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In the past, quality assurance testing has generally been brought into process relatively late in the development cycle. For example, in Waterfall, the software is produced and passed along to the QA team, who offer feedback, then send the software back to development so they can fix the problems.
In an Agile environment, everyone, including the Quality Assurance Team, works collaboratively to make improvements on an ongoing basis. Yet, as developers, operators, and testers embrace a shared responsibility for making sure they deliver a high-quality end product, QA often struggles to find its place.
Automated software testing adds another layer of complexity to the mix, which brings up an important question: what is quality assurance (QA) testing and how does it fit into today’s fast-paced development process?
What Is Quality Assurance Testing?
Quality assurance testing is quality assurance(QA) or a quality testing process that ensures that an organization delivers the best products or services possible.
QA aims to deliver consistent results through a set of standardized procedures, which means that organizations also need to make sure that their processes for achieving the desired results hit specific quality benchmarks themselves.
In brief, you might say that QA includes all activities that center around implementing standards and procedures associated with ensuring that software meets a certain set of requirements before it’s released to the public.
The key thing to keep in mind is that QA doesn’t involve the actual testing of products. Instead, it focuses on the procedures to ensure the best outcome. QA activities are ultimately process oriented.
What Is Quality Control?
Quality Control, or QC, is a software engineering process, typically used to ensure the quality of the products or services. It’s a bit different than QA, in that, where quality assurance is about the process, quality control examines the quality of the end products. QC consists of product-oriented activities that focus on the final outcome. The objective of quality control is to ensure the product design meets the requirements and specifications of the customers.
If QC should find an issue with the end product, it ideally should be resolved before the end-customer receives the final product. To put it simply, QC includes everything involved in making sure that a product or service meets the standard quality requirements and the demands of customers. It involves testing the effectiveness and outcomes of an actual product, such as executing software after the software development process to find and fix defects before making it publicly available. The activities of quality control are product oriented.
What Is Testing?
Testing refers to the actual testing of a product to meet QC standards. This may involve using or stress testing the product or seeing if the actual service results match the expected results. The process identifies problems in the product or service before it goes live.
In software testing, this ensures the identification of errors, bugs, and defects in software. Testing software involves executing a software component to evaluate its properties. Testing activities are also product oriented.
The Role of QA in Software Testing
Most companies aim to deliver the best possible product to the end consumer. However, customer-centricity often gets pushed aside in an effort to keep pace with market demands and ship the latest features as quickly as possible.
When software is created, the hope is to have seamless development, design, distribution, and delivery. But, as we all know, that rarely happens.
Think about your own experience. You’ve probably encountered a surprise software bug, unexpected downtime, or some other problem more times than you can count while trying to complete a task.
Or, perhaps you’ve been frustrated by a software solution that is difficult to use, doesn’t work as expected, or is just plain slow.
Software testing and QA address different issues. The former seeks to identify bugs, errors, vulnerabilities, and other defects.
While the latter addresses usability issues that might not be technical in nature. QA testing for software is centered on delivering the best possible outcome to the customer. In a QA context, software defect is not just a bug, but can be any problem that impacts the end-user experience from poor navigation to slow load times or unclear web copy.
The only way to minimize the risk of defects while also maximizing end-user experience is by including software and quality assurance testing throughout the entire development process.
How Do Quality Assurance and Software Testing Work Together?
For any product, software or otherwise, several rounds of testing are performed before it can be delivered to market.
Products must be tested in different ways, with different users and different scenarios to make sure that the software that end-users receive is a consistent, high-quality experience in a range of situations.
While testing and quality are inextricably linked, it’s important to understand that quality assurance testing and software testing aren’t one in the same. Part of quality assurance is finding a solution to the challenge and implementing it.
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QA’s process tends to look something like this:
- Generating requirements
- Making estimations
- Developing a plan
- Day-to-day sprint execution
- Defining what needs to happen before a product is considered “finished.”
Where the process was once defined by contracts, checklists, and control, today’s QA team is embedded alongside developers.
Agile QA testing is less about performing the tests, and instead brings a deep understanding of the consumer into the fold, functioning as an advocate for meeting expectations.
Quality Assurance Testing Means More than Fixing Software Defects
Quality assurance testing is about more than fixing problems. It’s about establishing quality standards and implementing the checks and balances needed to ensure the end-product meets said standards.
Organizations must first define a measurable set of quality metrics and a process for ensuring those standards are represented in the software. What this means is that organizations need to gain a complete understanding of what the end-user feels is a “quality experience.”
These metrics must be clearly defined so that the quality assurance team can receive information from software testing and determine what needs to be changed. The internal quality of the software (the code) must be honed to the ideal quality so that the external quality (the end-user experience) can be optimized.
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While fixing software defects is essential, it is important to remember that software testing and quality assurance represent two sides of the same coin. In addition to managing and eliminating errors, it is vital to determine what ‘quality attributes’ should be in place. Because anything that does not meet the needs of the end-user could be assessed a ‘defect.’
Software testing measures predetermined quality attributes based on objective data and feeds that information to QA, which owns the process of implementing changes to the software that lead to better user outcomes.
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Still, it’s worth noting that QA professionals will need to start developing their skills so that they can add more value, as more of their daily tasks are being automated.
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