You rely on your software to do business. It’s the public face of your company, the one every client interacts with. Your software must do two things:
• offer your customer a usable and useful experience, and
• generate revenue.
Either can be hard to do if your software glitches during use. Maybe the glitch is caused by unexpected volume, or by unanticipated user actions…or maybe, your developers thought “good enough” was, well, good enough. Not so for today’s fickle users. And not so for your bottom line. Good enough isn’t always good enough, for your customers or your business.
Welcome to the realm of software quality assurance, or SQA. Incorporating quality testing during software development enables your company to offer a usable and useful product at first release. Waiting for user satisfaction metrics through surveys or other feedback is a thing of the past. QA is the make-it-or-break-it addition to your software development process. It combines project and configuration management with real-time user testing by knowledgeable experts. When software QA is properly integrated into every step of the development process, it prevents unhappy clients and the lost revenue they represent.
What is Software QA?
Your company is awesome. Your software should be, too. Sure, your dev team can fix code during trials, but having a comprehensive quality assurance program will take your product to the next level. Quality assurance is more than just detecting issues and rewriting code during development.
Software QA is a comprehensive dev support process designed to find and fix errors now, and prevent errors later, while aligning development with business goals. Real-world use often brings real-world problems, ones that can’t be anticipated on the test bench. QA strives to eliminate such situations before they start.
A good QA program incorporates testing through all phases of design. It identifies business requirements, determines product and performance specifications, and understands user needs through functional testing. Then, it takes these criteria further; developing real-world testing scenarios and offering feedback designed to maximize user experience and reduce costs.
Incorporating a comprehensive quality assurance program into the design process informs your dev team of functionality issues from the start. Because, as we know, if it’s not usable it won’t get used.
So, what are the key concepts to keep in mind when implementing a QA program? Let’s take a look.
Know the difference between quality assurance and quality control.
Maybe your existing software QA process isn’t providing the results you want. If your downstream clients are having issues with your software, your QA process might not be asking the right questions. This can result from mistaking quality control with quality assurance. The difference in the two?
Quality control looks at process performance: “Is the software doing the thing you want it to do?”
Quality assurance furthers this goal to ask: “Have we identified user requirements and merged these with our business requirements?” This might seem like a fine-line distinction, but it’s not. Development based on business and user needs benefits both, above and beyond simply offering a “functional” platform.
Align business interests with quality assurance goals.
Poor quality software costs more than you think. Pressure to deliver a software product often means that QA testing is done last, if at all. This is the sort thinking that often leads to the costliest mistake of all; that of dissatisfied users. In today’s online environment, software has a limited amount of time to prove itself useful. For website and web-apps 60-80% of new users are lost within the first week of signup. For mobile apps, 70-80% can be lost after the first day!
Even the most tech-y of users won’t stand for poorly executed interfaces, and they’re the minority. Most users aren’t techophiles. They want clean interfaces, clear direction, and most of all, they want a hassle-free experience. Software testing alone can’t be the only metric for success. Aligning your product with your process from a user perspective achieves positive results throughout the development process and beyond.
Is “test early and often” enough?
We’ve all used this phrase at one point, but what does it really mean? Is testing early in the development process enough? Realistically, it’s only one part of the puzzle. Instead of testing after requirements have been determined and coding is started, or nearly done, wrap testing into the process from the requirements phase.
Create —and use — a standardized assessment program. This allows your dev team to understand where and how processes impact the rest of the company, and to develop products based on a unified company goal.
Testing shouldn’t be taken lightly, and neither should your testers
A solid QA program knows better than to rely on inexperienced testers. Use experienced testers who understand code, have business experience, and pay attention to detail. Then, empower them. Without the power to make decisions, testers are little more than advisors; often overlooked or ignored altogether.
Make sure your QA team isn’t just an advisory committee. Then, make sure their feedback doesn’t get buried by deadlines and financials. Make sure reporting isn’t funneled through groups responsible for development timeline or costs. Rushing a product to market without full and integrated testing will only cost time and money in the future.
Relationships make the world go ‘round. Healthy ones are good for us and our businesses. Support collaboration and communication between your development and testing teams. If they respect each other and communicate issues freely, your organization saves time and money. Healthy relationships equal healthy profits.
Failing to determine end-user needs or business requirements during development can be as costly as failing to test for bugs or performance issues. Keeping an eye on each of these 5 areas during your QA process will maximize ROI, and ensure smooth business operations. Be a smooth operator; make sure your QA program incorporates the guidelines above!
If you’d like to read more about the benefits a software QA program offers, check out these case studies by QualityLogic.