While buying any item, you are more conscious about its quality, and software products and services are no exceptions to this. People are more likely to use any product or service that meets their needs or helps them accomplish a certain task. They frustrate if they encounter any bugs, errors, or unexpected behavior of the product or service. This is where the role of quality assurance comes into play.
Quality assurance, often abbreviated as QA, is an inescapable and integral process in software testing. It evaluates software products to check whether they meet the essential quality standards and requirements. The term ‘Quality Assurance’ comprises two words – “Quality” and “Assurance”. Let us understand these two terms before diving deep into quality assurance and its various aspects.
What is Quality?
Quality implies a degree of superiority of a software product or service. It is a metric that defines how well a software product or service has conformed to the requirements and specifications of its intended customers. These requirements and specifications can be related to functionality, design, performance, usability, reliability, and durability.
Simply put, it evaluates how well the product or service is fit for the intended purpose.
Furthermore, a combination of two activities that ensures a software product’s quality is – Validation and Verification.
Verification checks if the process used during software development is correct or not. On the other hand, validation evaluates the product to check if it meets the business requirements and quality standards.
What is Assurance?
In general terms, assurance refers to a guarantee or promise that certain things will surely take place.
When it comes to software development, assurance refers to providing confidence or a guarantee to intended customers that the end product will meet their requirements without any errors or bugs.
What is Quality Assurance?
Now, let us combine the definition of the above two terms.
Quality Assurance or QA implies providing a guarantee to the intended customers by an organization that a particular product or service will function as expected, meet all quality standards, and be free from bugs and errors.
In other words, QA is a procedure involving activities and methods to ensure that a product or service meets quality standards and other specified requirements. These standards can be one or a combination of ISO 9000, CMMI model, ISO15504, etc.
Besides the quality of a product, QA also assures the quality of the process used to develop, test, and maintain it. It improves and makes the overall software development life cycle (SDLC) efficient.
- QA is a static process of analyzing the documents and the software development process.
- It doesn’t involve testing the built product.
- In testing, “Verification” comes under QA.
- It answers the question – “Are we building the product right?”
- QA is a preventive measure as it identifies the vulnerability in building software.
- It involves activities like document review, test documents review, walk-throughs, audits, inspection, etc.
But what exactly are the attributes that fall under software quality? Let us discuss them below.
Quality Attributes of a Software
- Correctness – The correctness of software refers to its consistency and alignment with the specified requirements. When the software functions as expected and provides all the intended features in all use cases, it is considered correct and functional.
- Reliability – It refers to the ability of a software product to perform the intended functions and run smoothly and accurately without any exceptions, failures, or errors. The software is reliable if its behavior is predictable under any conditions.
- Robustness – It is the metric that determines the capability of the software product to handle erroneous and invalid inputs and unexpected conditions without crashes or failures. It improves the product’s security, reliability, and maintainability.
- Usability – It is the ease of operating the software application. The more easily users understand how to use the application and access its features, the higher its quality will be.
- Maintainability – Maintainability is the measure of the amount of effort required for software maintenance after it has shipped to end users without compromising its quality and functionality. A maintainable software is one that accommodates changes with minimal risk of introducing errors and bugs or affecting the existing functionality.
- Portability – It is the ability of the software to be transformed from one platform, environment, or infrastructure to the other, without affecting its performance and functionality. Portable software should run on different operating systems, hardware architectures, and cloud platforms. In short, it should be platform-independent.
- Efficiency – Efficiency is the measure of software that determines how well it utilizes resources for its functioning. An efficient software utilizes minimum resources, improving performance, reducing cost, and lowering energy consumption.
How to Perform Quality Assurance (QA)?
QA is a continuous or cyclic process consisting of four PDCA phases: Plan, Do, Check, and Act.
Let us discuss these phases in detail below:
- Plan – The first step is determining the quality requirements and objectives, including functional and non-functional requirements. Next, outline a detailed plan that covers all activities, processes, and methods to meet the quality requirements.
- Do – Now, it is time to execute the activities outlined in the plan, which includes testing, reviewing, analyzing, and improving processes.
- Check – After implementing the activities, monitor the software quality using their results and reports based on specific metrics. Identify any potential quality issues and defects.
