What Is Quality Assurance? A Getting Started Guide
In this article, we will delve into the fundamentals of Quality Assurance, its key principles, methodologies, and its vital role in delivering excellence.
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The Quality Assurance process involves establishing standards, guidelines, and procedures to ensure the integrity of the software product or service throughout its development and to prevent quality issues. The purpose of software Quality Assurance is to ensure that a product meets the quality requirements. As a preventive process, it aims to provide a quality environment for the software product being developed by establishing correct methodology and standards.
Regardless of what industry it is, the success of a business entirely depends on the quality of its product. If the product quality is compromised, customer satisfaction and sales decline. Here, the role of Quality Assurance in ensuring the success of a business lies in maintaining the desired level of product quality. Quality Assurance measures enable businesses to enhance customer satisfaction, boost sales, and build a positive brand image.
Therefore, it makes sense to ensure the most critical asset of an organization. Quality Assurance is the process that has the power to revolutionize your product offering completely.
What Is Quality?
If something thoroughly serves its purpose and makes the user happy, it's high quality. In other words, If the characteristics and features of a service or product satisfy the given requirements, quality represents their totality. This also refers to something meeting as well as exceeding all the set specifications, standards, and needs.
A quality product meets customer expectations in terms of design, ease of use, durability, reliability, functionality, and value for price. In other words, anything that gives users what they paid for and makes them feel happy during and after its use it's high quality. For example, a high-quality testing framework helps users measure all aspects of the features and functionality of their product before it's released.
What Is Assurance?
In general terms, assurance is a positive and encouraging declaration intending to offer confidence and certainty in the abilities of an entity. If you're a business owner, selling your product or service can get tricky without sound assurance since potential customers would be wary of the outcome of what they're buying.
When a product or service gets a positive declaration with enthusiasm about its working and quality, it's an assurance. Assurance offers certainty in the mind of customers and gives them confidence that the quality of what they're paying for won't disappoint them. It also creates crystal clear expectations of what the users will get after they make their purchase.
Quality Assurance in Software Testing
Quality Assurance ensures the effectiveness of the testing process when it comes to detecting defects and bugs in software products. Check out the role Quality Assurance plays in software testing in detail.
Setting Up Procedures and Standards
QA ensures effective and consistent testing practices by setting up set procedures and standards for testing. These include defining the test method, creating testing templates, and setting various testing criteria.
Adhering to Standards
QA reflects that the testing team is following the set process in accordance with well-established procedures and standards. This way, no deviations go unnoticed, and professionals can address them accordingly. The consistency of testing also improves with the efficient implementation of Quality Assurance procedures.
Prompt Monitoring and Reporting
Quality Assurance monitors the entire testing process and reports any problems that arise. QA monitoring and reporting include recognizing defects and tracking the progress of their resolution.
Managing the Test Environment
QA ensures that the setup of test environments is right, along with its management. Setting up the test data, the configuration of test environments, the availability of testing tools, and prompt function are all a part of the proper management of test environments.
Offering Recommendations and Feedback
QA offers recommendations or feedback to the development team so they can improve the software quality. It covers everything starting from identifying areas with scope for improvement in testing and suggesting modifications to the software development or design process.
Importance of Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance is a must for ensuring high product standards for any organization. It comprises plenty of methodologies and principles to enhance organization operation consistency at all stages.
Let's take a look at some of the crucial reasons why Quality Assurance is so important for organizations.
Big Time Saver
While creating systems to ensure top-notch Quality Assurance can take some time, a smooth QA process helps in saving a lot of time over the long term. We all know that fixing errors when they go out of control takes a lot more time than catching them in the initial phases or preventing them before release altogether.
Ensures Continuous Improvement of Products and Services
When organizations make QA a part of their functioning, incorporating customer suggestions and making continuous improvements becomes the norm. Automatically, the software product or service quality keeps on showing significant improvements.
Better Product Safety
Some industries, such as pharmaceuticals and food, have to prioritize safety above all. QA helps to ensure consistent maintenance of equipment. Another industry-specific practice here, in this case, is the prevention of the entry of allergens or pollutants in the place of production, which Quality Assurance greatly helps with.
History of Quality Assurance
Terminologies like Waterfall and Agile didn't just emerge out of thin air. When it comes to Quality Assurance, we have a rich history resting on the pillar of many successes and failures that occurred in the past.
