Gartner's recent eye-opening research revealed that 88% of service leaders are failing to meet customer expectations when it comes to product quality – with the poor-quality assurance processes being the main culprit. But what exactly is quality assurance, and why should you care? At its core, quality assurance in software testing is a systematic process that ensures a software product meets the predetermined quality standards and user expectations. This proactive discipline is integrated into every stage of the software development lifecycle, with the goal of identifying and addressing potential issues before they become problems. From the initial design phase to the final deployment, QA in software testing involves meticulous planning, execution, and reporting of tests to verify the software's functionality, performance, and usability. It's not just about finding and fixing bugs, but also about enhancing the overall user experience and ensuring the software delivers the intended value to its users. The ultimate objective of QA in software testing is to instill confidence in the software, assure its reliability, and improve customer satisfaction. In this article, we’ll take an even closer look at the importance and benefits of quality assurance to your business. But before we begin, let’s clarify the difference between QA and quality control (QC) Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control: What’s the Difference? Quality control (QC) and quality assurance are strategies for launching high-quality digital products and services, but their methodologies and focus are different. QA takes a proactive approach that broadly translates to ongoing and consistent improvement of software development processes. Software quality control, on the other hand, is reactive and focuses on the product. QC further extends to monitoring, evaluating, and testing a software solution to single out errors and correct them for premium quality standards. From a business perspective, QA is a preventive strategy that drives the desired quality standards in a digital solution to enhance customer satisfaction, retention, and quality. On the other hand, quality control is a corrective strategy that aims to lower customer churn rates, complaints, or even refunds due to unmatched expectations. The Typical Quality Assurance Process for Any Project The process of QA can vary accordingly, depending on the software, business, or industry in question. Nonetheless, it typically involves several key steps for any product, including the following: Requirement Analysis The team begins with a thorough analysis of the project’s requirements to determine the testable expectations and the types of tests needed. This stage also involves preparation of the Requirement Traceability Matrix (RTM) and feasibility analysis automation. Test Planning Any quality assurance operation includes careful test planning, highlighting the steps needed and how the testing strategy will be executed. Technically, this stage involves creating a viable test plan, defining the testing goals, and researching the tools and resources needed for QA testing. Test Case Development After planning, QA experts proceed to design test cases for different scenarios based on the technical requirements and specifications of the IT solution in hand. This technically entails creating test cases and automation scripts, generating test data, as well as reviewing and baselining test cases. Test Environment Setup Test environment setup is a crucial stage in a typical testing process, which defines the optimum hardware and software conditions for running tests on a work product. The deliverables for this phase include a testing-ready environment with complete data setup and smoke test results to assess the readiness of the environment. Test Execution This stage involves executing the test cases designed in the step above for verification purposes to ensure that the software system functions as intended. Ideally, your QA expert will run several high-level tests, document the results, and map defects to test cases. Retesting also happens at this stage, where a regression test is performed to verify that the raised issues have been addressed accordingly. Test Cycle Closure The QA testing team finally ends the process with a test cycle closure, which technically reviews the overall effectiveness of the approach taken. Prevalent activities that happen in this phase include test results evaluation, defect reporting, test metrics preparation, and generation of the test cycle closure report. Depending on the organization's policy, the QA process can be done internally by in-house staff or externally by third-party companies. Either way, the QA and software development teams should jointly propose how the issues are remediated. Importance of Quality Assurance QA is a crucial process in software engineering. It helps development teams identify potential defects at an early stage, reducing the risk of such defects being overlooked and affecting the end-users after release and in production. If neglected, high chances are that the organization’s product will be unreliable, defective, or unfit for the intended function. This can translate to a tainted business reputation, wide-scale dissatisfaction, or lost revenues in the long haul. Benefits of Quality Assurance for Project Success As noted earlier, QA is a critical step that ascertains whether every component in a software system follows a specific predefined standard. Internally, quality assurance tests various attributes, including structure, complexity, scalability, and flexibility. From the user’s perspective, the process evaluates efficiency and reliability. That said, here are the benefits of quality assurance in driving project success: Drives Greater Efficiency Any organization's goal is to foster efficiency at all business levels, from production to usage. Best QA practices can help your software development team identify coding patterns that may lead to potential errors or bugs. This ensures that your team works with clean, high-quality code for greater efficiency. Enhances User Experience One of the key benefits of quality assurance in software development is that it enhances user experience by driving a consistent and high-quality output. Such an experience meets the average consumer’s expectations, promoting greater satisfaction and loyalty. Saves Time and Money Integrating quality assurance with software development can help your team reduce the time spent debugging or rectifying defects. This means more speed and agility during the process to accelerate the time-to-market when the demand is still hot. Eventually, faster deployment translates to more saved time and money. Security Quality assurance in software testing can help enhance the security of your software products. The process aims to identify any security blind spots and/or vulnerabilities during development and preventing hackers from attacking the released product. In turn, this reduces the likelihood of security incidences for better regulatory compliance and safe operation. Maintain Regulatory Compliance QA ensures that your software solution follows all the standards and requirements set by established regulatory bodies, such as the International Standardization Organization (ISO), among others. For example, QA promotes careful documentation development process documentation to ensure compliance with ISO documentation