You Need a QA Evangelist

The internal IT team at most organizations gets killed by user support.

Okay, those are strong words. Truthfully, it’s not so dramatic. And if you’ve got your eyes open, your user support will help you grow valuable experience far quicker than it drags down your engineers.

But user support is a significant challenge that can stymie project progress. And unfortunately most of the problem is self-inflicted by organizations. We build and deploy buggy systems. And we allow buggy work processes to continue.

Bad QA. Or none at all.

You need someone to take responsibility for that. Product companies have teams of software testers and other folks with a primary job function to ensure quality. But somehow organizations don’t do that for their internal systems development. Quality may be viewed as a shared responsibility, but nobody executes their daily work with commitment to quality as the driving force. And a typical engineer or manager simply isn’t trained to ensure quality or to reliably identify process problems that allow quality to degrade.

Meet the QA Evangelist.

Not every organization is going to be big enough to have one. (Smaller organizations can partly make up for QA problems by being agile enough to quickly fix them, together with a collective willingness to accept unsolved problems.)

For organizations where it makes sense, the QA Evangelist is not a manager, and not an engineer. This role should be able to work across multiple teams, and should do so from the point-of-view of a subject matter expert who excels in promoting a quality mindset. But no good burying this role in the trenches as the only poor soul who has to do QA (engineer), or kicking them upstairs where they’ll be so embroiled in politics they can’t make a difference (manager).

QA should be approached not as a top-down mandate to eliminate all problems, but as a grassroots, consensus-based, pragmatic process whereby quality grows out of the team’s strengths, and in ways that make the team feel positive about the change.

Everyone thinks quality should be better. Everyone thinks it’s everyone’s job. But without someone in tech whose primary motivator is quality, your only chance at quality assurance will be to have an endless supply of nagging users who are very tolerant of unsolved problems.

Get ahead, and evangelize the solution!

Just upgraded to Evernote 5.1.0.2046 (270046) Prelease, and dang – that “hesitate after you type two characters in the search-as-you-type feature is still there”… A few years ago the Support tech told me that bug would go away with the .NET code converstion.

Wishlist for Evernote

I love Evernote. There, I said it. It’s pretty much always been so right from the start.

One of the things I love about them is that they put an intense focus on providing the best user experience on every platform. So whether you are using Windows, Mac, mobile, or web, there’s a native client available for that platform.

One of the other things I love is that they are ALL ABOUT THE DATA…

Data – that’s it. Capture your data. Organize it, if you like. And find it later. It holds everything and it’s beautiful.

But they’ve got some problems, and unfortunately they are problems which have been around for a bit too long now.

For example, the web interface is slooow. It’s better than it was a few years ago when too many tags could cause the user interface to completely lock-up. But it still takes way too long to load and there are too many times when the UI just hangs – e.g., after editing some text or when adding a new note. The web UI needs to be more “spiffy.”

The Windows desktop app, on the whole, it very good. But it’s got a hesitation problem when you are searching for text that causes the entire app to hang after you type the first two characters into the search box. It’s because they are trying to do a “search as you type” feature, and they implemented it with some blocking thread that has some poor performance. I would say fine, no big deal. But the bug has been there for at least several years. It should be gone by now.

Other than these few bugs, I just have one request. I would love a way to comment on an existing note so that the comment showed as a distinct data item somehow attached to the note along with a timestamp. I know I can fudge this by using a note link, but I wish Evernote had something similar to Basecamp’s or Google Doc’s commenting system.