What Is Software Quality Assurance : Definition, Benefits, and Top Techniques Explained

It’s one thing to release software applications in a constant stream to keep up with demand. It’s another thing to ensure the software works the way it’s supposed to. Today’s consumers want a more excellent selection of applications and software products, but they want it to be good. Nothing gives a developer a black eye more than a bug-filled release requiring constant patches and upgrades.

Today we’re looking at software quality assurance, delving into what it is, why it’s essential, and its best practices. Once you reach the end of the article, you’ll likely agree that quality assurance is one of the most valuable processes in the software development pipeline.

So, what is software quality assurance?

Software Quality Assurance Definition

Software quality assurance (or SQA for short) is the ongoing process that ensures the software product meets and complies with the organization’s established and standardized quality specifications. SQA is a set of activities that verifies that everyone involved with the project has correctly implemented all procedures and processes.

SQA works parallel to software development, an ongoing activity applied throughout the software development life cycle. Instead of making quality checks after completion, software quality assurance checks for quality issues in each development phase.

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SQA’s ultimate goal is to catch a product’s shortcomings and deficiencies before the general public sees it. If mistakes get caught in-house, it means fewer headaches for the development team and a lot less angry customers.

These are the characteristics common to all software quality assurance processes:

  • A defined quality management approach
  • Holding formal technical reviews
  • Implementing a multi-testing strategy
  • Using effective software engineering technology
  • A measurement and reporting mechanism

Additionally, all software quality assurance programs contain the following ten vital elements:

  1. Software engineering standards
  2. Technical reviews and audits
  3. Software testing for quality control
  4. Error collection and analysis
  5. Change management
  6. Educational programs
  7. Vendor management
  8. Security management
  9. Safety
  10. Risk management

Note also that software quality assurance and software testing aren’t the same things, though many developers use the terms interchangeably. Software testing is a process under the software quality assurance umbrella. Testing finds errors, bugs, and defects in the software. Software testers find the problems — they don’t solve them.

However, software quality assurance professionals ensure the product meets all the company's quality standards and meets the client's expectations and demands. That process covers more than just bad coding.

What are Software Quality Assurance’s Chief Components and Activities?

Although each company has its own procedures and standards, these are the activities common to typical software quality assurance operations:

  • Create an SQA Plan. More on this later.
  • Set Checkpoints. The team sets up specific checkpoints to evaluate the project’s activities during each stage. Checkpoints ensure regular quality inspection throughout the life cycle.
  • Deploy Software Engineering Techniques. Software engineering techniques help software designers achieve high-quality specifications. For example, designers may gather information by using FAST (Functional Analysis System Technique) or interviews. Once the developers gather the needed info, they can create project estimation using techniques such as Functional Point (FP), Source Line of Codes (SLOC), or Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
  • Conduct Formal Technical Reviews. FTR’s evaluate the design and quality of the product’s prototype. These reviews involve meeting with the technical staff to talk about the software’s actual quality requirements and the prototype’s design quality.
  • Include a Multi-Testing Strategy. In other words, don’t rely on a single testing approach. Instead, test the product from different angles with multiple testing strategies.
  • Enforce Process Adherence. Designers must conform to the established processes and employ only defined procedures.
  • Control Changes. Designers use a combination of automated tools and manual procedures to control changes. This stage includes evaluating the nature of any changes, validating change requests, and controlling the effects of the changes.
  • Measure Change Impact. If the product has a defect, the team fixes it. As a result, something in the product has now changed. The QA team must determine how this new change impacts the overall product and if the change is compatible with the rest of the project.
  • Perform Software Quality Assurance Audits. This audit compares the whole Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) process to the established procedure. The audit also reveals non-compliance issues and ensures that the proper parties act on any reported QA issues.
  • Maintain Reports and Records. Documentation is key to any quality assurance endeavor. Documentation includes audit results, change requests, test results, and review reports. The team should share this information with the stakeholders.
  • Keep Good Relations. Ensure that the QA team and the development team are cooperating and getting along. Often, these teams develop cliquish or superior attitudes, and that sort of behavior must be discouraged.

