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The Crucial Role of Quality Assurance (QA) in Software Development

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Razaq Kazeem @.Kazeem.R / 2:00 PM EDT. August 22, 2023.


Quality assurance (QA) plays an integral role in modern software development. Implementing a comprehensive QA protocol allows companies to test software products while they’re in active development, leading to earlier detection of bugs and flaws. Quality assurance also provides opportunities to fine-tune UX design, creating a smoother user experience upon launch. Through practicing QA, companies can provide more consistent, reliable, and innovative products that support a strong brand reputation.


What is Quality Assurance (QA)?


Broadly speaking, quality assurance is the process of assessing, analyzing, and testing the quality of a digital product during every stage of the development process, from design and prototyping to final production. QA involves setting quality standards that must be met during each step of development, which ensures that every product achieves a similar level of performance. These standards may be solely proprietary (established by the organization) or they may incorporate external rules and guidelines, such as ISO standards. Companies typically use QA auditors (either independent or employed in-house) to verify that these criteria are being met.


QA also requires close collaboration within organizations. For product development to run smoothly, members from various departments within the company must work with the QA team to plan and conduct tests. This cooperative approach improves efficiency by ensuring the features being developed by different teams integrate seamlessly into the final product. Sometimes, customers also play a role in QA by helping to test products (e.g., beta testing) and sending feedback.


In this article, we’ll discuss various QA methods and explain why proper QA is crucial to successful product development in the digital age. We’ll also highlight the many benefits of choosing QA as a career path.


Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control


Though people often use the terms quality control and quality assurance interchangeably, they refer to two different processes. Quality assurance occurs during product development and involves a series of tests that measure adherence to quality standards. Quality control, on the other hand, is employed following production to correct any flaws that have bypassed the QA process. Both protocols are important, but QA is a proactive system that emphasizes prevention, whereas QC is reactive – it focuses on solving problems after they’ve occurred.


What is the Role of QA in Software Development?


Ultimately, the goal of QA is to make sure products work as intended at launch. QA teams are responsible for testing products throughout the development cycle to ensure they align with customer (or client) expectations and any technical standards that may apply. Employees in QA roles are typically assigned the following duties:


-Helping companies establish product quality requirements.


-Developing methods to measure and track product quality throughout development.


-Creating and performing software tests that emulate “real world” usage.


-Identifying coding errors, bugs, and usability issues and suggesting solutions.


-Providing feedback to guide product development.


-Collecting customer feedback and applying it to product development.


Below, we’ll explore these processes in greater depth and explain how they contribute to improved product quality.

How To Implement QA into Software Development Lifecycles


Quality assurance is among the first things companies consider when conceptualizing a new product. QA takes place over a series of planned stages, usually beginning before active development and continuing after deployment. Though QA protocols vary somewhat depending on the company and the type of product being developed, they usually involve the following core processes:


5 Steps for Implementing QA in Software Development:


Step One: Establish Quality Standards


To effectively measure a software product’s quality, companies must first define clear goals and metrics for the product. This process begins with a thorough product analysis, wherein QA professionals outline the scope of the project and set criteria for success. First, they meet with stakeholders and product owners to discuss the business goals driving the project. Then, they examine potential risks and opportunities they might encounter during development and deployment. Using data derived from these initial meetings, they establish clear quality indicators for each stage of product development.


The requirement analysis phase usually addresses the following points:


-Identifying which types of tests will be performed. Companies generally use a combination of manual and automated tests for QA purposes. Some examples of different types of QA tests include unit testing (testing a specific unit of code, such as a single function), integration testing (ensuring different features work harmoniously as a single system), performance testing, load testing, stress testing, and security testing.


-Setting parameters for each test. QA professionals will clarify the focus and priorities for each test and choose the best environments for testing.


-Preparing a Requirement Traceability Matrix (RTM). The RTM is a document that assists QA teams in tracking the level of testing performed on a product. The RTM is used to compile requirements, tests, test results, and known bugs in a single place for quick reference.


Step Two: Plan QA Activities


Once the QA team has performed the requirement analysis, they can create a comprehensive testing strategy. Some typical test planning activities include:


-Outlining roles and responsibilities. Which duties will be assigned to different members of the QA team? What training is required to perform each test?


-Establishing a timeline for testing.


-Selecting which tools will be used for testing.


-Estimating the total cost of the project and the amount of labour required.


-Allocating necessary resources for the project.


Step Three: Test Design and Execution


During the test design and execution phase, the QA team uses the quality standards they’ve established to design test cases and scenarios. They write automation scripts and set up test environments, among other tasks.


