Software Quality Assurance means “a means and practice of monitoring the software engineering processes and methods used in a project to ensure proper quality of the software.”

It is a set of practices and activities within the development cycle to ensure the good quality of the product/service. The Quality Assurance Methodology follows a PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act). QA teams perform functions like walkthroughs, audits, process-defining, testing, tool selection, inspection, checkpoint review, training, and compliance, among other duties. The difference between SQA and software testing is that the former is about devising a whole process that ensures quality from the start of development to the end while the latter is to test the product before it goes live. 

If one were to describe very simply and succinctly the role of QA, it would be ‘ensuring the quality of the project/product.’ Quality Assurance may only look like one aspect of the development process but in fact, the QA team remains involved from the start to the end of the entire software development lifecycle. QA teams plan the monitoring and evaluation of the quality of the product at every stage while QC (Quality Control) follows QA protocols to test the product. 

The stages of QA are:

Planning: Requirement Analysis, assessing project viability and associated risks, mapping out strategies for bug detection, tracking and testing methods, establishing best practices for assuring the best user experience, giving inputs on individual features and new introductions/innovations. 

Design: Checking whether the designs are testable, making sure the architecture supports testing methods, identify flaws or features in the design that might not work practically and have the wireframes corrected, prepare data flow charts and testing as the end-user, prototype testing process, usability audit

Development: Prepare the testing environment, component testing process, weigh in on the implementation technicalities that could improve UX UI, maintenance of development algorithm, developing test cases, creating testing techniques for various usage scenario of each component/page/call to action

Testing: Detailed and documented walkthroughs, executing test plan, writing test cases, bug reports, cross-platform and cross-browser testing, tracking and testing updates, test functions, security, User Acceptance Testing, regression testing of complex components, system testing, integration testing, etc. 

Deployment and maintenance: Staying on-call during deployment, prepare guides and manuals with documentation, testing bugs that may have gone undetected, and checking updates for stability and positive UI regularly

The importance of QA and why it should be included in all stages of the software development life cycle

The modern software development architecture is designed to handle complex tasks, data-intensive functions, performance criteria, and multiple rounds of deployment. If timely and structured QA roles are not defined and incorporated in various stages, it is almost certain that the end quality of the software product may not be up to standards and there may be serious financial losses due to missteps and defects. If QA isn’t supported, the product may not be optimized for the best UX, may have performance issues, and turn out to be a weak proposition in today’s competitive market.

Here’s why QA matters in software development

Saving resources

QA processes are devised to detect bugs at the early stages of development in each sprint. This ensures that minimal errors are generated and resolved at the earliest so that no serious bottlenecks can hamper the development at later stages. This saves man-hours, money, and investment, ultimately making the project financially sound. Different types of testing applied during shorter sprints, reviewing design wireframes during the design stage, process monitoring, audits, and product evaluation are all tied together by an efficient QA team to aid faster development.

Excellence of product/service

Whether the result will be satisfactory and immersive for the user depends on how your product/service meets their expectations. QA teams ensure this by using different types of testing procedures. QA testers observe the Pareto Principle (80% errors come from 20% program components). Testing includes, but is not limited to:

Unit testing – checking the smallest unit of software

Integration testing – a testing group of components together

Regression testing – testing new components added to the whole program

Alpha and Beta testing – done internally and with limited users

Stress testing – to see if the system performs under unfavorable conditions

Performance testing – run-time, speed, the effectiveness of the program

GUI testing – Graphical User Interfaces testing

Back-end testing – to check databases like Server, MySQL, and Oracle

Acceptance testing – end-to-end testing on client’s end… 

And these are only a few. All these different types of tests are vital to be conducted as per the Quality Assurance/Control plan so that the product/service can provide optimum experience to the user and delivers promised results. 

Risk-free development

Due to time constraints, unexpected setbacks, and Agile sprints which are shorter, project managers tend to ignore QA and make it an afterthought, prioritising other development needs. QA at every stage is important so that there is a risk of failure nor is there a possibility of a miscalculated gamble during the entire development cycle. Making the SQA team an integral part of the technical team and daily stand-up covers loopholes. 

Ensuring security and privacy

Good quality software is needed to keep intact the company’s reputation and brand image. If the user’s data, financial information, or the stability of the app is compromised due to security issues, no matter how useful and well-performing the product is, it would be considered unreliable. SQA and development teams should work in alignment with IT security to create best practices in Access Control, building a robust security architecture inside the overall software design, defining security-focused non-functional requirements so that data security is not left vulnerable to hackers. QA and IT in an alliance can build testing systems to analyse application vulnerabilities, test the integrity of data management, while also testing for unknown security factors. 

For the QA skill sets

Quality Assurance professionals bring a lot to the table in terms of expertise. They’re required to pay attention to detail and have excellent analytical skills. They are known for having a hawk’s eye, meticulous yet patient approach to detailed work required at every stage. An ability to co-relate the design with real-time scenarios, multi-tasking abilities combined with the skill to think and act like the end-user are indispensable to build a strong software development team.

SQA to create a roadmap

A Software Quality Assurance Plan includes documentation of the entire project plan, models, data flow diagrams, technical specifications, test plans, and procedures, plans to monitor and improve the processes, design and collect metrics and relevant data, list out all components of Test Management Process, make schedules for performing individual or group QA tasks, define and document policies and procedures to prevent bugs from reoccurring, review requirements analysis and software design, create performance metrics to enhance application output beyond current levels, create manuals and guidelines for continuous improvement, maintain Test Management Review and Audit, and apply uniformly software assurance implementation. 

To quote a widely known motto of QA landscape, “SQA is not just SQA person’s task, but everyone’s task”. It can only be effective when implemented and abided collectively by all stakeholders across teams.