What is QA in software?
QA is an abbreviation for Quality Assurance. Prior to learning more about Quality Assurance, we need to understand –
What is Quality?
Defining Quality is difficult. The simplest way to describe it is: “Fit for purpose or use.” It’s all about satisfying the customer’s needs with regard to price, functionality, reliability, durability, and cost.
What is Assurance?
Assurance is nothing more than a positive statement about a product or service that gives confidence. It is the certainty the product or service will work. It guarantees the product will perform as specified in the requirements and meets expectations.
What is Quality Assurance?
Quality Assurance, as the name suggests, refers to the attitude and processes required to ensure software products or services perform exactly as intended. QA ensures software products are of the highest quality possible.
This is a very brief definition of Quality Assurance. What is QA? QA means much more than only testing. Let’s look more closely at what is included in QA.
Quality Assurance in Software Testing
Quality Assurance in Software Testing is a process that ensures the quality of software products and services offered by an organization to its customers. Quality assurance is about improving the software development process and ensuring it is efficient and effective in accordance with the software product quality standards. QA Testing is a common name for Quality Assurance.
In the past, quality assurance testing was generally introduced late in the development process. Waterfall’s example shows software is first produced, and then passed to the QA team. They provide feedback and then send the software back to developers to fix discovered issues.
Everyone works together to improve the product’s quality in an Agile environment. QA can often struggle to find its place in an Agile environment where developers, business analysts, and testers share the responsibility for delivering high-quality products.
What does QA stand for?
Quality Assurance is a mindset
Software Quality Assurance is more than just a list of activities. This mindset should be adopted by you and your team. Quality Assurance encompasses everything and everyone can be used to create high-quality software products. Quality Assurance is the ability to keep an eye on any potential weaknesses. A QA mindset enables testers to identify areas needing improvement.
Your team is likely to have quality problems if they push out new features but do not revisit them to improve their quality, regardless if bugs exist. This is because QA’s job is to verify the product’s reliability. New features can cause a build to become unstable. Thus, reviewing each addition to ensure everything works as it should is paramount.
A QA’s purpose is to verify reliability
Before any code is written, a QA mindset must be in place within the team. For example, when a sign-up page for a new user is being created, it is important to establish acceptable character lengths in advance. It would be problematic to begin asking questions about the maximum number of characters allowed for the user’s last name at the end of product testing. QA can guide the development process and reduce testing time by exploring all the inputs.
It is easy to anticipate the right procedural path from a legacy perspective when you are presented with a set of specifications at the beginning of a build. We know which buttons to press on apps and in what order – or we should if our designer is following best practices. Although writing tests that cover expected paths is unlikely to present any problems, a creative QA mindset can list and then create tests for common user errors, as well as unusual or unexpected inputs. This will allow error codes and messages for both the obvious and the obscure to be ready and available while ensuring the software’s reliability is not compromised.
Four areas should be considered when designing and planning QA tests that will run during the software-development lifecycle. Each area should be questioned to determine the product’s reliability and ensure our user’s satisfaction.
- Is the product’s performance and speed reliable even when loaded?
- Are higher loads and longer load times affecting reliability?
- Is it consistent with the product design goals?
- Is it able to continue working reliably, in spite of input errors?
Running tests does not create value, it protects it!
Quality products and services cannot be guaranteed just by testing. No number of bug eliminations can make a product better if the product was built on flawed assumptions or acceptance criteria. Take for example, a bug free website (which rarely happens). The website has the perfect interface and sub-second response times under load. The website functionality is perfect, other than users are unable to accomplish what their business needs. Would this website still be considered a quality website, in spite of the apparent successes?
Testing does not increase the value of a product. Instead, it ensures the intended value is present and functional. As a Quality Assurance professional, you need to ensure the product is tested thoroughly, be open to suggestions if there are any problems, follow QA best practices, and raise all concerns with the development process or product to your team.
What is the entire process of Quality Assurance?
Quality Assurance methodology uses a defined cycle, the PDCA cycle (or Deming cycle). The following phases are part of this cycle:
To ensure all processes are continuously evaluated and improved, the above steps are repeated. Let’s examine the QA Process steps above in more detail:
- Plan: An organization should define and strategize on the process objectives.
- Do: Develop and test processes, along with changing processes as the need arises.
- Check: Monitor processes and modify them to ensure they meet predetermined goals.
- Act: Quality Assurance testers should take the necessary actions to improve processes.
Quality Assurance is essential for any organization to ensure the correct design and implementation of its products. This reduces the chance of errors and problems in the product or service being created.
What are the best practices for Quality Assurance?
Below are a subset of the best practices to follow in software testing:
- A robust testing environment is essential.
- Carefully choose the release criteria.
- Save time by applying automated tests in high-risk areas. This helps speed up the whole process.
- Allocate the time necessary for each step in the process.
- Prioritizing bugs fixes based upon software usage is crucial.
- Establish a security and performance testing discipline.
- Simulate customer accounts as if you were in a production setting.
What are the 5 Quality Assurance Functions?
Five main Quality Assurance Functions exist:
- Technology transfer: This involves obtaining a product design document, as well as sample data, and the evaluation of the design. These documents are checked, approved, and distributed.