To set up a test environment, the team prepares a hardware and software requirement list and gathers the necessary resources. Once the testing configuration is ready, they perform a “smoke test” to verify that everything works as intended. Finally, the team executes the planned tests, records the results, and reviews the collected data to identify product defects.


Step Four: Bug Reporting and Resolution


After testing, the QA team submits a bug report highlighting any issues found with the product. Based on this feedback, the developers attempt to fix the problems found during testing. Then, the QA team performs another round of tests to verify that the bugs have been eliminated. This process is repeated as necessary until the product meets predetermined quality standards.


To conclude the testing process, QA professionals perform test closures. Test closure involves making conclusions based on the testing results, user feedback, and performance.


Step Five: Continuous Improvement


The final stage of quality assurance involves reviewing the QA process itself, in addition to monitoring product quality. Because quality assurance is integral to successful software development, continually improving QA protocols helps IT businesses run smoothly, save money, and ship superior products. To ensure they’re using the most efficient and accurate testing protocols, companies examine the following factors:


-Time to test. The team calculates how many tests were used and how long each test took to identify inefficiencies in testing.


-Test accuracy. The team records the number of flawed tests that provided poor-quality feedback or allowed bugs to pass undetected. They can then discuss how to improve tests in the future.


-Time to fix. To assess how quickly problems were solved, the team measures how long it took to notice and fix bugs during each test.


-Post-deployment performance. The team assesses how many errors slipped through the QA process and how quickly quality control was able to address them.


In most cases, QA duties continue beyond product deployment. Following the launch of a product, QA teams monitor its real-world performance and conduct additional testing before the release of new features. Continuous QA testing prevents products from breaking during updates, significantly improving the user experience.


QA vs. Software Testing


Though many people think QA and software testing are the same thing, in reality, they’re two related but distinct concepts. Quality assurance focuses on preventing issues, whereas software testing is the process of finding bugs and errors in code that’s already been written. As such, software testing – while it falls under the QA umbrella – is also a type of quality control. The primary role of software testers is to ensure the developed code aligns with expectations and meets all requirements in terms of features, functionality, and interface design. By creating detailed error reports, software testers help developers quickly isolate and fix coding problems.


Software testing is an excellent career path for detail-oriented individuals who love solving problems and empowering others to succeed. If you’re interested in pursuing software testing as a career, you can take the first step to becoming a QA professional by enrolling in BusyQA’s Software Testing Course. Our comprehensive Software Testing course offers a dynamic learning environment (with online and classroom instruction, as well as co-op opportunities) that fully prepares students for ISTQB certification.

Approaches to QA Implementation in Software Development


How organizations implement QA depends on the type of software they’re developing, product goals and the scope of the project. For some organizations, taking a linear approach to quality testing yields the best results, while others benefit more from using a flexible, collaborative QA system. Below, we’ll outline several of the most popular QA systems, including their unique pros and cons:


Waterfall Approach


BusyQA - Waterfall Approach

The Waterfall Approach was the first QA system to be developed, dating back to 1970. It uses a traditional, linear system to test the quality of products, with QA being performed during each stage of development. Under the Waterfall model, each stage must pass a quality check before development can begin on the next stage.


The Waterfall Approach is highly structured, with activities being performed in sequential order, typically as follows:


-Requirements phase (includes the analysis phase)


-System design phase


-Implementation phase (also known as the development phase)


-Testing phase


-Deployment phase (also known as the operations phase)


-Maintenance phase


Because the Waterfall Approach is well-organized and linear, it has the advantage of reducing confusion. Under this model, everyone in the QA team has well-defined duties and processes are easy to follow. However, the Waterfall approach is somewhat inflexible and often extends the length of development cycles. Teams using the Waterfall Approach cannot backtrack and change the requirements or features of the product they’re developing, for instance. As such, the Waterfall Approach is usually only recommended for small projects with clear expectations.


Agile Approach


BusyQA - Agile Approach

The Agile Approach is the most popular QA system in use today. Unlike the Waterfall Approach, the Agile Approach emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and customer feedback. It gives teams the freedom to change product requirements and features in response to customer concerns or changing market needs, which often results in products being developed faster and more effectively.


The Agile Approach eschews extensive documentation in favour of focusing on software functionality and prioritizes automated tests over manual tests, which improves testing efficiency. Some of the core principles of Agile QA are:


-Early implementation. QA begins at the outset of the development process, starting from the first design meeting.


-Frequent iterations (known as “sprints”) and continuous testing, which occurs throughout development.


