflection, feedback, creative problem solving, trust, teamwork, conflict resolution, resilience & responding to change.

    This talk will be intertwined with army (and civilian) war stories & tips for leaders in an agile world. This talk aims to inspire a new wave of Agile Leaders, through sharing examples of effective leadership, it draws on real, lived experiences and concepts (directly from the ‘horse mouth’) as well as useful takeaways that attendees can take back and apply to their work.

  • Liked Adam Burke

    Adam Burke - Building Memory Palaces From Ontological Slime

    45 Mins

    Software is complex and made from slime.

    It is complex both in the everyday sense, and in the more technical sense used by complexity science. It is slime in that software is continually forced to engage with real world systems very unlike the laws of highschool physics, systems where rules are very local and contingent. William Wimsatt calls this "ontological slime".

    This complexity is why agile software development and design are effective, including the usefulness of human feedback and of reducing localised complexity in code. We also have an agile idea, from Peter Naur, that a large part of programming is building and improving a model of the system in the programmer’s head. What does that imply about the worldview of an effective programmer? Because software is a complex system, a great developer needs survival techniques for navigating and building beautiful machines out of causal thickets and ontological slime.