November 24, 2015

For healthcare organizations to successfully move to Agile development practices, an integrated BA/QA process can be helpful to overcome intractable departmental silos that stand in the way of Agile optimization and the challenges of multi-vendor outsourcing strategies involving teams located around the globe. New initiatives to transform processes for the sake of customer competitive advantage may quickly gain buy-in across an organization, yet it’s hard to change how people work and think overnight. The following considerations can help smooth the transition to BA/QA integration.

Understanding Old and New BA/QA Roles

Retraining individuals to take on both business analysis and quality assurance responsibilities can be a significant undertaking. The traditional business analyst writes the application requirements from a functional end-user standpoint, which entails detailing a process, such as a physician ordering a test or prescription within the EMR. There are several steps that must take place before the order can be submitted, including entering the diagnosis, looking up patient records for information on allergies and other medications, and then submitting the medication to a drug database where it is validated (or not) to be safely prescribed without contraindications for the patient. From the quality assurance perspective, there is the need to validate that the feature works from both a functional and technical standpoint. On the latter, that means checking all of the interactions on the backend where systems must exchange data and complete processes without glitches or delays. Naturally, for the BA to take on QA tasks, she must gain a deeper technical understanding of the product to validate the test. The QA employee must conversely understand the functional requirements and the business process. He needs to gain expertise on the industry including the various job roles and workflow supported by the application.

The Caveats of BA/QA Integration

While BA/QA integration is ideal for most organizations moving to Agile, there are cases in which it may not be appropriate, such as for testing and validating niche features and capabilities. For example, when testing and validating features relate to security and performance, technical specialists are needed. In other scenarios, an organization might be too far away from Agile to derive much benefit from integrating roles, or else there are other cultural or leadership issues where change will be difficult. A company that is undergoing significant transition at the business level, such as through a merger or acquisition, may also choose to wait for the dust to settle before introducing an overhaul to development methods and processes. emids further discusses the ins and outs of BA/QA integration in our latest white paper. What best practices have you discovered as you’ve integrated BA and QA in your company?

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