What You Need to Know About Software Quality Assurance

Gimena Aguerreberry
April 30, 2021

In the digital age, software is a business's bread and butter. From company websites to customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, most organizations rely on a suite of software products that enable them to reach clients, process data, and make sales.

But because technology plays such a pivotal role, there can be disastrous consequences when something goes wrong. When TSB suffered a notorious IT meltdown in April 2018, the bank lost a staggering 12,500 customers and was ordered to pay £336 million in compensation.

High-profile software failures are a nightmare for any company — and if you want to avoid them, the answer is effective quality assurance (QA).

Software quality assurance can be one of the most frustrating software engineering processes for any developer. But it's also one of the most important.

In this blog post, we'll explain the top things you need to know to deploy high-quality QA teams and deliver an amazing final product.

What is Software Quality Assurance?

Software quality assurance (SQA) — also known as quality control or quality management — is the process of testing your software products to make sure they're robust.

This might sound simple, but an effective QA strategy needs to make sure your software meets a wide range of quality standards. These standards may be functional, aesthetic, or even legal, especially if your products are designed to process or store sensitive data.

What's the Difference Between Quality Assurance and Software Testing?

Although many people use the terms interchangeably, quality assurance and software testing aren't exactly the same thing.

As its name suggests, software testing refers to the act of testing your software product or service for faults. There are many forms of software testing, both manual (physically using the software to visualize the experience of your end-user) and automated.

Automated tests often try to replicate different situations — for example, to test how products will respond if one aspect of the system breaks down or experience incredibly high traffic levels.

Examples of software testing include:

  • Black box testing

  • Performance testing

  • Integration testing

  • Unit testing

  • End-to-end testing

  • Acceptance testing

  • Smoke testing

Each of these processes occurs at a different level or component of your software. For example, black box testing requires somebody with no prior knowledge of your product or service to try using it. This will show you how UX-friendly your final product is. Integration testing, meanwhile, is used to test how well different parts of your software work together.

Software testing is a branch of quality assurance that usually occurs near the end of the development process, once your product is in its final stages (although regular reviews are recommended from the start). On the other hand, QA is a principle that underpins the entire software engineering process, from the initial design to fine-tuning.

While software testing is a responsibility that falls to a trained development team, QA as a whole should be thought of as everyone's responsibility. You might have designated QA professionals to oversee the strategy. But to make sure you can meet all quality standards, it's a lot easier if everyone understands the key quality attributes from the start.

Why is Quality Assurance so Important?

Skipping the QA process can lead to disastrous consequences. Companies that release software products that haven't passed quality standards find it's a costly mistake — and not just if they're ordered to pay compensation to customers.

When its software breaks, an organization might be unable to process sales until the system is fixed. But even once the issue is resolved, there can be far-reaching effects, from lost credibility to extra overheads.

In a world where most business now takes place online, software problems are the equivalent of a high street store barricading its doors when a line of customers is waiting outside.

The good news is that with a properly implemented QA strategy, you can reduce the risk of errors. Software testing might be a laborious process, but it's always more time and cost-effective than launching a risky product and hoping it lands.

What Industry Quality Standards Are There?

In addition to any company quality standards, there are also some key industry quality standards that all QA teams should be aware of — whatever project they're working on.

By following these recommendations for auditing, quality management, and process improvement, your development team can deliver a final product that helps your client stay competitive online.

ISO/IEC 25000

This international standard is commonly known by the acronym SQuaRE, which stands for Software Quality Requirements and Evaluation. It sets out the quality standards for reliable software product evaluation, including the tasks and inputs you should use to assess different features.

The SQuaRE quality model also defines the standards against which you can measure the success of your software. This makes it much easier to know when to sign off on your project.

ISO/IEC 12119

This standard focuses on software packages that are delivered to a client. Instead of focusing on the production process, ISO/IEC 12119 covers a set of quality attributes and requirements. It also establishes a set of instructions that a development team can follow to ensure these requirements are met.

CMMI Levels 1-5

CMMI stands for Capability Maturity Model Integration. This model aims to help QA professionals carry out process improvement and reduce the risk of errors in their software products. It also explains how to address the following business objectives:

  • Creating a reliable environment where your development team can be both proactive and productive

  • Producing a high quality product or service

  • Boosting customer satisfaction levels

  • Increasing the value of your company

  • Growing your market share

  • Improving your standing within the software design industry

How Does the QA Work in the Software Development Process?

Your QA process will encompass various stages of quality control, including software design and software testing. Although most QA teams will develop their own strategy over time, there are several key stages you'll need to cover. These include:

  • A quality management plan that maps out the software engineering processes from beginning to end, including all the standards you need to comply with.

  • Periodic audits throughout the lifecycle of your software development process. These checks will ensure that you're meeting targets and staying true to the quality management plan.

  • Formal technical reviews (FTR). These reviews are intended to evaluate the success of your prototype software at key stages throughout the process.

  • Multi-testing checks. As part of a robust testing strategy, you'll need to employ a range of testing tools and practices. Examples of professional third-party testing tools include Kualitee, Kobiton, Testim, and Selenium.

  • Product evaluation, which is usually the final stage. This will verify that your product meets all the standards set out in your quality management plan.

Need Help with Your SQA Strategy?

Creating an SQA strategy doesn't come easily to every business owner. You might need some extra help boosting your software development process with testing that strengthens your products and cuts down on costs.

**For more information about testing processes, quality attributes, and more, contact our team today. Our professional *software developmen**t* experts will be on hand to help you create a software testing process that works for you, your QA teams, and your business.

Book a free consultation.

We'd love to hear about your team's challenges and help you improve your agility.

"What You Need to Know About Software Quality Assurance" by Gimena Aguerreberry is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Niclas Illg.

Categorized under software development.