Stranger in a Strange Land: Bringing Quality Assurance to a Web Startup

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  • hold documentation reviews and get signoff, the HTML pages produced by the developers had to be changed three times. This took much longer than a documentation review meeting. There is no need to get bogged down in process either. If you find that is happening, change the process, or train people how to use it properly.
  • Document the internal processes of both test and development. You can't expect marketing and product development to follow best practices if you don't do it yourself. At, one of the development directors, with the help of the technical writer, led an effort to define and document the development process. By the way–??no matter the size of the company, unless you are using a lightweight technology such as eXtreme Programming, you need at least one experienced, skilled technical writer in your development organization.
  • Enforce the process. If your QA team is large enough, dedicate one person to administering and enforcing configuration management and delivery of installation scripts and documentation. At, we expanded this Configuration Manager role to that of a deployment engineer who works closely with developers to produce the builds and installation procedures. Don't accept software to test if it is not accompanied by all the documentation and software you need to promote, test, and launch it to production
  • Innovate!Look for new ways to present documentation such as functional and specifications. Web applications require a new approach. You have creative people at your company who can help! Get input from as many different groups as you can. If your company really wants to get innovative, consider lightweight methodologies such as eXtreme Programming (XP). These methodologies can meet the need to get to market quickly, accomodate rapidly changing requirements but still release a high quality product.

Summary–As You Grow
All companies change as they grow beyond the 'startup' size and environment. My team and I endured countless frustrations when fast growth at led to temporary chaos. As your organization grows, educate new employees about project process and quality practices. Listen to them and take advantage of their fresh outlook and new ideas. Take the initiative. If a gap results from a re-organization, fill it yourself. For example, when we were temporarily without a project management function in the company, the development director and I set up a weekly tactical meeting with representatives from all departments so that everyone could stay informed and juggle resources. Quality assurance can be a frustrating job, especially in a Web startup. Pick your battles. Keep striving for better quality. Above all, enjoy the experience!

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