-Continuous feedback, ensuring the product aligns with business goals.


-Comprehensive testing. Under the Agile model, the product is tested by multiple members of the organization, including business analysts, developers, and the QA team. Customers may also be involved in testing.


The Agile Approach to software development is preferred by most organizations because it produces a higher-quality product. By testing continuously and collecting more feedback, Agile QA testers can catch errors rapidly, pivot to meet changing expectations and implement new features easily after deployment. The Agile Approach also creates a more dynamic, engaging work environment where ideas are shared freely across the organization. The only downside to Agile QA testing is that it requires strong leadership to ensure teams remain on track amidst shifting goals and targets.


If you’re interested in learning more about Agile software testing, consider attending our Scrum Master course. BusyQA’s Scrum Master course will teach you everything you need to know about Agile project management and quality assurance, preparing you for a career in this exciting field.


DevOps Approach


BusyQA - DevOps Approach

Next to the Agile Approach, DevOps is the most common approach to software testing (and in some organizations, DevOps and Agile methods are fused into a single system). Like the Agile Approach, DevOps emphasizes collaboration; however, it focuses more on cooperation between the development (Dev) and IT operation (Ops) teams. Under this model, development and operations are usually merged into one team.


DevOps uses the following core principles:


-Build automation. Code is automated using a tool before being deployed to a live environment. Testing is also automated.


-Continuous Integration (CI). Code is merged and tested frequently to prevent conflicts between changes and the main code base.


-Continuous Deployment (CD). Code is updated regularly and tested in small units, reducing the likelihood that errors will occur.


-Infrastructure as code. Infrastructure is managed via code rather than manual processes.


-Monitoring. Data about the performance and stability of the product is collected frequently, leading to rapid error detection.


DevOps offers the advantage of being fast, reliable, and accurate thanks to its heavy use of automation. At the same time, its collaborative approach allows teams to innovate freely and introduce new features with ease. DevOps is therefore the preferred approach for products that receive frequent updates, as it’s ideal for maintaining software stability. For DevOps to run smoothly, however, teams must have strong automation configuration skills, as failing to properly configure automated testing and development tools can result in errors.


Because implementing DevOps is complex, skilled DevOps testers are in high demand. If you want to pursue DevOps as a career path, we suggest starting with our Automation Testing course, which teaches beginners how to configure and run automatic tests. After taking this course (or if you have previous automation experience), you can progress to our DevOps course to complete your education.


Test-Driven Development (TDD)


BusyQA - Test-Driven Development (TDD)

With test-driven development (sometimes also called test-first development), developers write test cases before they begin coding. Tests are developed for each function and specify exactly what the code will do. Code is then developed incrementally using automated tools, and developers are required to write new code only if an automated test fails. This approach helps to prevent errors and duplication of code, which keeps code manageable and traceable. The basic process of TDD involves the following steps:


-Creating tests.


-Running the tests to see if any fail.


-Writing code, as needed.


-Running tests again with refactor code.


-Repeating this process for each new unit of code.


The main advantage of TDD over traditional testing is that it tests every single line of code, leading to a very high degree of accuracy and less need for documentation. The most prominent pitfall of using TDD is that its emphasis on individual features can detract from “big picture” thinking. TDD can also be time-consuming and challenging to implement with legacy systems.


Risk-Based Testing & Exploratory Testing


Risk-based testing and Exploratory testing are types of testing that can be implemented under the Agile and DevOps models. Risk-based testing is a system of software testing based on the likelihood of risk; that is, it focuses on identifying and testing the areas of a product that pose the highest risk. (For example, the parts of the software that have the highest potential for errors, are most critical to the business, or receive the highest usage.) Risk-based testing optimizes QA resources, making it useful for projects with time or budget constraints. It’s also an excellent choice for teams that are in the process of adopting new technologies.


Exploratory testing, on the other hand, takes an intuitive approach to software testing. It allows QA teams to “explore” software without relying heavily on predetermined test scripts. Instead, tests are designed and executed simultaneously with minimal planning while the tester explores the system. In this scenario, the tester is free to decide on their next steps (and create new tests) based on their findings, rather than working according to a strict plan. Because this approach facilitates hands-on learning and emulates real-world usage patterns, it often uncovers errors and usability issues overlooked by formal testing.