The SQA Plan

We mentioned the SQA plan earlier, but it demands its own section because of its breadth of detail. The Software Quality Assurance Plan, known as SQAP, for short, makes up the procedures, techniques, and tools employed to ensure the product or service is in harmony with the requirements outlined in the software requirement specification.

The SQAP identifies the team’s SQA responsibilities, identifies the SQA work products, and lists any areas that require reviewing and auditing.

The SQAP contains the following sections:

  1. Purpose
  2. Reference
  3. Software configuration management
  4. Problem reporting and corrective action
  5. Tools, technologies, and methodologies
  6. Code control
  7. Records: Collection, maintenance, and retention
  8. Testing methodology

SQA Techniques

Here are some examples of how quality assurance professionals implement SQA.

  • Auditing.

This technique involves QA professionals inspecting the work to see if all standards are followed.

  • Reviewing.

In-house and outside stakeholders meet to examine the product, make comments on what they find, and get approval.

  • Code Inspection.

This technique is a formal code review using static testing to find bugs and defects. This inspection requires a trained peer or mediator, not the original code author. The inspection is based on established rules, checklists, and entry and exit criteria.

  • Design Inspection.

Design inspection employs a checklist that covers the following design areas:

o   General requirements and design

o   Functional and Interface specifications

o   Conventions

o   Requirement traceability

o   Structures and interfaces

o   Logic

o   Performance

o   Error handling and recovery

o   Testability, extensibility

o   Coupling and cohesion

  • Simulation.

Simulation models real-life conditions to virtually examine system behavior.

  • Functional Testing.

This technique is a form of black-box testing where the QA person verifies what the system does without caring about how it got there.

  • Walkthroughs.

Walkthroughs are peer reviews where the developer guides development team members through the product. Members then raise queries, suggest alternatives, and make comments about possible errors, standard violations, or any possible issues.

  • Stress Testing.

Nothing shows you how good a program is than running it under high-demand conditions.

  • Six Sigma.

This is a well-respected quality assurance philosophy that strives for nearly perfect products or services. Six Sigma’s main objective is a 99.76 % defect-free product.

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What Are the Benefits of Software Quality Assurance?

By now, you’re probably coming around to the idea that software quality assurance is essential. Let’s seal the deal by listing some of its most significant advantages.

  • It saves money. Errors are costly. If a company releases a flawed application, they will have to follow it up by releasing fixes, patches, and sometimes even complete upgrades. These cost money. Furthermore, software companies can lose business (as in, money!) if they have a reputation for poor quality, buggy software.
  • It saves time. CrossTalk, the Journal of Defense Software Engineering, reports it could take up to 150 times longer to fix an error in production than to fix that error in the design stage.
  • It prevents breakdowns and similar catastrophes. Taking a cue from the first two points, breakdowns cost money, are time-consuming, and deny customers access to the product or service. If there’s anything worse than a program with a few kinks and bugs in it, it’s an application that ultimately fails.
  • It boosts consumer confidence. You can spend so much time creating a good reputation, only to lose it overnight. Conversely, customers will flock to companies that are known for producing quality releases.
  • It increases your market share. High-quality software puts your company in a stronger, more dominant market position.
  • It cuts maintenance costs. Get the release right the first time, and your company can forget about it and move on to the next big thing. Release a product with chronic issues, and your business bogs down in a costly, time-consuming, never-ending cycle of repairs.
  • It increases product safety. Although product safety sounds like something more applicable to a physical product like a bike helmet, electrical appliance, or automobile. However, “safety” becomes relevant when you factor in the concept of cybersecurity. Many applications rely on an Internet connection, and if your product leaves your customers vulnerable to data breaches, the results are catastrophic.
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