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The distinction between testing and quality assurance (QA) in the software industry

Although it is sometimes thought that QA and software testing are the same thing, they are in fact different concepts. They differ in their objectives, features, and methods. Testers and QA engineers are also unclear about their job descriptions due to the many misconceptions about the nature of testing. Right now we’re going to take a closer look at each of the roles in order to clarify them for you.

Even within QA teams, there are different opinions about the job title. Some believe that the “quality assurance” title is wrong because the activities are not able to guarantee quality software. Others are not keen on being called testers because they believe they do more than just testing, for example, preventing defects by working closely with developers.

Many organizations are coming to the realization that a team consisting of only developers is unable to deliver the intended product all on their own. The products of these teams receive a lot of criticism from customers. Currently, there are many organizations that have created and dedicated an entire “QA” department to testing. Unfortunately, for the most part, the name is misleading because although they employ automatic and manual testers to simultaneously test various products, they often disregard the principles for maintaining quality. After developing a particular product over a period of time, organizations are still dissatisfied with the degree of quality services, despite receiving no error complaints from users. This is due to the fact that most people who do not deal directly with QA have no idea that there is a difference between QA and testing.

What is QA?

QA is the means through which the desired level of quality in a product is achieved and maintained. It is an element of quality management that focuses on the maintenance of product or service integrity and provides reassurance that all intended requirements will be met. This approach creates a means of regulating workflow to simplify error tracking throughout the software development process.

QA has been regarded as a pillar of success in IT solutions because it addresses a number of management issues, for example, checklists, project analysis, and development techniques and methods, just to name a few. Achieving a long-term goal becomes a lot easier with a thoroughly planned testing process assessment strategy because it creates a more effective development process. To achieve the highest quality and to track the progress of a product and the work of every team member, it is imperative that the strategy be followed throughout the stages of product development. Statistical data collected from the product development process is analyzed by the QA team to amend its progress when necessary.  Our own experience has proven that having those statistics assists the entire team in finding weaknesses that have an effect on the product. Theoretically, each stage involves some level of risk, for example, a multitude of regression errors, slight adjustments requiring extra financial resources, and delaying the release beyond the intended date. Undoubtedly, every product development process is affected by QA: the pre-design phase, development and testing, and lastly, product release. Ideally, with the use of QA, there would be no problems because it can simplify things and modify processes to eliminate the majority of them. In practice, problems are significantly reduced. A QA mindset is worthy of having and being shared with team members.

Software testing explained

Software testing is a way of identifying possible defects and bugs in a software product and ensuring that the action code written by the developers enables it to perform as expected. A variety of methods are used for testing the product, locating errors, and checking if errors have been fixed.  Testing gives us the opportunity to check if the developed product matches the expected requirements in terms of function, compatibility, design, etc.

Generally, it can be defined as a group of processes aimed at ensuring that the existing version of the product produces results most similar to those specified in the expected requirements. Among the greatest benefits of testing in IT projects is providing clear and understandable error reports. Doing this enables developers to easily understand what failed and how to fix it. It is noteworthy that testing is only able to spot defects and weaknesses in an existing product or smaller portions of it.

Various techniques can be used to carry out the tests.  They can either be performed manually or automatically. Ideally, they can be executed at every stage of the selected development cycle for either dynamic or static elements. Basically, the purpose of software testing is to ensure that product defects are identified and fixed before the product is released.

QA versus Testing

Software testing assists with finding and fixing already existing errors while QA helps prevent them. Both these processes play an important role in achieving optimum quality, they complement each other. Although quite rare, a separate QA department in IT is a necessity, hence it is sometimes outsourced rather than built in-house.

QA focuses on ensuring that stakeholders are satisfied with the design while testing aims to detect bugs or bigger shortfalls. Testing’s focus is error detection and system control, with corrective actions and product orientation. Testing checks the application’s behavior while QA improves the overall project quality each day.

Every additional tester added to a product development team increases the price of the development cycle and makes the product less competitive than other products offering the same function.  Some worry about these risks when considering an extension of the team. At the same time, finding a person knowledgeable about all stages of product development who is also capable of assessing its effectiveness throughout, is impossible. Looking at the product development cycle, it is obvious that when testers come onboard from the beginning of the project, their team gains crucial expertise as time goes by. This familiarity with every aspect of the product and its specific conditions, for example, the business logic behind it, is why testers in most cases are capable of performing QA duties. This situation is ideal as it creates an awareness of the problems that present throughout the product development process, and therefore makes it easier for the team to exactly locate its roots.

Now that we have analyzed these two concepts, they can be compared in terms of subject matter, definition, purpose, orientation, and type of action. QA is in control of the testing process while it ensures that the software’s performance is effective under certain conditions. Testing’s focus is evaluation, case studies, and implementation. QA is short for quality assurance and it is common knowledge that product quality cannot be “tested”. Therefore, quality assurance merely optimizes the process so that quality can be achieved. Manual tests and their respective reports are often used to assess the success of such quality measures.

QA is a management approach that takes into account all the policies, processes, standards, training, tools, etc. necessary to ensure the achievement of a company’s quality objectives. A good QA strategy is well-integrated and proactive as well as reactive.  Testing is only a tiny part of this strategy.

The relationship between QA and Testing

When QA connects with testing it is referred to as quality control (QC). This methodology aims at locating errors in an application’s operation by testing the software using various test levels and types. The more test types covered, the better your chances of discovering all defects. Each of the test levels covers distinct usage, for example, integration tests of web services when compared with acceptance tests with real users.

QC is primarily product-oriented. It uses users’ recommendations and requirements to validate the product. With this in mind, QC engineers write appropriate tests to ensure product compliance with those demands. Sometimes QC is considered the last stop of maintenance or the end of the production line, however, this is not entirely true. QC is intended to prove that the product works as expected by either breaking it or finding discrepancies between requirements and the product’s current working results. The amount of testing required to make this determination is endless and will continue until the person responsible for the quality plan chooses to stop.

Testing is actually part of QC. It is the process through which a system is built to detect faults in a product so that they may be fixed. Testing is a fundamental part of QC because it helps demonstrate that the product works as expected. This approach requires frequent detection, and this is equally as important as maintaining quality throughout the development cycle. It is imperative that QA remains a priority to everyone involved in the development process. It is almost impossible to achieve software quality with only one person performing QC activities. QC is a collaborative process, one where teams work together from inception and at every stage of software development, focussing on quality. Quality means everyone taking responsibility for their work from the second production begins to the second it ends.

What is key to your project’s success and why?

No one is infallible.  We all make mistakes no matter how meticulous we try to be. While some of those mistakes may be negligible, others may be costly or even dangerous. Therefore, it is imperative that we test software from the very beginning so that errors can be found and corrected. Combining QA with testing does just that. QC is key to product success.