It all started in the middle ages when people used to build guilds for monarchs for blacksmithing and other similar trades. It was a common practice where other guild masters used to inspect the goods to check whether the guild members were maintaining a set quality standard. But with the advent of the industrial revolution, guilds didn't last beyond the latter half of the 19th century.
The modern QA ideology came up during the industrial revolution. The scientific management philosophy started emerging where instead of employees training themselves, the organization they worked for was responsible for implementing and enforcing set standards of work.
In the 1930s, Walter Shewhart introduced PDSA, aka plan-do-study-act, as a part of development. In fact, this system acted as a significant introduction to the use of cycles for enhanced quality. But after World War II, Edwards Deming succeeded in making Japan one of the greatest industrial forces by focusing more time on product quality instead of fretting over costs. This resulted in an improved model of PDSA, and the auto industry boomed in Japan. This is one of the reasons why customers switched to Japan from the USA to buy auto products, thanks to the higher quality.
By acknowledging the ever-growing conflict between smart and hard work, Deming also leveraged the power of QA to save time and money and reduce workload through strategic analysis and documentation of different aspects of development. All this resulted in IID, which stands for iterative and incremental development, and eventually turned into the 'oh so efficient' Agile development of the current day.
Benefits of Quality Assurance
Now that the role of Quality Assurance in testing is clear, It's crucial to acknowledge some of its striking benefits that make the process worth its value. Speaking of which, here is a list of all the benefits QA offers to an organization. Let's take a look.
Enhanced Customer Satisfaction
By analyzing and ensuring that the software products are of the highest quality standards, QA ensures that they meet customer expectations and needs. The process also identifies and addresses any problems early on in the testing process, automatically delivering a better customer experience. As a result, customer satisfaction is high.
Quality Assurance identifies issues in the starting phases of a Software Testing Life Cycle. Since bugs are more expensive to fix in the later stages, businesses can easily avoid mistakes that cost them later. It also reduces a lot of requirements for recalls, rework cycles, or customer complaints leading to big cost savings over the long haul.
Better Brand Reputation
If a business continues to deliver high-quality products, customers recommend them to others without question. This way, consistently meeting and even exceeding customer expectations increases referrals, positive reviews, and customer loyalty, which leads to an overall positive reputation for a business.
QA provides specific and data-driven insights leading to improved decision-making regarding systems, processes, and products. This way, businesses can easily prioritize various resources and pinpoint areas with scope for improvement. Combined, these features help professionals in charge make informed decisions about different aspects of the business.
Improved Employee Morale
Quality Assurance can lead to a sense of pride and ownership in the work employees do, which can improve their job satisfaction and morale. Plus, professionals who see the value of their work are more engaged, motivated, and productive.
Quality Assurance can help businesses stand out in a crowded marketplace by offering high-quality products or services. It can help to differentiate a business from its rivals and attract more customers. It also helps develop better products in the market since every business would try harder to get customer attention.
Key Principles of Quality Assurance
Any organization can have Quality Assurance by following certain key principles. These principles create a roadmap to achieve quality that meets customer expectations and the cycle of constant improvement from feedback. Here are some of those main principles:
- Continuous improvement: First major principle of Quality Assurance is continuous improvement. It requires constantly evaluating existing processes and making required changes to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
- User-centric: Putting the customer at the heart of Quality Assurance is critical. Understanding their requirements, expectations, and preferences allows customized approaches to provide satisfying experiences and products.
- Risk management: To assure quality, it is essential to identify, assess and mitigate the risks. Anticipating potential issues and establishing backup plans promotes a proactive attitude to avoiding deviations from planned outcomes.
- Standardize the process: standardizing procedures and protocols improve consistency across several processes. This idea promotes clear expectations, avoids errors, and improves overall deliverable quality.
- Evidence-based decisions: By promoting evidence-based decision-making, organizations can ensure that their decisions are grounded in reliable information, leading to effective and impactful quality enhancements.
Quality Attributes of Software
Quality attributes are various characteristics of software that determine software quality in systems. They are crucial as they play a massive role in enhancing user satisfaction and requirements, increasing the clarity in software design and offers, or adding more precise definitions to software quality.
