What Chief Product Officers Should Know About Software Testing

Chief Product Officers (CPOs) handle many jobs, including communication with Product Owners, discovering the market, analyzing the target audience, and attracting new users. The latter is impossible without having a super-polished software product that works as expected by the target audience. Well-established quality assurance is the first step towards getting your product done bugs-free. Today, many thoughts and opinions exist that a product manager can lead the QA process to make it as effective as possible. In this article, you will learn what things about software testing a product manager should know. 

Related article: Read what Chief Product Officers say about how to make your product perfect in our latest interviews

Chief Product Officer Roles and Responsibilities

The evolving role of Chief Product Officers can be reflected in multiple archetypes, such as user experience guru, brand communication specialist, commercial champion, strategic visionary executive, and technology leader. The names stand for themselves. For example, a technology leader is able to spearhead development and engineering efforts. In contrast, a strategist is more focused on innovation and interpreting the company’s mission into the product’s vision. 

While there is a Chief Product Officer division for archetypes, he or she will usually be responsible for all these tasks like user research, product design, analytics, and many more. Simply put, this role means being a strong leader and facilitator of the company’s product development. And what is more important — a CPO is focused on delivering values to both product customers and business, in particular. Let’s find out what CPOs have on their Roles & Responsibilities list. 

The scope of jobs, activities, and tasks of a Chief Product Officer is generally as follows:

  • Product vision and strategy
  • Design, wireframing, and user analysis
  • Product development
  • Marketing and analytics
  • Procurement
  • Customer feedback
  • User onboarding
  • User experience testing
  • Project management

As you can see, a CPO does lots of jobs that are typically shared between several roles like Business Analyst, Chief Technology Officer, Head of Marketing, Project Sourcing Manager. Very often, the CPO and CTO roles are confused. They are really much alike. Both are result-oriented leaders focusing on developing a high-quality product and bringing value to the business and product users. However, the major difference between them is that a CPO concentrates his efforts on the “why” questions, and a CTO is focused on the “how” questions. 

Actually, a CTO is busy with the following tasks:

  1. Defining the product roadmap and strategy
  2. Collecting and prioritizing customer requirements
  3. Collaborating with sales, marketing, delivery
  4. Running beta versions of the product 
  5. Reviewing finished tasks 
  6. And many more 

Although delivery and development are typically CTO’s business, a product manager is also involved in these processes. Respectively, apart from lots of other tasks, a Chief Product Officer should take care of quality assurance and software testing. In the next sections, we will figure out what a CPO should know about software testing to deliver the expected values to business and product consumers.

Related article: Read our Complete Guide on Managed Software Testing Services.

QA Roles and Responsibilities

Every software project starts with bringing all requirements together and analyzing those to identify challenges and solutions correctly. Quality assurance is the best way to ensure that the product will be delivered according to the collected and documented requirements.

One of the most meaningful QA lead roles and responsibilities includes establishing and ensuring effective software testing. The latter is executed on almost every stage of the software development lifecycle and is very important to detect, prioritize, and fix bugs. Testing is also used to check whether product requirements are harmonized with released features. Some types of testing, like usability testing, is intended to discover how easy and comfortable users feel about using the software product. 

Here are the most essential software QA Manager roles and responsibilities:

  • Defining the test strategy for the software development project
  • Leading and mentoring the QA team
  • Providing expertise in quality assurance and test automation
  • Ensuring that the development team and QA team efforts are aligned
  • Focusing on innovation and new technology adoption
  • Monitoring, analyzing, and reposting test outcomes 
  • Ensuring continuous learning for the QA team members
  • Collaborating with the Project Manager, developers, Product Manager, and end-users

Next, we will focus on one question — whether a product manager can lead quality assurance processes and what they should know about testing to handle QA.

Product Management and Quality Assurance: Is It Possible to Separate These Concepts?

A product manager responsible for almost every product feature release would be embarrassed of having bugs in production. Who is fault? The product development QA team? Test engineers? Developers? Who would hear all those unpleasant words a customer might say? Will this be a QA Specialist or a Product Manager? More likely, the Product Owner as customers actually communicates with them on product-related topics. So, the question arises: Should these two roles be viewed separately? Obviously, not. 

There are opinions that product managers have to do QA on their own. It’s all about having no QA as a position or role within software development teams. The reason is that very often QA is understood as a tester which is quite different from that. The QA functions are very often distributed among various staff like Developers, Project Managers, Designers, and Product Managers in small teams. However, it would be great that you have a leader responsible for product quality and motivating all team members to create that quality. 

