The importance of quality assurance in software development has never been greater. As software penetrates every aspect of our lives, it’s more critical than ever that it remains trustworthy, easy to engage with, and secure. Further, to remain competitive, developers need to make an efficient and effective product that does exactly what the user expects it to.
The best way to guarantee these requirements is with continuous Quality Assurance (QA) processes, the nature of which is evolving as the understanding of their importance grows.
What is Software Quality Assurance?
Quality assurance (QA) is a continuous monitoring process within a quality management system. It’s responsible for making necessary modifications during development to ensure the product’s final quality.
The objectives of software QA (SQA) are predetermined and relate to document review, test case review, walkthrough inspection, etc. It involves everyone in the dev. team and is designed to run alongside development to save time by catching and fixing things early.
SQA, therefore, is a methodology that ensures the quality of the end product by running in parallel with the development life cycle
Every aspect of the product, both inside and out, must meet these predetermined standards, which are ensured by SQA’s testing of each block of the process before moving on to the next stage of development.
SQA covers the structure, complexity, and reliability of software of every kind and is part of a larger scope of quality management that also includes Quality Control or QC.
Quality Assurance Vs. Quality Control
It might be common for QA and QC to be used interchangeably in software testing, but these terms mean different things. While they both focus on the quality of the work at hand and are both an integral part of overall quality management, they are responsible for slightly different aspects of quality.
To make it more confusing, parts of both elements are heavily interconnected and overlap in their roles. Simply put, quality control is a subset of quality assurance that focuses on fulfilling quality requirements based on ensuring adherence to protocols.
Both processes are designed to improve and maintain a high product quality standard, but they approach it differently.
While quality assurance is a complete system that ensures quality standards are met through validation, quality control focuses on inspecting the systems, products, and services, identifying defects to fix, and ensuring everything has been followed to the appropriate decree. This makes it the final validation and verification check before delivery, a reactive approach to quality, as opposed to the proactive nature of quality assurance in most cases.
While they seem very similar, the nature of the process differs between QA and QC. QA is preventative, and QC is a corrective one. QA focuses on the quality of verification processes, and QC focuses on the entirety of the product.
The Importance of Quality Assurance in Software Development
During development, there are countless areas in which software may be written with flaws. The process of a good QA system is designed to catch these as they arise and fix them immediately, creating a continuously high-quality build throughout and ensuring product quality well in advance of deployment.
Modern QA approaches focus on long-term thinking. After the Y2K bug, the concept of short-sightedness in software development has changed attitudes significantly. QA is set to ensure quality programs well down the line and across multiple industries.
The importance of quality assurance in software development comes from the increasing complexity and widespread nature of modern technology. Software now has to be more secure, faster, efficient, and trustworthy than ever before, and it is for this reason that QA is so important. Here are some of the most significant positive aspects of SQA:
- Saving on Resources – As bugs are found earlier in development and before deployment, recalls, retesting, and rebuilding are avoided. This saves time and money throughout the process.
- Product Stability – The result of diligent testing and QA monitoring is that the final product is robust, long-lasting, and meets industry standards. This makes products more competitive and reliable.
- More Secure – Data safety is very important and can only be ensured with strong QA approaches.
Attitudes towards QA have changed over time and are currently on a forward trajectory to maximizing all of these qualities and keeping up with the increasing complexity of modern software.
Approaches to QA in Software Development
Product testing wasn’t always a priority in software. Until testing teams were developed, programmers were simply expected to produce perfect code. As strange as this may seem, it was a lot simpler when the code was a lot smaller and had fewer applications. Still, as software developed, testing became more and more of a necessity, and the manifesto for agile software development arose from this need.
Initially, this added a testing phase into the development, designed to catch and fix bugs before deployment. While this ‘waterfall’ approach solved many key issues with bad programming, it was not a well-integrated testing approach and meant that bugs from the start of development wouldn’t be spotted until the end, by which time the process would have to start over.
The waterfall approach also leads to engineering and testing teams being separate entities during product development.
With Agile’s 12 principles, cycles are made shorter, collaboration is encouraged, and change is embraced. For example, testers are now required to maintain product quality from the beginning with instant feedback exchange across departments. This also leads to more automated testing and shorter test plans.
The ten-minute test plan separates testing into its core elements based on attributes, components, and capabilities. From here, test cases and scripts can be written. These tests come in many forms, such as functional, unit, integration, and ad hoc tests, all of which fall under the umbrella processes of QA.
While these are general approaches to QA, there are some common best practices worth following for each case.
QA Best Practices
When running QA during development, consider the following best practices:
- Set Goals and Requirements – You should know what a failed test looks like before it’s run. Conversely, you should know how many tests and which kind you’ll be running.
- Create a Robust Environment – Make sure everyone on the QA team knows their roles and responsibilities but also integrates well across different teams.
- Automate – The future of QA testing is in automation. Where possible, automate tests to speed up the process and allow more cases to run.
- Conduct integration testing – Any changes in code should be tested with integration as soon as they’re implemented. This helps stay on top of defects relating to how the new code functions as part of the larger project.
- Cooperate – Close cooperation between teams will reduce friction and improve overall understanding of the development across the board. This streamlines both dev and QA processes and fosters teamwork.
You’ll surely produce a strong product with these universal software quality standards.
Software QA is more necessary now than ever, with the growing complexity and ubiquitousness in every aspect of our daily lives. Moreover, the process itself is the reason we can have reliable, secure, and highly functional software looking after the most important aspects of our society.
The importance of software quality assurance is in its ability to guarantee the safety and user experience of ever-increasingly complex and widespread software.