• Project managementTechnology
  • by Justyna Kot
  • 17/09/2019

Everything you should know about QA in software development: The beginner’s guide

Quality assurance (QA) is one of the most important processes during software creation. Experienced teams know that QA in software development can’t be compared to testing or any other process; it brings unique value and ensures that the product or service meets specific requirements. Not sure how QA helps teams…

Concise Software - Everything you should know about QA in software development: The beginner's guide

Quality assurance (QA) is one of the most important processes during software creation. Experienced teams know that QA in software development can’t be compared to testing or any other process; it brings unique value and ensures that the product or service meets specific requirements.

Not sure how QA helps teams to build better software products? Read this article to learn everything you need to know about QA in software development.

What is QA in software development?

What is quality assurance all about? It’s a process that focuses on identifying and maintaining set requirements for developing reliable products. A well-developed QA system increases a company’s credibility, boosts customer confidence in products, improves workflow efficiency, and offers a real competitive advantage.

The driving force behind QA in software development practices and processes is the International Organization for

Standardization (ISO). That’s why QA is often paired with the ISO 9000 international standard, and companies use this standard to ensure that their quality assurance system is effective.

As a formalized process, quality assurance traces its roots to the manufacturing industry – over the years spreading to many other industries, with IT among them.

How does quality assurance differ from software testing?

It might seem that the two processes are interchangeable. After all, both aim to ship software that matches specific requirements and is of top quality.

But consider this:

The idea behind QA processes is assuring that the quality of a product is in line with the client’s requirements. Quality assurance professionals work on both the development and the implementations of processes that ensure that the team follows all the key procedures of the software development lifecycle. It’s a proactive activity that focuses on process development and continuous improvement, as well as defect prevention.

Learn more: Software development process – here’s how a software agency works on your project

Software testing, on the other hand, concentrates on identifying defects and errors in the software. Testers apply rigorous testing processes to software to check whether any variations from requirement or defects need to be fixed before release. Note that software testing is part of the overall quality control process and focuses exclusively on product-oriented activities. Also, testers are only responsible for detecting bugs, not fixing them.

How does quality assurance differ from quality control?

These two activities often get confused with one another. In reality, they’re quite different. While quality assurance is all about preventive activities, quality control focuses on corrective processes. QA is the responsibility of everyone involved in the process, and quality control is the domain of a specific team (of testers). 

Still, all of these activities are deeply intertwined. Quality control is a subset of quality assurance. And software testing is a subset of quality control.

Why is maintaining software quality so important?

Quality assurance is a critical part of every software development process. In its essence, QA in software development helps companies to create products and services that meet the expectations and requirements of customers. It allows building high-quality product offerings that, in turn, improve loyalty and trust of consumers. By following the standards and procedures defined by a QA program, teams can prevent product defects before they emerge and become an issue.

Depending on the size of the organization, QA can comprise various subtasks. At its core, the QA process creates a specific quality deliverable. Since software requirements are continuously changing and teams add new objectives, the QA team needs to make sure that the newly-added goals or requirements aren’t going to affect the software quality negatively.

Who uses QA standards?

Naturally, testers and QA professionals apply these standards in their daily work. But they’re not the only ones who stand to benefit from quality assurance. Software developers, C-level executives, and other stakeholders may want to track product quality trends as they evolve over time. 

And that’s especially true for applications that grow and become increasingly sophisticated – where the QA process also becomes more complicated. That’s why it’s critical for teams to be reflexive about their QA processes and find tools that address their needs perfectly.

How do QA teams determine software quality?

Quality assurance takes advantage of two key approaches: the defect management approach and the quality attributes approach.

In QA, a defect is any element of the software that’s not in line with the client’s requirements. Sometimes developers fail to understand such a requirement fully, and that leads to design errors. Other sources of errors include poor data handling, buggy code, or improper functional logic.

The defect management approach comes in handy for tracking defects and defining categories to mark their severity. QA professionals can create control charts that measure the capabilities of the development team.

The quality attributes approach, on the other hand, concentrates on achieving the following six quality characteristics:

  1. Functionality – Are the functions of the software appropriate, and have they been implemented correctly? How does the software interact with other system components? Can it handle data securely? Is it compliant with the required laws and guidelines?
  2. Reliability – Does the software perform under specific conditions (for example, component failure)? How often does it fail? How soon is the system able to reach full operation after failure?
  3. Usability – Can users understand the software functions easily? How much effort is required to understand software functions?
  4. Efficiency – Did the development team follow good coding practices while developing software? Is the architecture designed with efficiency in mind?
  5. Maintainability – How easy is identifying and fixing a fault in software? Is it possible to identify the main cause of failure? How much effort will code modification require in case of a fault? How stable is the system performance while changes are being applied?
  6. Portability – Can the system adapt to changes in its environment? How easily can it be installed? How easy is replacing a system component in a specific environment?

QA in software development – common mistakes teams make

Here are some of the most widespread problems affecting the performance and effectiveness of QA teams:

  • Failure to analyze the occurrence of the defect – this increases the chances of its repeated occurrence.
  • They’re afraid of asking questions – worrying about what others may think is one of the most common blockers in the daily work of testers and QA professionals. But if not asking a question makes the team miss a scenario, the consequences are far worse.
  • Automation can be tricky – automation is a buzzword in QA circles right now. To address the problem of introducing automation, teams often start with semi-automated solutions – for example, bug logging tool. Teams that are ready for automation use tools such as QMetry Automation Studio, Selenium, AppManager, and Watir.
  • Forgetting about user experience – QA needs to go beyond the testing sheets and take a closer look at user experience – in particular, whether it addresses the client requirements. If the team has any UX suggestions, it should share them with the client. Sometimes clients have a vision that can be tricky to realize from the UX standpoint. That’s when the QA team should step in and suggest corrections. In the end, it’s the client’s call to make the final decision.
  • Blaming others for bugs – QA teams often find collaborating with development teams troublesome, especially if they find a bug in a live application. But their job is to establish processes that help everyone involved in developing software ship better products. Nobody should be blamed for the bug – coming up with a way to avoid the same mistake again is a much better use of your time. Stay objective and synchronize the work with other teams. Try to avoid blame-game.
  • “There’s nothing we can do for a live app” – just because the software has been launched doesn’t mean that the QA process is over. In reality, QA professionals should keep a close eye on the activities of the support team once customers start using the app. Be sure to stay vigilant and analyze every request, then consider scenarios related to it and use tools that deliver live bug reports.

Conclusion

Quality assurance is a key element of the software development process. The primary goal of QA in software development is delivering a product that matches all the client requirements, be it functional or related to user experience. Shipping a flawless digital product is impossible if you don’t have an experienced QA team in place.

Are you looking for a software development team that delivers excellent products thanks to expert QA? Get in touch with us; we provide companies like yours with software that matches their unique requirements.

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Justyna Kot

Project Manager & Business Analyst at Concise Software

Geek girl & coffee lover, Google Developers Launchpad Mentor, passionate about growth hacking, community building and Star Wars. Also Lead Organizer at Women Techmakers and GDG Rzeszów

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