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Software Quality Assurance (SQA): Best Practices

1 15 min read Quality Assurance, SQA
Iterators

Iterators

Tech & Business

Software quality assurance (SQA) ensures that the essential processes are defined and performed; and that the resulting software (output) is free of aberrations or errors.

This is why software quality assurance is crucial for the quality system. It specifies and measures the sufficiency of the software (SW) process, establishing trust in the ability to generate SW products of satisfactory quality for their planned purpose.

You might be asking, “but how can you ensure that the software quality assurance process is being done effectively?” So in this article, we will cover SQA best practices that can help you understand the technical details about software quality assurance.

What’s covered:

  • What is software quality assurance? 
  • What is the role of quality assurance in software development?
  • Quality assurance vs. quality control
  • SQA: process, methods, examples

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What is Software Quality Assurance?

Software quality assurance is a procedure that ensures that all software engineering processes, methodologies, activities, and work items are meticulously monitored and fulfill predefined criteria or standards.

These standards might be any of the following: ISO 9000, CMMI model, ISO15504, and so on. SQA encompasses the whole software development process, from requirements definition through coding and release. Its principal objective is to push and maintain high product standards.

Software quality can be divided into two categories:

  • Software function quality refers to how effectively a software product adheres to the core design specifications based on functional standards.
  • Software structural quality depicts how effectively the project satisfies non-functional standards, including security, accessibility, scalability, and reliability, all of which contribute to the proper fulfillment of the predetermined requirements.

Whenever we talk about SQA, the PDCA cycle always comes into the picture. The PDCA cycle, often known as the Deming cycle, is a well-defined cycle for quality assurance. This cycle comprises four phases: plan, do, check, and act.

The PDCA cycle is a basic yet effective structure for resolving problems at any level of your company. The methodical approach aids your organization in identifying and testing ideas, as well as improving them continuously. Nevertheless, remember that the PDCA technique takes time and may not be ideal for tackling urgent difficulties.

What are the benefits of Software Quality Assurance?

You’ve undoubtedly realized that software quality assurance is critical based on the above points. Now let’s add flavor to its importance by mentioning some of the most important benefits.

  • SQA is a cost-effective investment. Errors are expensive. If an organization distributes defective software, it will be required to follow up with fixes, patches, and, in some instances, major upgrades. These are not free. Furthermore, if a company establishes a bad reputation for producing low-quality, unstable software, it risks losing its clients and revenue.
  • It increases customer trust. You can spend a lot of time building a good reputation just to lose it in a blink of an eye. On the other hand, customers will flock to organizations with a reputation for providing high-quality releases.
  • It improves the product’s overall safety and reliability. Although it appears that product safety is more relevant to a tangible product such as protective headgear, electrical appliance, or medical equipment, when you consider the idea of cybersecurity, safety becomes exceptionally crucial. After all, many apps require an internet connection, and if your product exposes your consumers to data leaks or any security breach, the consequences can be devastating.
  • It lowers the expense of maintenance. If you get the release right the first time, your organization will be able to take a step further into becoming a reputable software service provider. On the flip side, you release a product with recurring problems, your company will become mired in a costly, time-consuming, and never-ending cycle of fixes, which will also definitely hurt its reputation.
  • It guards against system failures. As previously pointed out, malfunctions are costly, time-consuming, and deny customers access to the product or service. If there’s anything more frustrating than a program with a few bugs and errors, it’s an application that fails to work.

What is the role of quality assurance in software development?

Software quality assurance is the process of verifying that the software fulfills the needed and desired quality standards. Software Quality Assurance is used in a number of different software models. Instead of assessing the quality after the completion, SQA is utilized to test the software performance.

SQA protocols ensure that the software is of high quality at all stages of the development process. If the current stage of the software meets the needed quality requirements, the software development progresses to the next stage. 

Allow us to provide you with a situational example. A quality assurance team working on a software development project will collaborate with a solution architect to analyze requirements, establish the variables that identify whether the solution satisfies their goals, and develop a series of testing procedures.

These are then utilized to guarantee that the customer receives exactly what they want. The quality assurance team will also oversee the implementation of these testing procedures and undertake manual testing to make sure that everything is running properly and without errors. 

Here are some of the various roles and activities that SQAs take and are involved in:

  • Ensuring that the software quality is in line with the specifications and business needs.
  • Handle defect prevention and develop formal approaches for more effective defect prevention strategies
  • Project testing for failure detection and bug fixing
  • Identification of underlying potential threats
  • Implement techniques and procedures for tracking problems. 

Professional software quality assurance is essential for creating a high-quality, dependable, and reliable product that your customers will enjoy using.

While there are differing viewpoints on the extent of quality assurance expertise required in software development, the collaboration will always play a vital role in all stages of the software development process.

Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control

It is critical for an organization to agree on what Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) represent as both critical components of its quality management strategy. Effective quality systems can significantly contribute to a project’s success.

Still, when they are improperly defined, they are likely to be weak and ineffectual in guaranteeing that the supplied system is delivered on time, constructed by the team within their budget, and meets the customer’s needs.

What is Quality Assurance?

Any systematic method of verifying whether a product or service fulfills defined standards is known as quality assurance. Defined requirements for designing or producing reliable products are established and maintained by QA. A quality assurance system enhances consumer trust and credibility while also enhancing work procedures and effectiveness, allowing a business to compete more effectively.

What is Quality Control?

Quality control is described as a component of quality management dedicated to meeting quality standards. While quality assurance is focused on how a process or a product is carried out, quality control is mainly concerned with the inspection side of quality management.

Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control Similarities

No company wants to release a subpar product. Customer satisfaction and trust are top priorities for businesses across all industries. While the two techniques differ, don’t consider them as adversaries or strictly competing concepts. In fact, many of the aims and objectives of QA and QC are similar. Here are some examples:

  • While QA is more process-oriented than QC, both methodologies adhere to the organization’s quality assurance requirements. QC may include certain experimental, fringe, or UX testing approaches that demand the tester to be creative, but flaw discovery and correction must still be documented and carried out systematically.
  • Both QA and QC improve a company’s product manufacturing process. Developers are familiar with the concept of feedback loops. Organizations should attempt continuous learning, becoming more productive and profitable each cycle. QC and QA allow the company to identify areas where it can improve, such as defect detection, test automation, data collecting, and user experience.
  • A company can’t just launch a product and hope for the best. QA aids the company in planning how it will pursue digital quality. QC ensures that the final product fulfills the customer’s expectations. Both QC and QA are critical to getting a decent product into customers’ hands and generating income for the company.
  • Defects can range from mild niggles to major, business-threatening setbacks. The early you detect a fault, the less expensive and easier it is to rectify it. The threat increases more when problems get closer to the customer’s hands. Both QA and QC intend to cut expenses; the former seeks to set procedures for early detection, while the latter seeks to find and repair as many defects as possible in a completed product.

Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control Differences

It’s no secret that a considerable amount of confusion is established between the two terms. When comparing quality assurance with quality control, keep in mind that the latter is a subset of the former. Even so, there are several critical differences between QA and QC. Here are some of them:

  • QA begins at the commencement of a project, introducing much-needed safeguards that keep products in scope and viable. QA’s purpose is to create a system that minimizes problems from the outset, and it even has an impact on how developers work. QC responds to the developed product by either correcting or identifying residual flaws, whereas QA determines how quality will be included and maintained.
  • One of the key differences between QA and QC is where the effort is focused. Documentation, tracking, and auditing are some of the processes and procedures that QA focuses on to enhance quality. QC examines the product for issues that have not been discovered during development. Software testing and beta or canary testing are two methods used by QC specialists to discover these vulnerabilities.
  • As previously stated, quality assurance happens throughout the software development life cycle. QA is a persistent effort to establish, enforce, and assure digital quality, not a stage in the development process. On the other hand, QC can only take place if there is a finished product to examine. QC can occur both before and after the first release of a product.
  • Solid development processes, including quality-forward approaches like test-driven development, can help decrease the number of problems upon reaching the QC stage; and even fewer when the product reaches the consumers. Through collaborative techniques that align teams and tools like code reviews, QA hopes to prevent certain errors from ever occurring. Testers use QC to detect and prioritize any remaining issues. Although the emphasis differs, the final aim remains the same.

SQA: Process, Methods, Examples

Now that you already have a good idea about what software quality assurance is all about, we can now safely conclude that it is, therefore, one of the most critical stages in software development.

Experienced teams understand that quality assurance in software development is unlike any other process; it adds value and guarantees that the product or service fulfills specified needs.

Furthermore, it’s not enough to understand SQA based on surface definition alone. If you want to understand better how it actually works, you have to learn the process and methods.

Here are some of the most important core topics of SQA that you need to become attuned to.

Software Quality Assurance Plan

The software quality assurance plan consists of the methods, strategies, and tools used to ensure that a product or service complies with the SRS’s standards (software requirement specification).

The SQA can consist of the following content or components:

  • Purpose section
  • Reference document
  • Management 
  • Documentation
  • Standard practices, convention, and metrics
  • Software reviews
  • Quality assurance testing
  • Problem reporting and corrective action section
  • Tools, technologies and methodologies section
  • Code control section
  • Records collection, maintenance and retention
  • Testing methodology

In a nutshell, the plan outlines a team’s SQA duties and the areas that must be evaluated and audited. It also identifies the work results of the SQA.