Every single attribute contributes to the measurement of the performance of a product or service to some degree. You can also further use them for both Quality Control and Quality Assurance.
In software testing, reliability is the degree to which a system or its various components adhere to performing the expected functions for a pre-decided duration and set standards or conditions. It includes testing the software product with a wide array of combinations to check whether it produces desired results. In other words, the entity's functionality under testing should remain intact while you test it in different environments, operating systems, and browsers.
The key here is the consistency with which a service or an application maintains the operations it is supposed to perform in a preset condition. Even under the maximum possible load, it should remain functional and withstand stress easily. Sub-attributes of reliability include fault tolerance, availability, maturity, and the limit to which the system can recover after a failure.
The adaptability attribute checks how the application adjusts to match the end user's requirement while they perform an action. This particular attribute can get a little tricky since it's unpredictable to foresee what kind of action the user might take. Here, using multiple usage patterns and combinations while testing helps to determine whether the existing functionality is adaptable.
When a set of predefined criteria are in the picture, it makes it convenient for testers to check how well a software product works according to expectations. A testable product increases the ease of developing various test criteria for a system and its components. Most QA professionals use techniques such as patterns, interfaces, low coupling, encapsulation, and so on.
As the name suggests, it's the simplicity with which developers can correct bottlenecks in the current software functionality without inducing any effect on other system components. A highly maintainable application allows developers to easily add new features and upgrade existing ones according to new customer demands. Having maintainability makes product maintenance cost-effective and convenient.
Plenty of elements combined together make up an entire software system. It's understood that smooth running can only occur when nothing clashes. Compatibility is the phenomenon in which multiple items can exist in unison and flawlessly function. When connected together, an absence of unwanted interference and conflicts indicates higher compatibility.
Usability is how the user experiences when they use a service or application or interact with one or more of its components. It determines the efficiency, user satisfaction, and overall effectiveness of the product. For example, users shouldn't encounter any glitches while signing up or logging in.
UI consistency, easy signup process, clear navigation, and user-friendly error messages contribute to the high usability of an application. All in all, users should never deal with a tough time trying to grasp how to use basic features.
Testors can validate durability by committing or declaring a database transaction and checking that it doesn't change. The commit should also hold up amid a data collapse, server crash, or a similar mishap.
Functionality validates when a software-driven product or service conforms to defined specifications and requirements. If an application doesn't function according to expectations, it practically fails at the most basic or the simplest level. It is advisable to assess this attribute during the initial phases of testing.
Correctness attribute is the capability of various software services and products to correctly perform simple and complex tasks according to preset standards under predefined conditions. It's like either everything is going well or nothing is going well. For instance, specification documents can undergo static reviews to validate the attribute.
Sometimes, there are hidden modifications that can quickly impact the product's value. Flexibility is a characteristic that achieves validation when an application is fully capable of acting appropriately while responding to these changes.
Testers check how the system responds to ambiguous conditions and see whether the software can maintain what it's worth. However, flexibility gets invalidated by an indecisive flow of functionalities leading to performance, security, and usability risks.
Performance is the key criterion of how successful a service or product is in a fast-paced environment. In simple terms, performance is the capability with which a system adheres to duration requirements. QA testers are responsible for checking the system's response to different kinds of induced events within a stipulated time frame. They can occur as different user requests, messages, process interruptions, clock events, and so on.
When a software product can display acceptable time behavior, appropriate resource utilization, and a predefined capacity to handle user requirements, it turns out to be efficient. For example, when an application starts freezing after performing some functions, even when it hasn't reached its full capacity, there is a lack of efficiency. Performance testing with plenty of data in various environments can be a great check for efficiency.
A robust software is fully capable of handling errors occurring during execution. Testers enter a wide range of wrong inputs and record how the system reacts. You can apply this evaluation to a wide area of aspects such as hardware, security features, programming, system integrity, error management, and exception handling.
The availability attribute is the ratio of the time available to the system to the time it needs to perform the necessary functionalities. That is a time value allotted to every software-driven system for a recovery to perform amid failures. If it doesn't exceed that value, the availability is top-notch!
Reusability is the extent to which you can use a system in other products or the same one, such as common libraries and components. Reusability is a crucial parameter when you are prioritizing strict adherence to a budget. QA professionals can identify commonly used functionalities and develop them as shared components. Of course, individual teams can select design patterns that are appropriate to them.
