In the past few decades, the world has seen exponential growth in the digitization drive for almost every sector. It has led to the emergence of software solutions occupying a fuller part of our lives. As a result, there has been the development of massive interest in software quality due to concerns such as security, efficiency, speed, and costs. In this article, we will discuss software quality assurance in depth. Beginning from its definition, attributes, why it is so important, the principles behind it, and so on. Read on!
What is software quality assurance?
Software quality assurance, which is commonly abbreviated SQA, refers to a set of activities and procedures to guarantee that standards will be met from the commencement to the deployment of a development project. It is critical to highlight that the SQA process must be implemented in sync with the software development process. The aim is to identify potential problems and avoid them before they become an issue.
What is the difference between quality assurance and quality control?
How quality assurance differs from quality control is a source of confusion among many people in the tech fraternity. Quality assurance is a set of preventative measures that are implemented during the software development process in an attempt to come up with a product that will meet the specified performance requirements. On the other hand, quality control is aimed at corrective measures. It deals with the final product rather than the processes used to create it.
What are the attributes of good quality software?
The term “quality assurance” can be ambiguous if there are assessable parameters assigned to it. To avoid this type of scenario, several quality metrics should be satisfied before any software can be classified as being of good quality. These attributes are functionality, reliability, usability, portability, and maintainability. And we will talk about them in detail further — read on.
Why is software quality assurance essential even in the early development stages?
Software quality assurance is critical even in the early development stages of a software engineering project for different reasons. These are discussed below.
It helps save time and money
It is far much cheaper and less time-consuming to address software issues earlier in the development process. Fixing mistakes in an already-deployed software requires expertise, time and may cause losses. The revenue stream might be plugged in while the issue is being addressed.
It helps maintain brand reputation
The tech fraternity is not lenient when it comes to matters of software quality. Releasing faulty software causes the service provider to suffer from a bad brand reputation, which might prove difficult to recover from.
It improves security
Implementing quality control measures in the early developmental stages of the software helps expose system vulnerabilities on time. It is critical, especially now, when cybersecurity issues take center stage in the information technology sector.
Helps with competitiveness
At this point in time, where there are numerous players in the software industry, SQA is key if you are to remain relevant. Regular glitches may cause a company to lose its competitive advantage as users switch to alternative providers. For instance, the October 2021 outage of the family of apps under the then called Facebook (now Meta Platforms) led to users flocking on to Twitter.
Increases user satisfaction
SQA also plays a role of paramount importance in enhancing user satisfaction. Software should be intuitive, making interaction with it a pleasant, hassle-free experience. This is why it is vital that companies take matters concerning software quality seriously.
Two main approaches to software quality assurance
Software quality defect management approach
This approach thrives on counting and handling defects. The development team identifies a defect, puts it into a category based on its severity, and takes specific actions to address the set of bugs identified throughout the entire process.
Software quality attributes approach
The software quality attributes approach works by identifying particular attributes that are used to assess software performance. These attributes are explained in more detail below.
The software should meet the required functionalities. It should be able to interact with other system components, handle data securely, and comply with the required guidelines and laws.
High-quality software is reliable. It should be able to perform well under component failure.
The software should be user-friendly to clients. It should be intuitive, requiring minimal effort to understand how it works.
The software should have been created in adherence to best coding practices. The software design should be efficient.
SQA principles also dictate that the system should be easily adaptive to changes in its environment. Installation and system component replacement should not take an excessive amount of time.
Faults should be easily identifiable and fixable. The system should remain stable while changes are being introduced.
What are software quality methodologies and techniques?
Several methodologies and techniques are used for quality assurance in software engineering. These are highlighted below.
This refers to the inspection of work products and the related information to establish if the requisite standard procedures were adhered to.
This is best done by a trained third-party professional according to a set of rules, checklists, entry and exit criteria. Code inspection is a formal review that involves static software testing to identify bugs and eliminate the chances of defect growth in the later stages of the software development lifecycle.
This also features QA methodologies. It comprises a checklist that assesses the following aspects of software design:
- General requirements and design
- Functionality and interface requirements
- Structures and interfaces
- Exception handling and recovery
- Testability and extensibility
- Coupling and cohesion
Simulations are also used in quality assurance during software engineering processes to mirror real-life situations and scrutinize the system under the current study.
This is a type of black-box QA testing that is aimed at the system specifications or features.
This is another powerful tool in QA methodologies and techniques. It reduces ambiguity and guesswork.
This is a type of software analysis that is performed by an automation tool without executing the program. It mainly utilizes reverse engineering and software metrics.
This is when the software engineer guides their peers in the development team through the product quality process. And they raise queries, make suggestions and comments concerning possible errors and violations of standards.
This refers to a white-box testing method where the entire branch coverage is verified through performing an independent path at least once.
This is done to assess the software system’s robustness by subjecting it to abnormal operating conditions.
What are the quality assurance standards in software engineering?
“Quality” is a subjective term. As a result, various guidelines have been established in the software engineering industry to be used as the benchmark standard for quality management. The most popular ones include ISO 9000 and the Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI).
ISO 9000 refers to a family of guidelines produced by the International Organization for Standardization. According to these guidelines, software should be aimed at addressing customer needs. The SQA principles of ISO 9000 are highlighted below:
- Customer focus
- Engagement of people
- Process approach
- Evidence-based decision-making
- Relationship management
Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI)
The CMMI is primarily aimed at process improvement. Based on this system, the quality of the software is measured based on maturity. There are five levels to be met by these measures, and these are highlighted below:
What are the principles of quality assurance?
It is vital to be well versed with the principles of SQA. These are highlighted below:
- Testing establishes the presence of defects.
- Exhaustive performance testing is impossible.
- Early testing.
- Defect clustering. Distribution of bugs across the software is non-uniform.
- Pesticide paradox. If the same test set is repeated now and again, it will eventually fail to find new bugs.
- Testing is context-dependent.
- Absence of errors fallacy.
Who is responsible for SQA?
There is no single individual we can point to as being totally responsible for software quality assurance. It is a result of a collective and sustained effort within each software development team.
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To begin with, software testers play a vital role of significant importance in debugging to ensure the deployment of a bug-free end software product.
There are also software QA engineers involved in administrative positions, mainly project management. These also have an important role to play in the quality assurance of the overall software development process.
Therefore, it is clearly evident: even though a quality assurance analyst takes a central role, everyone in the QA team has a responsibility for the software quality to be on point and reaches the required standards set.
With the rapid increase in the demand for digital solutions in the modern era, there has been a resultant interest in software QA principles applied before, during, and after the development process. Both quality assurance and quality control processes are implemented to ensure that in the end, we have a perfect end product.
Several features are characteristic of good quality software. These include functionality, reliability, efficiency, usability, portability, and maintainability. These are made possible by adhering to standards, such as ISO 9000 or CMMI. Even though quality assurance is mainly the responsibility of the quality assurance analyst, every member of the development team has a role to play towards attaining a high-quality end product. There is no doubt, that software quality assurance is a vital aspect of any development project and should be executed with all due diligence, care, and professionalism.