Software Quality Assurance Process

There are a few processes and methods that make SQA as effective as possible. We’ve listed them down below:

Creating a Plan and Setting up Checkpoints

The most important action is to create a detailed strategy for how SQA will be used in your project. It also entails ensuring that you have the correct interprofessional collaboration in your team, what SQA methodology you will use, and what tasks you will perform.

The SQA team will then establish checkpoints where assessments will be carried out at each stage. This guarantees that quality control is performed on a regular basis and that work is completed on time.

Utilizing Effective Techniques

A software designer can get high-quality specifications by employing various software engineering techniques. A designer may utilize approaches such as interviews and FAST (Functional Analysis System Technique) to acquire information.

The software designer can then assess the project using methodologies like WBS (work breakdown structure), SLOC (source line of codes), and FP (functional point) estimation depending on the data received. Some of the general techniques to use in SQA are the following:

  • Reviewing
  • Auditing
  • Functional Testing
  • Standardization
  • Code Inspection
  • Stress Testing
  • Design Inspection

Using Multi-Testing Procedures

Testing is the fundamental stage for finding and resolving technical errors in software source code and evaluating the overall usability, efficiency, security, and compliance of the product.

It has a very restricted scope and is carried out by test engineers concurrently with the development cycle or at a separate testing stage. Having a multi-testing strategy means that instead of relying on a single testing technique, many types of testing should be carried out to guarantee that the software product is thoroughly examined from all aspects.

Doing Audits

The SQA audit examines the whole SDLC process before comparing it to the specified procedure. It also verifies whether or not the tasks stated by the team in the status reports were completed. This action also reveals any difficulties with non-compliance.

Saving SQA results

It’s critical to retain all relevant SQA documents on hand and disseminate the appropriate SQA information to all stakeholders. Test results, audit findings, review reports, change request documents, and so on should all be saved for future use.

Software Quality Assurance Method Examples

Here are some technical and scholarly examples & citations of Software Quality Assurance from Hindawi Journals:

Example 1:

In the paper “Program spectra analysis with theory of evidence,” R. Hewett proposed a spectrum-based approach to fault localization using the Dempster-Shaffer theory of evidence.

Using mathematical theories of evidence for uncertainty reasoning, the proposed approach estimates the likelihood of faulty locations based on evidence from program spectra.

Evaluation results show that their approach is at least as effective as others with an average effectiveness of 85.6% over 119 versions of the programs.”

Example 2:

In “Specifying process views for a measurement, evaluation, and improvement strategy,” P. Becker, P. Lew, and L. Olsina developed a specific strategy called SIQinU (strategy for understanding and improving quality in use), which recognizes problems of quality in use through evaluation of a real system-in-use situation and proposes product improvements by understanding and making changes to the product’s attributes.

They used UML 2.0 activity diagrams and the SPEM profile to stress the functional, informational, organizational, and behavioral views for the SIQinU process.”

Example 3:

In the paper entitled “An empirical study on the impact of duplicate code,” K. Hotta et al. presented an empirical study on the impact of the presence of duplicate code on software evolution.

They assumed that if duplicate code is modified more frequently than nonduplicate code, duplicate code affects software evolution and compared the stability of duplicate code and non-duplicate code. They experimented on 15 open-source software systems.

The result showed that duplicate code was less frequently modified than nonduplicate code, and, in some cases, duplicate code was intensively modified in a short period. However, duplicate code was more stable than nonduplicate code in the whole development period.”

Example 4:

“The paper by X. Xiao and T. Dohi, “A comparative study of data transformations for wavelet shrinkage estimation with application to software reliability assessment,” applied the wavelet-based techniques to estimate the software intensity function.

Some data transformations were employed to preprocess the software-fault count data. Throughout the numerical evaluation, the authors concluded that the wavelet-based estimation methods have much more potential applicability than the other data transformations to the software reliability assessment.”

Example 5:

Can faulty modules be predicted by warning messages of static code analyzer?,” O. Mizuno and M. Nakai proposed a detection method of fault-prone modules based on the spam filtering technique—fault-prone filtering.

For the analysis, the authors tried to state two questions: “can fault-prone modules be predicted by applying a text filter to the warning messages of static code analyzer?” and “is the performance of the fault-prone filtering becomes better with the warning messages of a static code analyzer?”.

The results of experiments show that the answer to the first question is “yes.” But for the second question, the authors found that the recall becomes better than the original approach.”

Conclusion

This article taught us that software quality assurance (SQA) is a planned and systematic pattern of operations that provides enough confidence that a software product corresponds to predetermined specifications.

SQA is a set of approaches and techniques for evaluating software development processes and the procedures and supporting technologies to assure the quality of the final product.

SQA is often performed through well-defined standard procedures to ensure the integrity and dependability of software, including tools and methods for quality control.

1 Comment

You know a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want to HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic which has been discussed for many years. Great stuff, just great!|

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