standards. It also facilitates internal audits for continuous improvement and all-around compliance. Competitive Product Another benefit of QA is it allows scalability testing, allowing development teams to build highly scalable digital solutions that can handle dynamic demands depending on traffic or usage. This gives you a competitive edge with a product that can penetrate any market and expand its user base over time. Protects Brand Image and Reputation Besides meeting consumer expectations by fostering a consistent experience, quality assurance also plays an integral role in guaranteeing product quality to protect the brand image and reputation. For instance, the process mitigates potential risks that can cause outages or failure after deployment. It also enhances swift response to issues, demonstrating an organization’s unwavering commitment to quality standards and customer experience. Mitigates Failure The primary function of quality assurance in any software development is to mitigate potential failures and guarantee the product's functionality. In other words, taking this approach means verifying that the solution meets user needs and rectifying any errors that can lead to limited functionality. Ensures Long-Term Profits Organizations with high-quality products are likely to experience more purchases than their counterparts with inferior products. A thorough QA evaluation ensures that your software solution meets expectations to please users at the initial experience. These users will likely remain loyal to your digital solution and drive repeat business, direct referrals, and long-term profits. Why Your Business Needs to Implement a QA Role Establishing a QA role in your business comes with various benefits, including fostering a positive work environment where employees can thrive. Besides creating a channel for ongoing feedback and improvement, implementing quality assurance processes exposes your team to new tools, technologies, and techniques. Ultimately, this leads to higher job satisfaction. On top of that, quality assurance processes entrench an organization's commitment to quality standards. In such a setting, employees tend to develop a result-driven mindset instead of a job-driven one. In other words, the whole team will embrace QA as a principle and not a routine checkmark. QA is also important as it drives customers’ loyalty. Prioritizing quality and users’ feedback means your business is grounded on keeping promises, a culture that puts your brand ahead of the competition. What to Focus on During QA Evaluation A typical quality assurance program should be tailored to complement an organization's goals. Here are some tips highlighting what you should focus on for a successful quality assurance process. Determining the Cause of the Problem Develop a systematic approach to isolate the problem. You can do this by gathering as much information as possible and analyzing data before forming hypotheses. After that, test the hypotheses to reveal the root cause of the problem. Analyzing the amount of engagement and effort needed to fix the problem Examine the scope of the problem by breaking it down into manageable parts. This should be followed by complexity estimation and consideration of the expertise level required. Lastly, calculate how long each problem takes to fix and gauge the total effort required. Defining the most effective way of fixing it You might wonder, what is the role of formal documentation in quality assurance? Well, this gives you a roadmap for fixing everything effectively. Moreover, this approach organizes the testing process to optimize it. Considering possible backfires upon making changes The best way to identify possible backfires after making changes is by testing the changes. This helps you understand whether the remediation measures can potentially break the existing functionality or user experience. Quality Assurance Methods Now that you understand what is the role of quality assurance, which techniques can you employ to ensure that your project follows a fault-free software development process? Here are popular methods to get you started: Failure Testing Also known as fault injection testing, this QA method introduces defects to the software solution to ascertain whether it can handle the vulnerabilities. The benefit of this method is it allows testers to design various testing scenarios and simulate them at both small and large scales. After the tests are complete, developers can analyze the results to reveal areas where the system failed to handle the injected faults and implement remediation measures as much as needed. Finally, the method ends in other rounds of iterating and retesting to ensure effective remediation measures. Statistical Process Control As the name suggests, this method drives quality assurance by gathering and analyzing data to monitor and control the overall software development process. Technically, the method involves establishing control limits on historical data, current user needs, or industry standards for a consistent output. The QA team then performs data analysis within the control limit boundaries to identify any defects that may pose a challenge in the future. If the analysis falls beyond the control limits, your development team may need to implement corrective measures before another round of monitoring to refine the process. Total Quality Management Total Quality Management (TQM) is a QA approach that includes inculcating a culture of quality standards that every aspect of the organization must meet. To achieve long-term product success, this method emphasizes the inclusion of various key aspects, including teamwork, customer focus, and ongoing improvements. The method also extends to software development process management, where various techniques, such as Lean or Six Sigma, can be incorporated to identify areas of improvement. Models and Standards Organizations can also leverage international models and standards to ascertain whether their software solution’s structure, security features, and data control permissions are consistent for compliance. Prevalent models employed to drive QA in software development include waterfall, agile, spiral, RAD, and prototype. Standards can be categorized into quality and testing guidelines. Industry-recognized quality standards include ISO/IEC 15504, ISO/IEC 12207, IEEE 829, IEEE 29119 and ISO/IEC 25010:2011. Company Quality Organizations can also implement quality assurance as a strategy to meet dynamic consumer needs and expectations. In this method, an organization defines its quality standards by setting performance, user experience, compliance, security, and durability parameters. This is followed by developing a plan that outlines QA best practices and processes to be followed to ensure that all software products are consistent with the set standards. Moreover, this method can also include ongoing employee training and inspections by external auditors. Wrapping It Up It is the goal of any organization to launch stable and reliable digital solutions. Implementing quality assurance as a crucial set of processes can assist your project in accomplishing its objectives and satisfying customers’ needs. Most importantly, QA is associated with greater efficiency, productivity, and reduced cost. That said, a well-implemented QA process in software development can always ensure that you consistently meet or exceed your customers’ expectations.