You can easily validate scalability if a software application system has room for new upgrades, updates, and incoming resources. For instance, most software products make room for new integrations with technological advancements and add new systems to user interfaces, middleware applications, and network connectivity.
Interoperability refers to a system's ability to use interfaces to extract and provide required information and carry on seamless interactions with various other systems. It's vital to check this attribute because every software-driven system needs to communicate and work in tandem with other systems to perform a wide variety of tasks efficiently.
Modularity is the attribute that keeps the adaptivity and flexibility of software products intact in the face of inevitable changes. As we already know, a system comprises various small units of elements that function differently. Modularity handles a system as an amalgamation of different elements or units instead of treating it as a single large unit. Most organizations prefer checking this attribute since the QA team only needs to fix the affected module instead of disrupting the entire structure.
Quality Assurance Components
Quality Assurance comprises eight key components to ensure the smooth functioning of development and testing. These elements encapsulate systematic activities designed to maintain consistency, prevent defects, and enhance the overall quality of the service or product. Let's take a look.
Quality planning involves defining necessary quality standards and creating a full-fledged plan to meet them successfully. Professionals involved identify customer requirements, set objectives, and determine the required processes and resources to achieve them.
QC monitors and inspects the systems during delivery or production to identify deviations and defects from quality standards. Activities involved in this process include inspection and testing of the product, along with data analysis.
The documentation component of the QA process involves jotting down clear work instructions, creating SOPs, and other relevant parameters that require serious implementation. Process documentation involves outlining each step and all quality criteria.
Competence and Training
Competence and training include thoroughly checking that every team member involved in production and delivery is competent and sufficiently trained to maintain set quality. QA programs also include training activities to help employees reach this level of knowledge and skill and help them understand their duties.
Collective and Preventive Steps
In case of a deviation from preset quality standards or a defect, the QA team is responsible for taking preventive and corrective actions to avoid this behavior in the future. This component also involves addressing the root cause of a problem after a thorough investigation.
Review and Auditing
Regular reviews and audits can assess how effective a company's QA processes are and recognize areas of improvement. Internal and external audits are necessary to ensure compliance with a bunch of regulatory requirements and quality standards.
Consistent and Continuous Improvement
QA professionals collect and analyze data soliciting customer feedback, and implementing performance-enhancing changes. This component reinforces that Quality Assurance is not just a one-time practice, but instead, it's a continuous process of consistent improvement.
QA Metrics and Reporting
As we already know, KPIs and QA metrics assist with a thorough measurement of how effective QA efforts are. When the professionals involved regularly report quality metrics, it offers visibility into how the product performs and highlights improvement areas.
Types of Quality Assurance Functions
Quality Assurance functions are another crucial parameter that ensures a much-required match between product performance and quality standards. There are a total of nine vital Quality Assurance functions. Let's take a detailed look at them.
Standardization and Documentation
QA functions for standardization and documentation mark a clear focus on the creation and maintenance of documents related to the quality of a service or product. These include specifications, work instructions, SOPs, quality manuals, and so on. They make defining quality specifications, procedures, and processes involved clear.
Testing and Inspection
This Quality Assurance function includes the inspection and testing of services and products at different stages of production and delivery. Testing and inspection almost guarantee a product meets predefined criteria and encompasses activities like functional testing, performance testing, dimensional measurement, and visual inspection.
Process control aims to monitor and control production processes and service delivery to maintain consistent quality. Activities like process optimization, SPC, aka Statistical Process Control, and process monitoring are a part of process control. They help minimize defects and variations that can return to performance in later stages.
Auditing and Compliance
These functions include conducting both external and internal audits to assess the compliance of a product or service with various industry practices, rules, regulations, and standards. There are some inevitable gaps and non-conformities that audits can easily help identify. It also uncovers a wide array of opportunities for enhancements and both major and minor improvements.
Preventive and Corrective Actions
When a set of actions helps identify the root cause of a problem, teams involved can take preventive measures to stop an issue from occurring before it becomes a big deal. They can follow this approach by implementing various corrective measures to address issues if they have already arisen. This function covers the investigation of non-conformities, implementing different corrective actions, and establishing preventive actions to cater to the possibility of future occurrences of similar problems.