- Validation: The validation master plan for the whole system should be created. Approval of the test criteria is made for validating the product and the process. The validation plan requires resource planning to also be performed.
- Documentation: This function is responsible for archiving and the distribution of documents. The proper change control process is followed for any modification to a document. All types of documents must be agreed upon and approved.
- Assuring the quality of products: In this function, the product’s quality is assessed against the documentation.
- Quality improvement plans: This function is primarily concerned with how the processes and software can be enhanced.
How do Quality Assurance and Software Testing work together?
Before any product can go to market, it must go through several iterations of testing. To ensure users have a consistent and high-quality experience, products must be tested with different users in different situations through multiple test rounds.
Although quality and testing are closely linked, it is vital to realize software testing and quality assurance testing are not the same things. Quality Assurance involves discovering the solution and then implementing it.
The QA process is usually described as follows:
- Elicit or refine requirements.
- Estimate the complexity of the requirements.
- Develop a plan for testing the requirements.
- Documentation through test cases using a Test Case Management System, such as AccelaTest
- Participation in day-to-day sprint activities
- Determining the steps required before a product can be considered “Done.”
Today’s QA team works alongside developers to define the process. Gone are the days of contracts, checklists, and control.
Agile QA testing does not just involve performing tests. Instead, it focuses on understanding the end-user and acting as an advocate for them to meet expectations.
Quality Assurance Testing Does More Than Fixing Software Problems
Quality assurance testing involves more than just fixing problems. It’s about setting quality standards and then implementing the checks necessary to make sure the final product meets these standards.
First, organizations must establish a set of quality metrics that can be measured and a process to ensure those standards are included in the software. This means organizations must gain an understanding of the end-users expectations about a “quality experience.”
These metrics should be clearly defined in order for the quality assurance team to receive data from software testing and decide what must change. To optimize the user experience (external quality), the code (internal quality) of the software must be perfected.
Although fixing software defects is crucial, it is important not to forget software testing is only one side of the software assurance coin. Not only is it important to eliminate and manage errors but also to establish the “quality attributes.” Any product not meeting the requirements of the end-user could be considered a “defect.”
Software testing uses objective data to measure predetermined quality attributes and then feeds this information to QA. QA is responsible for implementing software changes that improve user outcomes.
However, it is worth noting QA professionals will have to continue developing their skills as they become more automated in their day-to-day tasks. QA professionals should be involved in all phases of the development process.
QA covers the entire development process
Quality must be the main focus, starting with the requirement gathering phase and continuing through maintenance. To maintain this standard, you will need to use a wide variety of testing techniques, documentation, processes, and other methods. Once the processes have been established, it is up to QA (Quality Assurance) to identify and rectify any errors in the process. A skilled QA professional will keep an eye on the entire project and help your team identify quality issues in all areas, including communication and code. Every stage of the development process can have weaknesses that require improvement in quality. It is the responsibility of QA to keep this in mind and encourage their team to do the same.
What is Quality Control?
Quality Control is commonly abbreviated to QC. Quality Control is a Software Engineering process that ensures quality in products and services. It doesn’t deal with the processes leading to the creation of a product, but rather examines the quality and final result.
Quality Control’s main purpose is to ensure the products meet customer specifications. Before the product or service can be shipped, any issue or problem must be addressed.
QC also assesses individuals on their quality skills and provides training and certifications. This is necessary for service-based organizations and allows them to provide the best possible service to customers.
What is the difference between Quality Control and Quality Assurance?
Sometimes, QC can be confused with QA. Quality control involves the inspection of the product or service to ensure it meets all requirements. Software Engineering Quality Assurance involves the examination of the processes and making changes that will lead to the end product.
Here are some examples of QA/QC activities:
|Quality Assurance Activities||Quality Control Activities|
|Audit of Quality||Walkthrough|
|Identification and selection of tooling||Inspection|
|Establishment of Quality Standards and Processes||Checkpoint Review|
These activities concern Quality Assurance and Control Mechanisms for any product or service. As it relates to software:
- QA converts to Software Quality Assurance (SQA)
- QC converts to Software Testing
What is the difference between Software Testing and Software Quality Assurance?
Below is a table outlining the differences between SQA and Software Testing.
|Software Quality Assurance (SQA)||Software Testing|
|Software Quality Assurance concerns the engineering process which guarantees quality.||Software Testing allows you to test the product for potential issues before being released.|
|These activities are associated with the implementation of procedures, standards, and processes.||Primarily concerned with product verification activities – Ex: Review Testing.|
|Focus on the process.||Focused on the product.|
|Prevention techniques.||Corrective procedures.|
|Takes proactive measures.||Takes reactive measures.|
|SQA applies to all products created by an organization.||Software Testing is only applicable to the product being tested.|
Quality Assurance (QA) is more than testing and is distinct from Quality Control (QC). It focuses primarily on the quality of products or services we provide to our users during or after the release of the software. This broad view is based on the belief that quality can be affected by every stage of software development. Having a QA mindset from the beginning can help to build quality in the product. Hiring a quality assurance staff is not the best solution if you discover a quality problem late in the process. Instead, work with your company to solve the problem at a more strategic level.
Hire quality-focused individuals and take regular steps back to ensure everyone is moving in the right direction, towards quality and use a Test Case Management Tool that accelerates your QA team’s testing.