Should QA report to the product team? There are many points of view. The questions are being asked about the ownership of QA processes and whether QA should report to the Product Manager or to the development team. Best practices show that QA should report to those folks who are related to this or that functionality or feature. For example, the frontend and usability part will be likely approved by the Product Owner and end-users or a customer (user acceptance testing) while API integration is related to the development. It would be better if you involve everyone who is engaged with product creation: designers, developers, customers, and end-users. 

According to the approaches of different product managers, when the team is small the QA role can be distributed among all the team members. And when the company scales up and grows, QA role is transferred to the dedicated person or team. In many cases, if the team has no in-house QA and testers, it can search for these specialists outside the company. Very often outsourcing comes in handy. Professional testers can be hired externally to support your QA efforts while streamlining the product quality and optimizing your resources. 

Related article: Learn how to write product requirements document.

Product Manager Vs Quality Assurance: Top 5 Things You Should Know

To reduce product manager testing overhead, we gathered some tips and tricks that will help you be prepared for managing quality within your startup or organization. 

Tip 1 - Acceptance Criteria Should Be Clearly Defined

Acceptance criteria are the criteria according to which the work can be considered finished. Usually, acceptance criteria include the following things, but are not limited to:

  • User experience
  • The effects of the current user story to the upcoming features
  • The key performance indicator (speed, for instance)
  • What task this user story solves

Unclear acceptance criteria as well as the lack of requirements lead to frequent change requests that come after the development and testing. So, you must take care to write clear criteria. Here are some tips:

  1. Acceptance criteria must be written from the user’s perspective. 
  2. The criteria must be clear and concise.
  3. Acceptance criteria are not about “how”, but about “what”.
  4. They can be a copy of a user story.

It is important to add all acceptance criteria in story descriptions. When your team members will read it, they will have a complete picture of what should be done. 

Tip 2 - QA Team Roles and Responsibilities Should Be Defined at Start

Quality assurance is not something going after the development. It is a continuous process requiring a smart approach to its organization. Firstly, you should determine the hierarchy of roles and responsibilities. It’s like having a common organizational chart but for your project’s team. Every team member should know whom he or she may contact in case of any questions and to whom they should report. 

Secondly, you should define what you expect from your QA team, QA lead, Testers. The description of each member’s roles and responsibilities should be as clear and concrete as possible. It will help avoid misunderstanding and ambiguity. 

The next things to do are very important. They include creating a test strategy, developing an approach to testing, describing the test processes, defining responsibilities, writing test plans. You also have to think about test automation. 

Tip 3 - Prioritize What Can Be Automated

As a product manager, you should know what matter customers most. This knowledge can help you prioritize what should be automated. It is recommended to write automated tests for those time-consuming functionalities that are used by users more often than the others and tend not to be changed. 

Test automation can free up you and your colleagues to do more valuable tasks. It also allows for reducing costs for manual testing and improving. 

Tip 4 - Be Ready to Assist to Your QA Team 

Demonstrate your willingness to collaborate with test engineers. At the beginning of the project, you should agree on the key performance indicators and acceptance criteria. As a product manager, you can test the software product before the release date, on par with your testers. For example, product managers are usually good at usability testing as they deal a lot with user experience. 

Test engineers are your ideal partners in delivering high-quality products. They are aware of the latest issues, bugs, and risks. There are no people that know better about the product as product managers and quality assurance teams. Cooperating with them, you will always be on the same page with the development and QA teams. 

Tip 5 - Improve Your QA Processes Continuously

Quality assurance isn’t a matter of one day. It is a continuous process that needs regular improvements. As a product manager, you should be aware of the latest testing approaches, frameworks, and toolsets. If you see that this or that toolset makes sense for your software testing, you can act as a facilitator to implement it. Invest in technology and test automation to minimize the number of bugs.

Let’s focus on those things that make a product leader satisfied with his role. 

  1. A product manager has an influence on processes even after they have been established.
  2. Collaborates with different team members, including product owners, developers, designers, customers, testers.
  3. All the processes are clear and well-defined.
  4. Interacts with users and gets regular feedback from them.
  5. Understands clearly what values the product should bring to a business. 
  6. Can manage and prioritize different development and testing tasks.
  7. Makes data-driven decisions.
  8. Can promote new technology adoption and implementation. 
  9. Is always sure that the product will be delivered on a scope.
  10. Gets positive feedback from end-users. 

If you are a Chief Product Officer, you should consider taking QA leadership. It means that you must focus on gathering clear requirements and identifying acceptance criteria. You should spend a lot of time collaborating with all QA team members. 

If you experience any stress, lack of time, or resources, you can seek assistance from external QA professionals.

Here at Apphawks, we offer professional QA support. Our team will define what types of testing your software product needs, how many test engineers you will require. 

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Grzegorz Kłos
Grzegorz Kłos - Apphawks Co-founder
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