Functional testing services represent a form of black box testing that validates that software works as expected. Specifically, it is a form of testing undertaken from a user perspective that evaluates each feature against a set of acceptance criteria. The results are categorized as either “passed” or “failed” based on that criteria. Developers modify the code to fix the failed feature. After the developer implements their code changes, the test technician reruns the test to ensure nothing else was affected by the changes made to fix the initial issue. The cycle continues until the product meets predefined acceptance criteria.  

There are many forms of validation that fall under the umbrella of functional testing services. Each of which validates a specific area of the system. Teams typically employ most of the common types which include usability, interface, and regression testing. Keep reading for details on what it takes to perform thorough functional testing for your software systems.   

What is Functional Testing?

 Functional Testing Services Defined

Functional testing services refer to the work required to validate that software works as expected.   

A test begins when a test technician inputs data into the system to evaluate a specific function. The test technician assesses the results to determine if it provides the expected outcome based on a set of acceptance criteria. The test technician then determines if the feature passes or fails based on that criteria and documents the defective feature test condition to communicate and reproduce the observed failure. The developers then modify the code to fix the defect that caused the failure. Functional testing continues in a loop of test, fix, retest until the product meets a standard that is acceptable to the team. At the end of functional testing, the project team decides to either deploy to production or continue adding new features and fixing defects, starting the functional test cycle again.    

 It is important to note that functional testing is a form of black box testing in that the test technicians have no knowledge of the internal workings of the system. Thus, the focus of black box testing is on validating the system from the perspective of a user. As such, it helps to ensure that the QA team’s evaluation of a feature is based on how the system behaves under real-life scenarios.  

The Value of Functional Testing

Functional testing services help companies gain a competitive edge. Today’s competitive marketplace is flooded with companies offering such similar products that it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. When that happens, companies miss opportunities to land new customers, increase their market share and expand their brand. So, what can companies do to set themselves apart? Many are leveraging technology as their competitive edge and brand differentiator. With that said, a company’s technology must be impressive, intuitive, reliable, and provide such an outstanding experience that customers can’t help coming back for more. More simply stated, the customer experience must be flawless.   

According to a study sponsored by IBM, data breaches cost companies an average of nearly $3.9 million dollars each year. Often, these breaches stem from minor glitches that could have been avoided with proper testing. Functional testing services performed by the QA team evaluates every area of the software under a variety of scenarios and data input. The goal is to have enough test coverage to catch not only the major issues but the small things that might get overlooked.  

Many companies are bound by compliance and regulatory requirements such as privacy, information storage, and information reporting. When a company’s software doesn’t work correctly, they run the risk of violating their regulatory obligations. The resulting fines and legal action could wreak havoc on a company’s finances not to mention their reputation. Functional testing services help companies validate that their systems are compliant and help them avoid the consequences of not doing so.   

The Basics of a Functional Testing Strategy

There are two basic approaches to a functional testing service strategy. Requirements-focused software testing determines the priority and order of testing efforts based on a prioritization of the user requirements as defined in the functional specification. Thus, the requirements document forms the basis for the acceptance criteria. Business-process-focused testing is a form of role-based testing that determines the validation priority based on how the system is used in the context of use cases. Given that, business-process-focused testing relies on the QA team working alongside the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to determine the acceptance criteria.   

Each approach has pros and cons that must be weighed against the context of the nature and complexity of the system. Requirements-focused testing works well for complex systems where there is a well-documented and approved requirements specification. Due to the complexity of the system involved, having a requirements specification as the basis for testing efforts helps ensure the proper coverage to meet those requirements. Business-process-focused evaluation is ideal for systems heavy in process or use cases. Validating process-heavy systems often require a level of domain knowledge that can only be achieved by working alongside the SMEs. 

Functional testing services revolve around a six-step process. The initial step is to identify the functions under test. As mentioned, those functions are determined by either the functional specification or the SMEs. Given the list of features, the team must then define the data input required for each feature. The team must also determine the expected output from those tests. Once input and output have been determined, the QA team executes those tests either manually or in some cases using automated tools. After each test, the test technician compares the results to the expected output and makes a pass/fail determination.   

Types of Functional Testing

Functional testing  is a term that encompasses several types of tests, each with a specific function.   

No single test method is enough to fully test the system. It is important for project teams to use multiple methods throughout the testing cycle. Many of these methods are repeated as often as necessary until the system meets the required standards.    