Supplier Quality Management
Supply quality management is a QA function to assess and maintain the quality of services, materials, or components offered by external suppliers. This covers supplier audits, qualification, performance, monitoring, and taking prompt corrective actions as required.
Education and Training
Training and education functions offer knowledge-providing and skill-enhancing employee programs to deepen their grasp of quality processes, principles, and standards. This way, organizations can ensure that their workers have the knowledge and skills to contribute fairly to quality maintenance and improvement efforts.
Continuous improvement functions contribute to fostering a culture of ongoing quality enhancements. By encouraging customer, employee, and stakeholder feedback, teams can implement suggestions for monitoring how effective the improvement initiatives have been and continue to make required enhancements.
Analyzing Data and Creating Reports
When Quality Assurance teams collect and analyze data related to quality, they can identify some patterns, trends, and areas with a high scope for improvement. This encompasses using reporting mechanisms, data visualization techniques, and different statistical tools to offer insights and make practical and valuable decisions.
Quality Assurance Methods
Quality Assurance methods refer to systematic and pragmatic approaches capable of ensuring that services or products under testing adhere to quality standards. They include a wide variety of processes and techniques to recognize, avoid, and tackle the number of quality issues. Some of the most common Quality Assurance methods include:
Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
Failure Mode and Effects Analysis recognizes and assesses potential failure modes in a process or a product. It also carries out a detailed analysis of the effects of different types of failures, uncovers their likelihoods and causes, and assigns priority to them based on severity. It also proactively addresses risks of failure and promptly implements the necessary preventive measures.
Statistical Process Control (SPC)
Statistical Process Control uses statistical techniques to monitor and control various production processes. The use of control charts is common for tracking processes and performance, identifying variations, and taking the necessary corrective actions over time.
Design of Experiments (DOE)
The design of experiments systematically tests and analyzes the impact of different factors or variables on a process or product quality. It also assists team members as they attempt to optimize process parameters, identify critical errors, and determine the optimal settings for achieving desired outcomes.
Root Cause Analysis (RCA)
Root Cause Analysis identifies the underlying causes giving rise to an arena of defects and problems. It also includes investigating unprecedented incidents, performing data analysis, and leveraging the power of fishbone diagrams and fall tree analysis for tracing back to the problematic areas of a product or service.
Inspection and Sampling
Inspection and sampling methods include carefully selecting representative samples among an entire population or badge of services or products and carrying out a detailed evaluation against specific predefined criteria. This helps QA professionals recognize variations, deviations, or defects from set quality standards. Teams can use variable sampling, attribute sampling, and other sampling plans based on the nature of various quality characteristics.
Quality audits ensure systematic system, procedure, or process examination for assessing quality standards or requirement compliance. Both external and internal audits help identify gaps, non-conformities, and chances to improve. You can use audit findings to implement corrective processes and further enhance quality performance.
Verifying and Validating
When QA teams verify and validate a requirement, it ensures the components', systems', or products' adherence to the said requirement. This method involves conducting a detailed review of specifications, carrying out inspections, and performing detailed tests to confirm strict compliance. On the other hand, validation ensures the QA team that a particular system or product is functioning as intended and is catering to justified customer expectations and needs.
Quality Control Charts
Quality Control charts act as sophisticated graphical tools that monitor and track the performance of a service or product over time. QA professionals can easily identify patterns and whether a function deviates from its intention. Some of the Quality Control charts include X-bar charts, P-charts, and R-charts.
You can apply each of these methods individually or in amalgamation with each other depending on the nature and requirement of your industry, process, or product. Some other factors that contribute to selecting one or more of these methods include specific quality requirements, desired QA level, and available resources.
How To Carry Out Quality Assurance?
Quality Assurance steps involve various activities designed to prevent errors and effects. These steps verify whether a product or service meets customer expectations and needs. There is a detailed breakdown of how to carry out QA.
Define Requirements and Standards
The first step to great Quality Assurance is to define quality requirements and standards that software, product, or service has to meet. It involves conducting a detailed review of regulatory requirements, customer expectations, industry standards, and other relevant factors.
