January 20, 2020

What Is QA in Software Testing?

In the past, quality assurance (QA) testing has generally been brought into the software process relatively late in the development cycle. For example, in a Waterfall process, the software is produced and passed along to the QA team, which offers feedback and then sends the software back to the development team to fix the problems. In an Agile environment, everyone—including the QA 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 important questions:

What is QA testing? And how does QA fit into today’s fast-paced development process?

What Is Quality Assurance Testing?

Quality assurance testing is a process that ensures an organization delivers the best products or services possible. QA aims to deliver consistent results through a set of standardized procedures, which means organizations also need to make sure their processes for achieving the desired results hit specific quality benchmarks.

In brief, you might say QA includes all activities centered around implementing standards and procedures associated with ensuring software meets certain 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 (QC) is a software engineering process, typically used to ensure the quality of the products or services. It’s a bit different than QA, which is about the process. QC examines the quality of end products, consisting 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 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 and finding and fixing defects before the software is publicly available. The activities of QC 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.

Testing ensures the identification of errors, bugs, and defects in the software. Testing software also 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 end consumers. However, customer-centricity often gets pushed aside in an effort to keep pace with market demands and to 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 have 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 were frustrated by a software solution that was difficult to use, did not work as expected, or was just plain slow.

Software testing and QA addresses these 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 is centered on delivering the best possible outcome to the customer. In a QA context, a software defect is not just a bug. It 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 the software that end-users receive produces 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.

A QA process tends to look something like this:

  1. Generate requirements
  2. Make estimations
  3. Develop a plan
  4. Produce documentation
  5. Execute day-to-day sprints
  6. Define what needs to happen before a product is considered finished
  7. Test

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.

QA Testing Means More than Fixing Software Defects

Quality assurance testing is about more than fixing problems. It’s also about establishing quality standards and implementing checks and balances 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.

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 which quality attributes should be in place. Anything that does not meet the needs of the end-user could be assessed as a defect.

Software testing measures predetermine the quality attributes based on objective data and then feeds that information to QA, which owns the process of implementing changes to the software that lead to better user outcomes. Still, it’s worth noting that QA professionals need to start developing their skills so that they can add more value, as more of their daily tasks are automated.

Quality assurance testing in an agile environment is just one example of how quality is woven through all of 3Pillar Global’s product development processes. Contact 3Pillar Global today to learn how we can help.

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