User Acceptance Testing  

Having users evaluate the system is an important step in validating that it works as expected. In user acceptance testing, end users can experience and try the system under real-world conditions. Sometimes, the users may catch things that could have only been found based on differences in how they use the system. Thus, allowing the end users to evaluate the system helps to ensure that all possible scenarios for input and output are covered.  

Unit Testing  

Unit testing is a specific functional testing service that focuses on evaluating the code to determine if it functions properly. This type of validation evaluates the smallest piece of code that can be isolated and assessed individually. That unit of code could be a method, a line of code in a method or a property. The benefit of unit tests is that by isolating components of the code, there is less risk of code coupling. A good unit test should have no dependencies on outside factors such as a database or file system. They should be repeatable in that it should return the same results under the same conditions with each execution. Lastly, they should be self-checking by automatically determining pass/fail status without human interaction.   

Integration Testing  

While unit testing focuses on testing components in isolation, integration testing validates that those components work well when tested in groups.   

Interface Testing  

Software systems often interface with other software systems to provide user functionality. This connection is called an interface. QA teams must validate that the links to other systems operate as expected. An example of an interface is a web service API call to a third-party API to retrieve pricing information. Test technicians can validate this functionality by inputting the required information, performing the function that makes the API call, then validating the results.   

Regression Testing  

Regression testing is a form of software testing that ensures the system still works properly after code changes. Test technicians rerun either a subset of the test suite or the full test suite. There are typically two types of regression tests, smoke testing and sanity testing as discussed below.   

Smoke Testing  

The QA team requires some level of measurement to determine if the system works well enough to proceed with further validation efforts. It is a non-comprehensive and high-level type of evaluation that covers the major components of the system. The idea isn’t to determine if the system works perfectly. The goal, however, is to determine if the team can proceed with further validation efforts despite the existing defects.   

Sanity Testing  

Like smoke testing, sanity testing is also a non-comprehensive and high-level evaluation of the software. However, it is performed after code changes. The goal of sanity testing is to verify if the system continues to work as expected given the changes introduced into the system.  

Functional Testing Services Best Practices

Adhering to a set of standard procedures gives the team a clear roadmap for the test cycle. This roadmap should help the team navigate priority, traceability and communication. Not only that, these functional test services best practices help avoid some of the common traps that hinder the process.  

Prioritize 

An effective strategy is one that covers as many scenarios as possible. However, determining where to start is a decision that can mean the difference between a successful cycle and a frustrating turn of events that seems to lead nowhere. Before testing begins, it is crucial to prioritize the functions in question. That way, the team can start their validation on items with the highest significance in terms of user importance, risk and cost-benefit. Beginning with the high priority items allows the team to address them earlier in the evaluation cycle rather than rushing at the end to “fit it in” before deployment.  

Traceability 

Before testing efforts begin, it is important to develop a matrix that maps the relationship between requirements to test cases. With a traceability matrix, the team can quickly identify that all requirements have been addressed. It is also essential for the team to manage traceability through requirements changes as these changes could impact the outcome of existing tests. Requirements changes could also require new test cases that must be developed. Traceability is ultimately critical to ensuring proper system coverage.   

Communication 

A formal feedback loop should be established at the onset of testing. The team should document expectations for how new defects are to be reported. Additionally, the team should document how the developers will communicate releases to the test technicians for re-validation. Lastly, there must be a formal process for closing defects that ensures all parties agree on the item in question.   

Validation of Test Cases 

As the size and complexity of the system increases, so does the risk for redundant scenarios. Given that, the project team should have a clear process for evaluating each new case, to ensure it is not a duplicate. System complexity also increases the risk for logic errors. The test technician should work closely with the requirements analysts and the SMEs throughout the process so that logic errors can be spotted by those with enough domain knowledge to do so.  

It is important for project teams to employ a variety of functional testing services to ensure proper coverage. By doing so, they minimize the risk of bugs that cost the company customers, money and damage their reputation.   

QualityLogic’s team of experts have over 30 years of experience providing functional testing services in a variety of development methodologies. We use industry proven tools and techniques to give each feature the level of examination required to ensure a positive user experience across the system. Click here to learn how QualityLogic’s functional testing services can help detect defects early so you can deliver a product that far exceeds your customer’s expectations.