Develop a QA Plan
Once you have succeeded in finding all the QA requirements, it's time to develop a killer QA plan. Ideally, this plan should outline specific activities that prove how the product or service under test meets the defined standards, regulations, and requirements.
Create Test Cases
After developing a robust QA plan, it's time to identify key functionalities of the software and design test cases to verify whether those functionalities are working as per designated expectations.
Execute and Pinpoint Issues
Be it manual testing and automated testing, or a combination of both, this step is about executing the above test cases and identifying issues and effects. Document them and track them to ensure prompt addressing and resolution.
Once you have identified all the bugs, it's time to correct them. This might involve fixing configuration issues, debugging code, or modifying the entire product or service.
Retest and Report
After you have entirely fixed all the bugs, it's time to perform retesting of the software product to ensure the success of changes and whether it meets the mandatory quality standards. Document these results and create a report including a summary of test results, different analytics, issues, and improvement recommendations.
As Quality Assurance has become increasingly important, more standards have been set for test tools and platforms.
QA Techniques To Build Reliable Software Products
Certain sets of Quality Assurance techniques differentiate a top-notch product from a mediocre one. Here are some top QA techniques that play a crucial role in offering massive user satisfaction. Let's take a look.
Test automation involves using robust automation testing tools for the automatic execution of tests. While it's always advisable to have a blend of manual and automated testing, automating as much as possible helps in reducing the time and effort needed to perform an entire testing life cycle. As long as you're using a proven tool, the consistency and accuracy of results improve.
You can test a broad array of aspects of a software product, including security, performance, functionality, and accessibility.
Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment significantly help automate the deployment and testing process for software applications. This technique ensures thorough testing and validation of modifications in the application before deploying them into production. CI/CD also helps enhance the efficiency and speed of the overall development process while ensuring the high reliability and quality of the product.
Penetration testing simulates a cyber attack to recognize vulnerabilities in a software product. The QA team can easily use it to identify security-related weaknesses and help prevent malicious attacks. You can use an automated tool to customize the process to suit the specific requirements of the product or service under test.
Load testing is a crucial part of the Quality Assurance process. It involves simulating enormous levels of activity or traffic on web applications to test their stability and performance under massive stress. This technique helps recognize potential bottlenecks with performance and scalability and enables the QA team to optimize the product's performance under heavy load.
User Acceptance Testing
User acceptance testing is another technique that enhances the QA process by testing software applications from a user's perspective. As a result, you can easily identify accessibility issues, usability problems, and other discrepancies that might affect a seamless user interface. You can perform user acceptance testing manually or with automated tools and test the product or service with simulated or real users.
What Is Quality Control?
Quality Control (QC) is a popular software engineering process that affirms the quality of a service or product. Instead of dealing with the processes developers use to create a product, QC examines end-product quality in terms of the final outcome.
For instance, specific waste processes lie dormant in almost every Software Development Life Cycle. Quality Control processes can vastly eliminate them through a series of proven activities. QC also includes a variety of functions that offer a broad array of testing activities, helpful in detecting and resolving different types of technical problems.
In other words, Quality Control is all about testing various units to determine whether they lie within set specifications as far as the final product is concerned. Plenty of organizations utilize Quality Control to achieve certain goals and parameters for continuous improvement of brand reputation, conversions, and ROI.
The core objectives of QC include enhancing product quality along with minimizing risks, increasing production efficiency, and gaining unmatchable customer loyalty. The process includes a continual review of products to check whether they meet all the identified standard benchmarks for quality and remove elements that don't.
Difference Between Quality Control and Quality Assurance
While Quality Control checks the result part after examining a particular service or product, Quality Assurance also focuses on the processes that result in the end product and modifies them.
Quality Assurance is more of a proactive process, unlike Quality Control, that's reactive. QA follows a 'prevention is better than cure approach, whereas QC identifies and corrects bottlenecks in a product or service model.
The goal of QA is to enhance the entire development process and test those to reduce the number of defects during development. QC identifies defects in a product after its development but before release. Every single person involved in the team is a part of Quality Assurance, whereas a specific section of people or a team is responsible for testing a product for defects and Quality Control.
Some Quality Control activities include walkthroughs, testing, inspection, and checkpoint review. On the other hand, Quality Assurance activities include quality audits, defining processes, identifying and selecting tools, and quality processes along with standard training. As a tool, QA is managerial, unlike QC, which is corrective.
