As a former developer, I understand why most software engineers would feel like the title of this article is a little too obvious. However, the truth is that companies often misunderstand or underestimate the value of Quality Assurance (QA). It’s common for organisations to shift the process to developers, wait until development is completed, or even bypass it completely.
Now, as a business leader, I feel like it is my duty to shine some light on this topic from an entrepreneurial perspective. Even though every QA process will depend on various factors (resource allocation, market size, product specifications, etc), every business leader should be aware of how it works, its benefits, and how to get the most out of it.
In today’s market, the average consumer will only give you one single chance to “get it right”, which means that rushing a faulty product to the market could kill your entire investment. So, whether it is done through an in-house team or by outsourcing quality assurance from a company like BairesDev, QA is a critical step for success.
Quality Assurance 101
Many years ago, quality used to be a word strictly related to the manufacturing industry. That’s where the term “Quality Control” came from—the goal was to identify and reject defective products at the assembly plant before they reach the consumer. Quality Assurance, on the other hand, has a completely different approach: it focuses on defect prevention, improving the quality of software products since the early stages of the development process.
The way I see it, QA is all about creating the best possible product for your customers. Think of it as checking multiple times for any errors, weaknesses, and points of failure. This is done by continuously testing and monitoring software, and pushing its limits in various directions. This way, businesses can reveal valuable insights that lead to higher-quality products.
The secret ingredient that makes QA processes so valuable is the “human factor”. Unlike code-based testing, which is usually more linear and predictable, the role of QA engineers is to creatively anticipate what the user would do, even if it goes beyond the purposes of the application—and trust me, you can never truly know what user will do with software until it happens. Ultimately, this mitigates downtime and errors in the final product, while also providing a far better User Experience.
In general terms, QA testing can be divided into two main branches:
Functional Testing: In this type of testing, engineers check that all systems perform as expected. Every component must work as intended, and all data should be processed correctly by the program.
Performance Testing: This is the more creative part of testing where engineers run the software through all sorts of situations to see how it holds up. Common metrics include response and transaction times, volume testing, and stress testing.
Implementing a QA process
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how QA is often shifted towards developers. Let me tell you why that is a bad idea. As skilled and knowledgeable your development team is, the scope of QA goes further than them. Developers already know the ins and outs of the entire software, as well as what every feature does and how it does it. Basically, they are already preconditioned to expect a certain experience.
How can this be detrimental to testing your app? Well, by making them inseparably attached to a “creator’s bias”. Working with someone else, particularly if it’s someone highly qualified for the task, should introduce a much more comprehensive and broad approach to your software product.
Let me say it again, just to make it clear: developers are not QA engineers. In fact, you will find that in most large development companies, these two parties have their work completely separated into two different departments. Their workflow and communication is dictated by tracking tools that measure progress throughout all stages of development. However, most companies can not afford to have both departments in-house, making outsourcing the most viable solution.
The value of outsourced services in QA & Testing is perhaps greater than in any other software development stage. Why? Because problem-solving (and problem-finding, for our case) requires perspective. And for the best results, it needs to be as wide as you can get it. Whether you reach out to QA & testing services or do it all yourself, there are several things you should keep in mind to get the most out of QA implementation.
Early and constant integration
No matter the size of the project, QA provides the best results when it is properly integrated with the development teams’ workflow. Ideally, testing should begin as soon as there’s a functional prototype, and it would evolve as the product develops.
Running a customised QA process is far better than running general off-focus processes—more doesn’t always mean better. Every software product has very specific testing needs that must be driven by specific goals that provide value to the project. Still, it’s best to do as much quality testing as possible.
Machine algorithms are our best allies to get everything running smoothly. Historically, QA tasks have been somewhat manual, but today automated tasks are incredibly productive and excellent at producing higher quality results in reduced timeframes.
No one can see the future, but everyone can prepare for it. A great QA process anticipates the most likely (and sometimes the most unlikely) scenarios in order to maximise both the project’s scalability and flexibility.
Measure and learn
Measuring the performance and results of your QA process is the only way to get the results you’d like out of it. Every QA process should have a strong focus on collecting quality insights, identifying key metrics, and using them strategically to impact all decisions regarding the software product.
Giving QA the recognition it deserves
Businesses can spend insane amounts of time, money, and resources on developing a software product. Naturally, nobody wants that much effort to go to waste. From where I see it, Quality Assurance is the key to disaster prevention. Its ability to detect bugs and issues before being anywhere close to launch day helps businesses avoid great costs further as the project progresses.
A proper QA process is the best way to create simple, easy to use, intuitive, free of errors, and efficient software products. And not only that, but it will also guarantee that your customers are presented with a valuable, reliable and highly-interactive end-product that follows the latest cybersecurity recommendations.
So, this is my advice to all business leaders, no matter their industry: if you are developing software, make QA a priority. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen friends and colleagues watch their software products crumble over avoidable errors. Yes, most of them are able to pull through in the end—but the wasted time and money was never worth it.
The only way to give QA Testing the priority it deserves is by implementing it throughout your overall product development strategy. And even in cases where businesses lack the in-house staff or access to the time and resources needed to lead comprehensive QA testing, outsourcing is the perfect solution to access all the benefits of QA through the work of specialised professionals.
Malcom Ridgers, Tech Expert, BairesDev