Quality assurance and testing is, undeservedly, one of the most undervalued areas of software development.
In this blog post, I’ll attempt to redeem the vital importance of these processes and provide seven tips to help you greatly improve your QA and testing operations.
At this point in the evolution of software development, it’s clear that quality assurance and testing are important parts of any project. But just how important are they?
According to a 2018 report by the Consortium for IT Software Quality, “the cost of poor quality software in the US in 2018 [were] approximately $2.84 trillion.” Yes, that’s trillion with a “t”. And as businesses and consumers around the world continue to intensify the demand for increasingly complex software applications, the importance of guaranteeing quality will only continue to mount.
The staggering costs of poor software quality and the explosive demand for fast and fail-free software applications have grabbed the attention of today’s business leaders. In fact, senior IT executives surveyed in the most recent 2019-20 World Quality Report, qualified all seven QA and testing objectives evaluated as important or very important (greater than 5 on a scale of 1 to 7).
Among these, the top three most important objectives for today’s IT leaders are: 1) Contribute to business growth and business outcomes, 2) Detect software defects before go-live, and 3) Ensure end-user satisfaction.
Despite the increased importance of quality assurance and testing for IT and business outcomes alike, many development teams still tend to severely limit the scope of QA operations – even in the largest and most strategic application development projects.
This underestimation is due to some common misconceptions, including:
Now, let’s take a look at why these limiting ideas are incorrect and just how important having strategic QA and testing operations is for all software development projects.
First of all, QA and testing processes are not meant to concentrate on bug hunting only. They’re much more powerful than that. The true goal of testing is to gather all different kinds of useful information about the product and then to provide this information to the right parties. This is especially important in Agile development environments, where information and communication are the main drivers of success.
With a more strategic approach, you can expect much more than simple bug identification.
Although testing is a very powerful tool, it’s not a silver bullet and should be used in conjunction with other software development best practices to achieve the optimal results in terms of project speed and product quality.
The most expensive and hard to fix defects most often appear at this stage. And if you don’t catch these errors early on, they’ll lead to flaws in the design and defects in implementation. This can even mean that big chunks of functionality will need to be thrown away and reworked entirely.
The good news is that simply adding software QA and testing experts to your requirements analysis process will significantly reduce the amount and severity of such issues. This analysis stage can be implemented in several different ways, from a static document review with checklists to identify discrepancies to brainstorming sessions where developers and QAs are involved and working as a group.
Many people think of test planning as an excessive and unnecessary process. Unfortunately, this means that countless software development project plans do not contain accurate information about testing schedules, resource needs, communication plans for test environment setup, etc. As a result, when it comes to start testing activities, it suddenly appears that the project budget is running out, there is not enough time, integration test environments are not ready, or any number of last-minute problems.
To avoid these problems, simply consult with your test engineers when putting together your project plan. This way, they can provide time and resource estimates and other vital input to ensure QA and testing are tightly aligned with all other project activities. You’d be surprised how many things can be done in parallel and not in rush at the very end when properly planned ahead of time!
Good QA and testing plans should always be based on a good testing strategy, meaning one that meets the unique needs of each specific project. Even if all your projects are within the same domain or within the same system, you should always review and adapt your testing strategy for each new project/feature. Even when projects seem to be the same, they often contain details that make them unique and, therefore, require different types and methods of testing.
Many teams concentrate on black-box functional testing on the UI level, even though other techniques will provide more effective results. For example, if your project requires integration with third-party services, it’s beneficial to introduce automated testing on an API level. And if you’re implementing a publicly-available web application, you should think about how to add usability and compatibility testing on mobile devices. As these examples demonstrate, reviewing and adapting your testing strategy makes it clear far in advance what additional purchases or preparations will be required before the actual testing phase.
Proper use of development best practices will significantly reduce defect rates, greatly increasing the quality and maintainability of the software system being built. Such best practices should include the introduction of code standards across all teams involved, group and peer code review, and development testing.
Communication planning and communication culture will also have a major impact on software quality. Effective communication practices will help reduce the quantity of review and correction cycles between test engineers and developers, speeding up the overall development process. They will also help improve quality by providing more information and context to all parties involved.
Effective communication practices should include:
Configuration management and release management are crucial parts of quality assurance. It won’t matter how good you were in the implementation and testing of your system in development and test environments if mistakes are made in configurations later on. These mistakes could lead to deploying the wrong build to production, misconfigured production during deployment, an insufficient downtime window that causes data corruption…and so many more unfortunate situations.
Don’t let these mistakes derail the entire development project when you’re so close to the finish line! Establish proper configuration management processes early on, including developing a branching strategy, implementing CI/CD pipelines with automatic build, test, and deploy processes. And be sure to plan and communicate your releases to all appropriate parties and users.
When implemented properly, test automation provides many significant benefits, such as:
Although automated testing offers these significant benefits, it’s important to remember that test automation does not eliminate test execution costs for those parts automated. Automated testing has its own maintenance costs, which include analysis of test runs as well as fixes and extensions of the automation test suite as the application evolves. This is the price of the benefits mentioned above. But if properly planned, the maintenance costs of an automated test suite can be less than the corresponding costs of manual execution.
As you can see, software quality assurance and testing are complex processes, intertwined with all aspects of development projects. Whether you’re building a simple application for internal use or a complex, customer-facing software system, implementing QA and testing in a strategic and well-structured way is vital to ensuring not just optimal product quality, but also to keeping your project on track and on budget.
One of the most effective ways to optimize your QA and testing operations is to engage an experienced IT outsourcing provider, with deep software QA and testing expertise, like TEAM International. Our nearshore talent and expert solutions can help you align your business goals with technical priorities, create engaging user experiences, and quickly deploy your software to market across multiple platforms and devices.