What Are Quality Assurance Standards?
Quality Assurance Standards refer to a detailed set of criteria, guidelines, or specifications that clearly defines the requirements to achieve and maintain quality. These standards offer a robust framework for firms to implement quality management systems and maintain better reliability, consistency, and overall customer satisfaction. Here are some well-known Quality Assurance Standards:
Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)
Good Laboratory Practice offers principles and guidelines to regulate non-clinical laboratory studies and ensures the integrity, quality, and reliability of the generated data during the safety testing of pharmaceuticals and chemicals. It covers training, data recording, study design, equipment calibration, and study result QA.
IATF 16949 is an automotive standard for quality management developed by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF). It outlines the requirements for a QMS in the automotive industry and emphasizes defect prevention, consistent improvement, and user-specific requirements.
ISO 9001 has been a popular international standard setting the criteria for various quality management systems (QMS). It offers a systematic and straightforward approach for businesses to demonstrate their capacity to consistently provide deliverables that meet customer needs and regulatory requirements. ISO 9001 has become an umbrella term for encompassing various aspects of quality management, such as customer focus, process approach, leadership, evidence-based decision-making, and continual improvement.
ISO 13485 is a long-standing international quality standard specifically catering to medical device manufacturers. It focuses on compliance with product safety, risk management, regulatory requirements, and traceability.
ISO 17025 is a well-established international standard to test and calibrate laboratories. It specifies general requirements for impartiality, competence, and consistency in the operation of laboratories. ISO 17025 covers personnel competence, calibration and testing methods, measurement traceability, and QA in various laboratory operations.
Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)
Good Manufacturing Practice governs the Quality Control and production of food, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices and ensures consistent and controlled production according to quality standards. GMP also includes personnel training, facility design, Quality Control testing, documentation, and product labeling.
AS9100 is an aerospace standard for quality management based on ISO 9001. However, it includes additional requirements explicitly applying to the aerospace industry. There is a particular emphasis on risk management, product safety, configuration management, and full compliance with rigid aerospace regulations.
These are a few among many examples of Quality Assurance Standards. Of course, there are other industry-specific regulatory requirements and standards that organizations need compliance with based on their geographical location and sector.
Common Quality Assurance Challenges
QA is the most crucial process, but it's far from smooth and perfect. In fact, several obstacles can arise during the QA process. Here are some common QA challenges and foolproof ways to overcome them. Let's check them out.
Lack of Proper Communication
One of the most prominent challenges is a lack of communication between the development and testing teams. This can lead to unprecedented misunderstandings and errors in the overall testing process.
To overcome this challenge, it is important to establish effective communication channels between both teams. Regular meetings and daily stand-ups can help everyone be on the same page. Additionally, creating a shared understanding of the requirements and goals can help minimize confusion.
Inadequacy in Testing
Another major QA challenge is inadequate testing, which can result in bugs and errors going missing. To overcome such a hindrance, it is vital to have a comprehensive test plan that covers every aspect of the software. This should include both manual as well as automated testing. Additionally, using a wide array of testing techniques, such as unit testing, integration testing, and performance testing, can assist in quickly identifying and addressing bottlenecks.
Lack of Resources
Limited resources such as time, budget, and personnel can make it daunting to test the software thoroughly. To overcome this particular blocker, it is essential to prioritize testing based on the most critical aspects of the software. In addition, leveraging the best automation testing frameworks or tools can help save time and resources. Outsourcing testing to third-party vendors is also fruitful in reducing the burden on in-house teams.
Requirements can vary anytime during the development process, making it challenging to keep up with them. Therefore, it is vital to establish a process for managing changes to testing requirements. This approach can consist of regular reviews and updates to the testing plan. Additionally, using Agile development methodologies can help address sudden modifications in requirements.
Lack of Clear Documentation
Inadequate and unclear documentation can make it tough to understand the testing process and its results. That's why it is important to create comprehensive and detailed documentation that includes the test cases, testing plan, and test results. This can help facilitate a clear understanding of everyone involved in the process regarding what they tested and what issues they identified.
All in all, effective communication, comprehensive testing, prioritization of resources, change management, and documentation can help overcome common QA challenges. By addressing these common challenges, you can improve the quality of software and check whether it meets all the needs of your users.
