Building an amazing software product or service is never easy, but a robust quality assurance program helps developers efficiently avoid many common pitfalls
Quality can be a subjective topic. One person’s trash is another’s treasure. But when it comes to software development, there needs to be some clarity as to what constitutes a high quality product or service.
The most straightforward way to evaluate software quality impartially is to ask whether it meets the expectations it sets. In other words, can the software actually solve the problem it was designed to address, and is it behaving in a manner that is consistent with its claimed performance characteristics?
To answer those questions and ensure they are delivering high quality products and services, software developers rely on robust Quality Assurance (QA) programs that continually analyze and improve the processes around their production workflow.
What is Quality Assurance in Software Testing?
Quality Assurance (QA) in the software industry (also known as SQA), like in many other fields, is a process-focused methodology that scrutinizes how a product or service is made to find inefficiencies and faults in the development process. There are two mutually non-exclusive categories of SQA:
- Defect Management: Quality is determined by identifying defects (e.g. bugs, errors, missing features, broken code, etc.) and then cataloging and categorizing them by their severity so that corrective action can be taken in a timely manner.
- Attribute Analysis: The major attributes of the product are broken down (e.g. functionality, reliability, usability, efficiency, maintainability, portability, etc.) and each evaluated individually.
Quality assurance testing refers to the actual process of analyzing the real world impact of a quality assurance process to determine how it is improving the software and its development framework. The keys to comprehensive QA for software testing include:
- Testing environments that touch on every facet of the product
- Unambiguous product performance and quality standards
- Automated testing of high risk issues and categories
- Prioritization of corrective action based on the severity of the errors
- Accurate simulation of real world usage of the product
What is the Difference Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control?
Quality assurance occurs before and during the development process. Quality Control (QC) doesn’t take place until after the project is completed. It is the final evaluation of the finished product to ensure it matches the standards established for it at the onset.
The goal of QC is to ensure that any issues that slipped through SQA are identified and remediated. Simply put, QA examines processes to prevent problems before they occur, whereas QC is directed at outcomes to catch and fix problems before the end users take delivery.
What is a Software Quality Assurance Plan?
SQA plans are the codification of process objectives and the actual steps taken throughout the development cycle to ensure progress moves in alignment with the project's overarching goals. SQA plans differ, but many will include, at a minimum:
- Quality audits
- Declarations of best practices and prefered processes
- Lists of acceptable tools and development platforms
- Resources for training team members to meet the appropriate quality level
- Guidance regarding the prioritization of discovered issues
What Are the Software Quality Assurance Industry Standards?
Particularly for heavily regulated industries like finance, healthcare, and government, customers expect independent verification that their software vendors are following industry-accepted practices for SQA. There are numerous such standards and certifications, but the following three are the most common:
- ISO 9000: Part of a family of quality management systems established by the International Organization for Standardization which sets basic requirements intended to assure product quality. Of the seven Quality Management Principles (QMP) in ISO 9000, the fourth, QMP 4, requires certified organizations engage in a process-based approach to product development — meaning clearly defined steps are taken and repeated in a predictable pattern.
- CMMI: The Capability Maturity Model Integrated is a program administered by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). Many government contracts for software require CMMI certification because it creates a stepwise framework for converting disorganized activity into an actively managed process. It tracks progress through five levels:
1. Initial: Unpredictable, poorly controlled
2. Repeatable: Some processes are instituted
3. Defined: Processes are recorded at an institutional level
4. Managed: Processes are analytically vetted to determine their efficiency and efficacy
5. Optimized: Processes are improved upon based on data feedback
- TMM: The Test Maturity Model functions similarly to Capability Maturity Models, but focuses more directly on testing environments. As such, it has a strong tie to QC and is frequently deployed to test a product before it goes live.
Why is Quality Assurance Important?
In the modern, digital economy, where user switching costs are often low and customer loyalty is extremely hard-won, companies that don’t produce high quality products rarely last very long.
Quality assurance practices not only meaningfully improve the performance of software products and services, they extend their capabilities, reduce inefficiencies in the development process by saving wasted time and effort on duplicative effort and the pursuit of dead ends, and give end users confidence that the company, brand, or app they are patronizing is the right choice for their needs.
Effective QA practices also have broader implications for the organizations that leverage them. Namely, they facilitate the transfer of vital institutional knowledge and prevent critical information from being siloed in one person, team, or department. Organizations that establish, record, and preserve their QA planning and implementation documents are continually building a foundation for iterative growth as they hone their processes through trial and error — which is how virtually all great products are made and improved.
Need help with your upcoming software project?
At Unosquare, we train our developers, Scrum Masters, QA Experts, and business analysts on the Agile Philosophy of software development. The principles of adaptability and collaboration are the keys to success for the kind of rapid software development produced with our distributed teams.
By focusing on communication, feedback, and flexibility, our Agile teams produce working results, frequently focus on the highest-priority features, and make continuous, meaningful progress on software projects. To learn more about what Unosquare can do for your organization, check out our blog.