- Act – Take all essential corrective actions to improve the process.
This entire process continues throughout the software development life cycle.
Advantages of Quality Assurance
Some of the remarkable advantages of quality assurance are as follows-
- Improved Quality – Undoubtedly, quality assurance considerably improves the quality of a software product or service, as it helps organizations to ensure that it meets quality standards.
- Saves Money – QA is a structured framework for organizations to ensure the quality of their products or services. It significantly reduces errors, waste, and rework, helping them save vast money.
- Improved Customer Satisfaction – The higher the quality of products, the more customers are satisfied. This is because a quality product meets their requirements.
- Improved Client Confidence – Clients’ and stakeholders’ involvement in quality checks at different levels of software development increases their confidence.
Quality Assurance Certifications/Standards
Quality certifications or standards ensure that software products have been developed by following certain guidelines and rules and meet all essential quality metrics.
The following are some popular quality assurance certifications available globally:
1. ISO 9000
It is a set of international standards for quality management and quality assurance developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1987. These standards serve as a framework for organizations to establish, maintain, and improve quality management systems and help ensure their products and services meet customer needs and regulatory requirements.
The 7 principles of ISO 9000 are:
- Customer focus
- Engagement of people
- Process approach
- Evidence-based decision-making
- Relationship management
Increased profit, improved domestic and international trade, reduced waste, improved employee productivity, and maximum customer satisfaction are the benefits of ISO 9000.
2. CMMI Level
CMMI is an acronym for Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI). It is a process improvement framework helping organizations improve their development processes. It is a successor to the CMM model and was developed by Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University. Software development, project management, and software engineering fields have widely adopted the CMMI framework.
This approach to process improvement is based on the maturity model, consisting of the following 5 levels:
- Initial: The quality environment is unstable, and no process is documented or followed.
- Managed: The processes are well-outlined and monitored.
- Defined: The processes are well-established, documented, and structured.
- Quantitatively Managed: The use of statistical and quantitative methods to measure the quality of processes.
- Optimizing: The processes are continuously improved based on feedback.
In a nutshell, CMMI analyzes the current process and helps organizations improve it by detecting areas of improvement.
3. Test Maturity Model (TMM)
The Test Maturity Model (TMM) is a framework to test the maturity of the software testing process. The Illinois Institute of Technology developed it. It consists of the following 5 levels-
- Initial: The use of only ad-hoc methods, as no quality standard is defined.
- Defined: Basic testing methods and techniques are in place.
- Integrated: Software testing is integrated into the software development life cycle.
- Management and Measurement: The review of requirements and designs take place, along with setting criteria for each level of testing.
- Optimized: Improves the testing process continuously based on feedback.
What is Quality Control?
Along with quality assurance (QA), quality control (QC) is another aspect of quality management. Quality control or QC ensures the software product’s quality by examining it. Conversely, QA is all about the processes, methods, and activities to develop a quality product.
The primary goal of quality control is to uncover errors or any unexpected behavior of the product and fix them before releasing it to end users. It ensures the product meets business and customer requirements and is reliable and consistent.
Quality Assurance vs Quality Control
QA and QC have a very thin line between them. Hence, it is difficult to understand the differences between them. The primary difference is that QA deals with processes and improvements to those processes, leading to the final product. Conversely, QC involves analyzing the end product and its results to ensure that it conforms with the specified requirements.
Let us discuss other differences between QA and QC.
|Quality Assurance||Quality Control|
|Checks the processes and improves them, leading to the end product.||Reviews the end product and its results.|
|Prevents defects||Identified defects|
|Process-oriented activities – quality audit, defining processes, tool selection, and training.||Product-oriented activities – walkthrough, testing, inspection, and checkpoint review.|
|Verification is an example of QA.||Validation is an example of QC.|
|Involved in the entire software development life cycle (SDLC).||Involved in only software testing life cycle (STLC).|
This was all about quality assurance in software testing. It refers to assuring end customers that a product or service will certainly meet all quality standards. It involves a set of activities and methods to ensure that the product or service complies with the regulatory standards (either one or a combination of quality standards).
In a nutshell, QA is all about focusing on developing products and services that are fit for use. We hope this article has helped you gain in-depth insights into QA.