The Essential Guide to Software QA

As any seasoned development team knows, software quality assurance (QA) is an essential practice to build high-quality products. Not to be confused with quality control, QA is an encompassing practice that’s more than just identifying and patching bugs. Sure, it implies testing software across multiple stages in the software development life cycle, but it also means taking a deep look at the process itself to look for improvements.

That way, software QA provides development teams with ways to more easily control the quality of applications while making product evaluation quicker and strengthening the entire process. Want to learn how that happens? Interested in knowing about QA’s phases and techniques? That’s precisely what you’ll get in this essential guide to software QA, where BairesDev compiles more than a decade of experience in the QA field into a series of fundamentals.

Automation and QA

What Is Software QA?

Software quality assurance is the process that evaluates whether a product and the process through which it was built are up to par with diverse quality standards. Thus, QA testing focuses on checking if the product has met those quality requirements while also making sure the development processes are the best ones to meet them.

For quite some time, the software engineers themselves were the ones responsible for carrying out QA tests on their own products. However, doing that didn’t provide the best results as the developers were too involved with the applications they were building, leading them to ignore many bugs and defective practices. That’s why the best software development teams have dedicated QA engineers to take care of quality assurance. 

Before moving on, it’s important to insist that QA differs from quality control (QC), even though they might sound like very similar practices. While both of them aspire to limit the number of bugs present in the end product, QA has a more proactive approach than QC. That’s because QA tries to improve the development process to prevent bugs from happening in the first place, while QC is more about detecting the bugs in the software before release. Thus, QC is more about testing and inspection, while QA is more about auditing and process definition.

The Stages of QA

Another big change quality assurance has gone through over the years is how involved in the development process it actually is. Not so long ago, development teams saw QA as just an additional stop in the development process. In fact, QA was often the last stage before release, a last tick in the development checklist to make sure that the product had the fewest defects possible.

Today, the approach to QA has changed. Engineers now understand that QA needs to start early in the development life cycle to truly guarantee the best results. That’s why BairesDev’s QA experts start working on our clients’ projects from the requirements gathering stage all the way to product release.

That means that the QA process works on different aspects of the software depending on the development stage the project is in. That results in different QA stages that tackle different purposes. Those stages include the following:

Requirements Analysis.

Since QA is about preventing bugs from happening, it’s only natural that QA engineers start their work at the very beginning of the development. Thus, QA professionals evaluate the project’s requirements to see if they are clear, concise, complete, and testable. This doesn’t just help in bug prevention, but also makes it easier to carry out other QA tasks later on.


Test Planning

Once the requirements are aligned with quality standards, it’s time for the QA team to plan the testing. This means defining the strategy the tests will follow while also determining scope, budget, schedule, testing types, bug tracking processes, reporting techniques, roles, responsibilities, and any other factors necessary to carry out the testing itself.


Test Design

After planning everything testing-related, it’s time to build the tests themselves. The idea is to cover all the software requirements, so the QA engineers have to outline conditions and test the steps that they’ll use to evaluate the different features. Additionally, test design should also result in a list of expected results. Finally, QA professionals also prepare the test environment to closely resemble the production environment.


Test Execution

Here, all the designed tests take place, including unit tests, API tests, UI tests, manual tests, and automated tests, among others. QA engineers generate detailed reports with all the information gathered from those tests—data that goes into a tracking system to ensure bugs are properly handled.


Retesting and Regression Tests

It takes more than a round of testing to ensure the highest quality for the resulting software. That’s why QA engineers step in once more after the bugs have been fixed to retest the product. This instance is highly important, as QA professionals perform regression tests to make sure that the fixes didn’t break anything or change something covered in the requirements.


Release Testing

The final stage of QA comes when the team releases the product. QA engineers take that product and analyze whether the expected functionality and all the requirements were covered properly. The idea is to make sure that the build is stable and operational.


Quality Assurance Activities

Given that quality assurance encompasses the entire software development life cycle, it’s only natural that it covers many activities. We’ve already mentioned some while explaining the different QA stages, but it’s worth reviewing the critical ones across the development process. Those QA activities include the following:

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    Create a plan to carry out the QA process that outlines the approach, the testing tasks, the schedule, and the roles.
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    Have a multi-testing strategy that evaluates the product from multiple and different perspectives to uncover all potential issues and increase the final quality.
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    Enforce adherence to proper software development processes. This implies monitoring the development itself to check whether the engineers are using the best practices. It also means assessing the product as it grows to ensure that it meets the requirements outlined during the initial stages.
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    Control changes by validating the change requests and monitoring their implementation to make sure that none of those changes end up having a negative effect on the overall quality. This also means conducting regression tests to check whether the changes and fixes affected nonrelated functionalities or features.
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    Perform QA audits to ensure that the development tasks followed the predefined process and the reported activities were performed in accordance with regulations and quality standards.
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    Maintain track records and reports through detailed documentation about test and audit results, change requests, issues, and any other data that could be used to improve the process for future projects.

