DevTestOps vs. QAOps: Different Name, Different Game  

DevOps is now the most prevalent software development methodology in use. Since 2009, it has spread beyond development teams into other functional areas. One of the earlier DevOps extensions was into DevTestOps, which emphasized continuous testing throughout the software development lifecycle. This was followed several years later by the emergence of QAOps, which built on that model with a focus on improved quality assurance (QA). At first glance, these terms refer to the same methodology. But when you dig deeper, QAOps represents a significant departure from the purpose and process of DevOps. Let’s explore.

Test Early and Often

"Shift-left testing," which advocates for detecting issues early in the software development process, predates DevOps. Both QA and development teams have long realized the cost benefits of identifying bugs during the development phase through strategies like unit testing, code analysis, and reviews, rather than identifying issues post-deployment.

Independently, DevOps started to gain traction, spotlighting the need to drive efficiency in the product delivery process and deliver value to the customer faster. The methodology integrates development and operations teams to foster better collaboration and uses automation to facilitate continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD).

However, as teams began running a DevOps methodology, many realized they could not achieve the desired release velocity due to quality issues. Releases were being delayed by slow testing processes—and bugs were being discovered too late in the development cycle. To achieve release cadence goals, DevOps teams realized they needed to incorporate testing throughout the full software lifecycle, not just at the end of development.

DevTestOps Brings Testing into DevOps

DevTestOps addresses this need and adds continuous testing into the product delivery process. In DevTestOps, testing is performed in both the development and integration phases of a project. Teams run tests in development to detect problems in new feature code, and then again at the feature integration stage to identify environmental and UAT issues. DevOps teams frequently automate testing and distribute testing tasks across the team; developers write unit tests while operations write integration and performance tests.  

Larger DevTestOps teams, or teams working on highly complex projects, may have dedicated testing or QA members who focus on security testing, new technology testing, or running testing that cannot be easily automated. In some teams, adding testing-focused members is also an approach to upskill developers and assist them in designing and building test automation. Regardless of the DevTestOps team composition, the principles of collaboration and automation combine with continual testing to deliver higher-quality releases without impacting release efficiency.

QAOps Puts QA First

Meanwhile, QAOps—which started gaining traction in 2018—builds upon the continuous testing aspect of DevTestOps but places a much stronger emphasis on quality. QAOps bridges the gap between software development and deployment by introducing quality assurance (QA) into every phase of the software development lifecycle. While DevTestOps aims to identify issues early to prevent delays in release delivery, QAOps is more focused on improving quality over accelerating efficiency.

Teams running QAOps prioritize quality over the speed of innovation. They incorporate QA review and input in every stage of the software development lifecycle—including ideation, design, proof of concept, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance.

The goal is to identify issues as early as possible, minimize the number of bugs found later in the release process, and deliver higher-quality releases.  

QAOps as a Product Development Cost-Cutter?

From a development perspective, QAOps appears to slow things down by adding more testing cycles to each step. Developers might resist this increased testing burden, potentially leading to friction. However, in the long run, QAOps works to prevent time-consuming remediation processes after the software has been released.

QAOps has proven its worth in preventing expensive defects that can damage a company’s market position and brand value, as illustrated by historical failures such as MySpace’s redesign and Knight Capital Group’s trading platform glitch. Both examples highlight issues that could have been avoided with the deeply embedded quality focus provided by a QAOps methodology. Superior releases save costs by identifying defects early, avoiding rework and release delays, as well as reducing the need for expensive rollbacks and patches.

Another important cost-reduction element of QAOps is protecting the company’s brand and reputation. Defects and security issues discovered post-release can have an enormous impact on how users and the market perceive your product and your company. With intense competition in every market, a user-impacting issue can result in an immediate decline in the number of subscriptions, a drop in stock price, and diminished brand value.

The Right Ops for You

While DevTestOps and QAOps both incorporate testing into the product release cycle, there is a significant difference between the two approaches. Aligning your methodology with business objectives, risk tolerance, and development culture is the key to selecting a methodology that will empower you to achieve your goals and keep your developers and executive team happy. Embracing QAOps may be an appropriate choice for mature organizations with an established product and market position, as well as a development team accustomed to the DevOps process and keen to deliver new value to customers while minimizing product costs and risk. For newer organizations striving to carve out a niche in a crowded market and looking for faster feature delivery to accelerate innovation and outpace competition, DevTestOps may be a better fit. In both cases, doubling down on testing is essential to delivering higher-quality releases and meeting user expectations.