Benefits of Having QA for Software Development


As the digital marketplace becomes more crowded, IT companies face an increasing need to stay competitive. QA is therefore experiencing a surge in growth as organizations realize the many benefits of adopting efficient planning and testing protocols. Some of the most significant advantages of having QA for software development include:


1. Cost reductions.


In the software development world, mistakes are often costly. Product recalls and overhauls, refunds, and the customer service burden of having a defective product significantly reduce profits and strain company resources. When problems are caught early, on the other hand, they’re often easy (and inexpensive) to fix. As such, implementing a comprehensive QA protocol is one of the best ways to ensure projects don’t run over budget.


2. Improved compliance and security.


Few things are as critical to brand trust and customer retention as security. Even one data breach can cost several million dollars and shrink an organization’s customer base by up to 50%. When developing software that deals with sensitive information, using QA to ensure security compliance is vital to protect customers, brand reputation, and the company’s bottom line.


3. Enhanced software reliability and quality.


Perhaps the foremost benefit of QA is improved product quality and reliability. Not only does developing a better product save time and money, but it also supports a more positive, engaging company culture. QA makes developers, designers, and other team members feel more confident in the product, which boosts morale and motivation.


4. Greater customer satisfaction and retention.


QA also builds customer confidence by ensuring products meet user expectations and provide a consistent experience. By ensuring a smooth, hassle-free user experience, companies can avoid frustrating their customers, reduce the need for customer service, and increase overall customer satisfaction. Over time, this quality-first approach results in improved customer retention – an important asset when you consider that acquiring new customers costs 5-7 times more than retaining existing ones.


5. A more efficient software development process.


Another advantage of QA is that it reduces the time needed to develop new software, allowing companies to deliver their products to market faster. By doing so, organizations position themselves as industry leaders and innovators while increasing profits – which ultimately attracts more investment and allows the company to grow. QA also creates an environment of continuous improvement by making it easier for developers to add new features to existing products.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the ISTQB?


The ISTQB, which stands for “International Software Testing Qualifications Board,” is an international non-profit testing certification board originally founded in Edinburgh, Scotland. The ISTQB is currently the most popular software testing certification in the world and offers multiple types and levels of certification. To earn ISTQB certification, students must pass an ISTQB exam.


What are the benefits of being ISTQB certified?


QA professionals with ISTQB certification are in high demand around the world. Having ISTQB certification proves your credibility in the software testing industry and gives you access to diverse career opportunities. The learning path required to earn ISTQB certification also provides QA professionals with knowledge and skills in testing techniques, test management, test design, and test automation, enhancing their performance and career prospects.


Are QA Testers in demand?


Demand for QA professionals is strong (and growing) because QA is needed for a wide variety of digital products, including video games, apps, and websites. Likewise, companies know that news of bugs and failures travels quickly in the social media era, so there’s an increased emphasis on using QA to safeguard brand reputation. The global QA market, which is already valued at over 8 billion US dollars, is expected to grow by 9.7% annually from 2021 to 2028. As such, a career in QA offers excellent job security and opportunities for advancement.


How to start a career in QA Testing?


To start a career in QA testing, you will need to have some background in IT – either in the form of education or work experience. Many QA testers obtain a degree in computer science, business, engineering, computer applications, or another related field before taking QA courses. However, this isn’t a strict requirement; having industry certifications or experience working in IT can also qualify you for QA testing training. In some cases, people attend coding boot camps before learning QA testing.


What course(s) is recommended for a beginner looking to break into QA testing?


There are several courses novices can use to begin furthering their QA education. At BusyQA, we offer courses on data analytics, business analysis, DevOps, automation testing, software testing, and scrum master techniques, all of which are beginner-friendly.


Is QA testing easy to learn?


Learning QA testing is relatively straightforward and doesn’t require extensive coding experience. You will probably find QA testing easy to learn if you have a strong interest in IT, education in a related field, an eye for detail, and excellent problem-solving skills.


How long does it take to learn QA Testing?


Learning QA testing is one of the fastest ways to enter a lucrative, in-demand career in the IT industry. On average, learning QA testing takes just six to eight weeks, and in most cases, QA training can be partially completed online. By contrast, the training to become a web developer can take up to 26 weeks.


Conclusion


Quality assurance plays a critical role in modern life, ensuring the software and apps we use every day run smoothly and reliably. As a QA professional, you’ll know your work makes a difference and supports those around you as they develop innovative products that will shape our future. Software testers also typically enjoy flexible working hours (with many companies offering remote work positions) and competitive salaries.


If you think QA might be right for you, consider signing up for a BusyQA course to explore your opportunities in this rapidly-evolving niche. Our courses are taught by leading industry experts and offer numerous co-op and networking opportunities, so you can begin enjoying the vibrant QA community while you learn. Join us today to start your exciting career journey in quality assurance.





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