New Software Development Methods Keeping QA Staff Growth in Check

February, 2022

The traditional IT position dedicated exclusively to quality assurance (QA) is most likely a dying breed. With waterfall software development being replaced by iterative approaches such as agile, QA is getting rolled into other job positions. For several years now, QA personnel have been a small percentage of the IT staff, and we do not expect that to change any time soon. Still, the QA role is vital, and wherever the function is performed, you need to get your staffing right.

As seen in Figure 1 from our full report, IT Quality Assurance Staffing Ratios, the result is that the percentage of QA staff as a percentage of the total IT staff has become stagnant, maintaining a 3.1% level at the median in 2021.

Graph Template Quality Assurance 1030x687 - New Software Development Methods Keeping QA Staff Growth in Check

Newer development models rely on quicker iterations of development that include testing, often supported by automated test tools. The natural extension of this approach is DevOps, where developers apply enhancements as small, incremental changes that are tested and committed daily, hourly, or even moment by moment into the production system. The result is faster development cycles, with less rework, and higher quality.

“We aren’t seeing any great demand for increased QA staffing,” said Reneece Sterling, a research analyst for Avasant Research, based in Los Angeles. “As developers take on more QA responsibilities throughout the development lifecycle, QA staff are left to focus on higher-value activities beyond testing.”

Moreover, even without a full DevOps approach, it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify how much of the IT staff is dedicated to QA. If developers spend the bulk of their time writing code, a part on regression-testing their own code, and a part on reviewing or testing code of other developers, they likely would not be identified as QA staff.

With low-level testing activities largely subsumed into the jobs of application development staff, the IT quality assurance personnel that remain focus mostly on QA policies and procedures, implementing and maintaining automated testing tools, and ensuring compliance. For shops that have transitioned to a DevOps environment, these remaining QA activities would probably be subsumed into the role of the DevOps engineer.

Our full report provides benchmarks for assessing current quality assurance staffing levels. We present the five-year trend in quality assurance staffing and also provide 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 subscribers, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).