Best Practices for Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance best practices bring an enormous difference to all the testing processes. We have already established that QA is an integral part of any organization's success. However, for QA to work its full magic, the setup has to be correct, which is where Quality Assurance best practices step into the light. Let's take a look.
Make a Clear Supreme Plan
To ensure the success of your project, the Quality Assurance team should be planning every minuscule bit of it. The test plan should include risks, assumptions to test the software thoroughly, test approaches, test cases, estimates, traceability matrix, design techniques, and so on.
It should also have information on who would be testing, what, required resources, and acceptance criteria, current status, and a deadline. Every single team member should be aware of their roles and responsibilities and be a part of essential team meetings. They should have all the resources handy to understand the requirements of a project completely. They should then align their testing with project deadlines.
Develop SMART Objectives
SMART is an abbreviation for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Any project having a whole team of professionals working on it rests on the pillar of accountability. You can implement software testing KPIs such as open defects, code coverage, automated tests, serious bugs, and requirement coverage.
Implement Multidirectional Testing
You shouldn't limit yourself to just a few types of testing. Testers catch different types of bugs when they perform a wide array of testing processes. The Quality Assurance team should also perform regression testing to ensure there are no broken older functionalities. The product should undergo acceptance testing before coming in front of stakeholders.
Don't Forget External Quality Reviews
When has it hurt for a second pair of eyes willing to offer an external review? You can invite professionals from outside too. Perform a detailed technical assessment and review of your software code. They can then create a report highlighting the ins and outs of characteristics such as speed, size, dependency, code, duplication, documentation, code, styling, code structure, and tech stack.
Maintaining Extensive Documentation
Quality Assurance teams should always document and report bugs so that developers don't miss out on anything crucial. Documentation can also be quite fruitful in helping testers to carry out their set of tasks diligently. Having a bug-tracking system like Jira can offer a centralized overview of the state of development requests.
High-quality documentation also includes testing using media files such as audio, videos, screengrabs, screenshots, or whatever offers the best illustration for a bug.
Never Underestimate Minor Errors
Even the most minor errors can break an entire product. Sometimes, even the most experienced developers make the mistake of brushing off minor bugs as nothing. But it's important to realize that even the tiniest bug can give rise to a monstrous quality issue.
Use a Comprehensive Automated Testing Tool
Using a test automation platform or tools that offer multiple features under a single umbrella is the best time and money saver. Some of the must-have features to look for in the tool include a super-fast execution speed, a real device cloud, a wide range of operating systems, devices, browsers, etc. The tool you choose should offer 24 /7 support, comprehensive documentation, and seamless third-party integrations, along with easy collaboration among team members.
The Future of QA
As technology continues to grow, Quality Assurance (QA) is undergoing transformative shifts. The future of QA includes some cutting-edge technologies, huge involvement of AI and ML, cloud computing, and much more.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in QA
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are revolutionizing QA practices. AI-powered techniques like intelligent test generation, predictive analytics, and anomaly detection can enhance test coverage, identify potential defects, and optimize test execution. ML algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and trends, enabling data-driven decision-making and improved QA processes.
Shift-Left Testing emphasizes the early involvement of QA activities in the software development lifecycle. By starting testing activities earlier, such as during requirements gathering and design phases, potential issues can be identified and resolved at an early stage, reducing rework and improving overall quality.
QA in Cloud and Mobile Computing
With the increasing adoption of cloud computing and mobile applications, QA practices need to adapt to these platforms. Testing on various devices, screen sizes, and network conditions becomes crucial. QA professionals must consider factors like scalability, security, performance, and compatibility in the cloud and mobile computing environments.
Security Testing and QA
As cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, integrating security testing into QA processes is essential. Security testing helps identify vulnerabilities, safeguard sensitive data, and protect systems from potential attacks. Techniques like penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, and secure coding practices are employed to ensure robust security in software applications.
Virtual and Augmented Reality Testing
The emergence of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies brings new challenges to QA. Testing user experiences, interaction interfaces, and performance in VR and AR environments require specialized testing techniques. QA teams need to adapt and develop strategies to ensure quality in these immersive and interactive applications.
Published at DZone with permission of Veethee Dixit. See the original article here.
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