There is a large scale application with thousands of functional points and which never had any QA team or person. So when a QA person or team starts working with this type of product what should be done first? How should they implement and improve the QA process?

Current Scenario:

  1. Developers test their code.
  2. If any bug is reported by clients or the product owner, it's fixed and retested by developers.
  3. They don't have any proper docs.

This question was asked in a written interview. Unfortunately I was unable to explain because I had never faced this type of problem in my real life. I will be glad if anybody can help me to answer this question.

4 Answers 4


This is - sadly - rather more common than anyone here would like. It's where I was when I started at my current position: two major applications, both stable, but the company has never had dedicated test specialists before.

The first thing I did was make sure that everyone knew there weren't going to be any quick changes. No matter how skilled a person is, they need time to familiarize themselves with the software they're testing, and anything large and semi-documented is going to have lot of implicit requirements that everyone "knows" but have never been formalized.

From there, I took a multi-pronged approach, consisting of:

  • Becoming familiar with the application(s) and requirements by reviewing any documentation I could find, exploring the application(s), talking to developers and project managers, and working through any documented regression.
  • Testing bug fixes, initially with the other team members checking over what I'd done to confirm that I hadn't missed anything (the software I work with has more possible combinations than can be tested, and early on I had no idea how many options could impact what I was testing). That also built familiarity with the system.
  • Documenting anything I felt needed more explanation. My rule of thumb for whether I document something is to ask myself if I'm likely to need to remember this later or if someone else could find it useful. If I answer yes to either of those questions, I document. If I'm not sure, I document. Typically, I'll use bullet-point notes and park the documentation I create somewhere accessible to the whole team, then invite them to update and modify as they see fit. These notes can - and do - become the core of support documentation, particularly on projects to add functionality to the system.
  • Build a repository of test data. The exact form of the test data varies depending on the application. For windows applications I'll often end up with a collection of databases and data directories. For web applications it varies - the web application I support in my current position is designed in a way that separate repositories of test data aren't practical. Instead I have master lists of which customers use which settings and use those on the test site.
  • As I become more familiar with the application(s) and the issues that arise, I start building a regression master listing. The one I have now is in wiki form on the company intranet, with a page for each module that lists the configurations that need to be checked when changes are made to that module, and which modules are impacted by changes to that module. The cross-linking is... interesting, to say the least. (For instance, changing whether or not an organization is defined for Option A changes the flow through the new hire wizard, the layout of the payroll data entry module, several menus, the format of the data sent by the payroll submission module, and a number of reports).
  • At this point - which could be anything from a few months after hire to well over a year - I've got enough knowledge of the system to build an automation plan and start working towards automated regression.
  • While I'm doing all this, I start by plugging myself into the existing processes, usually as a tag-along at the end. Once I'm familiar with them, I'll make suggestions to improve things, which will typically be implemented in an incremental approach.
    • When I started here, much of the issue management was handled by spreadsheet, there was no consistent version management, and the two sub-teams used completely different processes and tools.
    • The first step towards a consistent process was getting the issue reporting and management onto the same tool. That's now almost done.
    • The second was getting version control consistently in use. That's now done.
    • The third was building a full set of development, test, and staging web environments that mirrored the production web environment as much as possible. That's in progress.
    • The team process is continually evolving. Initially, the driving force was largely me and my manager (I'm the sole test specialist for a team of ten). Now the whole team is involved, and when any of us find something the process isn't handling, we look for a way to improve it.
    • For the desktop application, I wound up building a set of virtual machines to cover the environments I needed to work with.

Obviously, exactly what you do in any given situation will depend on the existing processes and the nature of the application in test, but these kinds of approaches are general enough to be adapted to most environments.


Well, since this is an interview they are likely going to try and find out what type of questions you will ask.

My response would be:

I would first need to know what your developers are testing in order to be able to further test without just covering what has already been thoroughly tested.

I would presume they are mainly focused on unit testing their sections so as a QA I would start working by doing end to end testing to ensure that functionality is properly working.

I would then start utilizing Development unit tests in the QA environment in order to optimize time to create the data needed to be able to do end-to-end testing on specific changes.

I would also start documenting as much as possible during testing in order to make it easier to train new QA members as the team is built up. While this might initially slow down the process in the long term it will greatly reduce the overall cost of the department. This would primarily depend on how large of a QA department they would be planning to hire and how much would need to be tested in a specific time frame as well.

After end-to-end testing has been thoroughly examined I would then start to build suites of tools in order to optimize testing time and hopefully automate much of the regression testing. Again, referencing the development unit testing can be a great source to reduce time here and be able to get the process going quicker. Also, depending on the development techniques, if the system relies heavily on stored procedures and database functions, I would utilize those to build data as needed for different testing scenarios as well.

After all of this, the QA department should be in a decent condition to start focusing on change requests instead of ensuring existing defects are found. By now the QA department has:

  • End to End Tested the entire system thoroughly
  • Worked hand in hand with development and built a strong relationship
  • Created documentation
  • Utilized Automation techniques in order to both automate the system and to generate test data for manual testing
  • Dug deep into the system, database and overall mastered the system
  • Was able to break down into teams and test individual functionality while being completely cross-trained on the system as a whole in order to reduce the risk of being hit by a bus
  • thanks for your suggestion.So far i know developers was not doing any unit testing.They was just testing any specific functionality(which was developed by them) is working properly or not.That's all.After integrating new features they was doing any regression or end-to-end testing. **As i mention they had no Q A team.**They are planning to introduce Q A process for there on going development process.95% development process has done with out Q A a person. If they appoint me for this position then where to start?With out SRS It is not possible to write test cases for all module.
    – Kousik Roy
    Jun 25, 2014 at 18:52
  • Without knowing all the features it is not possible to do regression testing also.I know there is no specific rules or formula for this situation even though as a one man army it will be a great challenge for me. My problem is where to start.thanks again!
    – Kousik Roy
    Jun 25, 2014 at 19:38

I think quite a few regular readers can relate to situation you described, and it is not easy to way out. :-)

If documentation is not required by customer, and is used only for internal process (like if your customer is internal, and IT is just a cost center, or you are developing a website for a startup), people are tempted to develop as little documentation as possible to carry them to the next day, not "waste" time (on documenting something which is going to change soon anyway), and spend time to solve more urgent problems instead. Like in startup, if you solve problems for users and make them happy, you survive for another day even without proper documentation. No amount of documentation will save you if you don't deliver product. So you accumulate technological debt, layer by layer, and your progress slows.

Hard trick is to realize when you are not startup anymore, and you need to start paying down that debt (instead of adding new features to make new customer more happy). Likely company you interviewed realized that.

You start by establishing processes, and it is hard going because nobody wants to change, and old ways were good enough up until now... How you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

There is no replacement for real life experience. That's why they asked you if you have experience doing that.

That is not an answer, but many books were written about how to do it, and I am not going to write one now.

  • Hi Peter, Thanks for sharing your thought.Can you please share few best books name which will help me to find an answer.
    – Kousik Roy
    Jun 25, 2014 at 18:23

I think all solutions depend on the problems. If I were you I would answer in following way.

  1. Find out the motivations why formal QA team and process are planned to introduce, what are the quality problems the engineering team management expect to address
  2. Based on the problems, layout the long term targets and short term targets

If this is not acceptable I think the problem itself is too hypothetical and should not be considered as a good written test question.

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