Quality Assurance Techniques

Aside from the stages and the activities involved in quality assurance, we should mention that there are several techniques to achieve QA’s ultimate goal. It’s true that most QA teams rely on auditing as their preferred method to handle QA but they often combine that technique with one of the many available.

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    Auditing. One of the most widely used techniques, auditing is about evaluating the product to make sure it meets the quality requirements. It also implies taking a look into the development process to make sure that the team followed the best practices.
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    Code Inspection. A formal technique, tests the product to check for bugs. It’s conducted based on rules, checklists, and predefined criteria. Typically, it’s better if the inspector isn’t one of the engineers who build the product.
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    Design Inspection. As its name suggests, this technique is about analyzing several aspects of the software design, including functionality, UI, logic, performance, error handling, testability, and extensibility, among other things.
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    Functional testing. A technique that checks the product’s functionality without considering the ways in which it works.
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    Path testing. A structural testing method through which QA engineers review the source to find every possible executable path. This helps determine which of the multiple entry and exit points in the software might have issues.
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    Reviewing.Meetings to examine the product to seek feedback from stakeholders.
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    Simulation.This technique has QA engineers re-creating the real-life scenarios users will encounter when using the software. Thus, they can analyze how the product behaves.
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    Standardization.While tests can’t be standardized (as projects are different from one another), the testing approach and the practices related to QA surely can. Thus, this technique focuses on the tools and workflow the team uses to conduct QA tests across different projects.
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    Static analysis. A technique that implies evaluating the code without executing the program. It’s often conducted through automated tools. Reverse engineering is probably the most widely known form of static analysis.
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    Stress testing. Through this technique, engineers overload the system with tasks to check how it performs in unusual conditions (i.e., heavy loads).
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    Peer reviewing. This technique pairs the developer with a QA engineer to go over the code. That way, the QA specialist can understand the logic used by the developer while making suggestions about potential improvements.

How to Integrate QA into Your Development

If you’re considering implementing a proper QA process into your development or improving the one you already have, then you need to know what steps to take. Given how encompassing quality assurance is, you’ll have some work ahead of you. So, if you’re having trouble with it, you can always reach out to BairesDev to help you with it. Our senior QA engineers will be happy to help you with the implementation process, which roughly includes the following:

  • Analyze your current development practices.

    (Including QA tasks, if any). QA engineers have to start by understanding where you are. That’s why they’ll take a look at your project, development processes, resources, tools, know-how, and overall workflow. This will provide them with a clearer picture of how your team works and where the weak spots are.

  • Build the QA process.

    If you already have a QA process, you may need only a few tweaks to maximize its efficiency. But there might be the need for a complete redesign (or the creation of a QA process, if you don’t have one). Doing that implies thinking about the process specifics, its metrics, the needed roles and tools, and the inherent risks of making all these changes.

  • Implement the new QA process.

    Rolling out the new process can be tricky, as you’re trying to introduce new habits to a team that has its own. That’s why it’s important to conduct training sessions and meetings with the development team to let them know what they can expect. It’s even more important if you’re bringing in a QA team from outside, as that can be a stressful situation that can lead to anxiety.

  • Monitor the results of the implementation.

    You can’t deploy a new way of doing things and expect it to yield its best results right away. That’s why you need to monitor how the QA process is working to make sure that you’re meeting the objectives you’ve laid out at the beginning. This might take some time, as you’ll surely have to make adjustments along the way—but that’s what QA is all about!

The Only Path to High Quality

The days when you could do without QA engineers in your development team are long gone. Today, there’s no possible way to meet customer and market requirements around software if you don’t have a proper quality assurance process in place. That means bringing a series of strategic activities into the entire software development life cycle. 

Doing that is easier said than done, though. Implementing such a process is a time-consuming effort that needs the entire team aligned behind its objectives while following the guidance of QA experts. Don’t be scared about that, though. At BairesDev, we can help you implement a robust QA process that improves your entire development process, boosts your productivity, and guarantees high-quality results. 

Reach out to us today, and let’s discuss your needs and goals!

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