Published on December 17th, 2021 | by Bibhuranjan


How Quality Assurance Affects Projects’ Outcomes

You don’t have to agree with chaos theory to realize that even the smallest of software errors can lead to catastrophic consequences. These can range from losing a few customers to losing millions of dollars and years of research and development. NASA is a prime example of the latter, as the Climate Orbiter worth $125 million was lost in 1998 due to a mismatch of Imperial and metric systems. And that wasn’t the worst-case scenario that could lead to deaths, casualties, lawsuits, and prison sentences.

Considering the potential impact of software bugs, let’s take a closer look at how they can be prevented.

What Is Software Quality Control?

Quality control (QC) is the last stage of software development that’s necessary to ensure the final product meets the quality standards as well as the initial requirements. Unlike quality control, quality assurance (QA) is a continuous effort of upholding high quality standards and requirements fulfillment throughout the development process. This continuous approach prevents errors from being transferred from the initial to the final iterations of the product.

Considering their similarities, quality assurance and quality control are usually combined into a single QA infrastructure. And QA engineers are responsible for ongoing testing and final checks of the product before its deployment and launch.

What Are QA Engineers’ Responsibilities?

Outside the IT industry, most do not realize the breadth of QA engineers’ responsibilities and duties. This thankless and often nearly invisible job is considered unnecessary or obsolete until the first user reviews come in complaining about endless errors. To give you a better grasp of the quality assurance process, let’s go over the core duties of a QA engineer. They:

  • Review the project’s requirements and ensure the final product meets them before launch.
  • Develop comprehensive test cases and scenarios to match the features with the project’s requirements.
  • Implement automated testing scripts along with manual testing scenarios.
  • Locate and document bugs before conducting regression testing once the bugs are removed.
  • Ensure the project is operational and bug-free regardless of the user’s platform or device.
  • Keep track of QA metrics, including open defect count and defect density.
  • Cooperate with project managers and software developers to ensure the project meets the development deadline.

Considering the fast-paced evolution of the libraries, languages, and devices, QA engineers must stay on top of the latest developments and account for them in manual and automated tests. At the same time, keeping track of errors, changes, and updates is another core responsibility vital to the efficiency of the QA process.

Why Does Every Project Need a Quality Assurance Engineer?

The belief that QA engineers are solely needed at the final stages of the development process is as widespread as it is wrong. As we’ve already discussed, debugging isn’t the extent of the QA engineer’s responsibilities. Ideally, one should be present at every development team meeting from the earliest stages, such as the discovery phase. Understanding the project’s goals and requirements is crucial for developing test cases and scenarios. And it helps the QA department catch problems and errors early on, while they can be corrected easily and quickly without overhauling the whole system.

Rushing through quality assurance when the product is two days away from the much-anticipated launch is a mistake many businesses make, including giants like Apple. The company was desperate to offer a proprietary alternative to Google Maps and rushed through testing. The result was half-cooked at best and led to hundreds of complaints within days of its launch. Whole structures and landmarks were mislabeled, misplaced, or missing. It took Apple weeks to correct all the issues, but some users still remember that unfortunate mishap that could have been avoided through thorough QA procedures.

6 Stages of Software Testing Life Cycle

As we’ve established, running tests is only one facet of the QA team’s work on any project. In any self-respecting IT outsourcing company, the QA process goes through six stages:

  1. The QA process begins with requirements analysis that enables the team to define testable requirements and testing priorities listed in the Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM). The QA engineers can also identify the potential for testing automation.
  2. At the test planning stage, QA engineers select the appropriate test environment, plan the testing schedule, and provide cost estimates. The team settles on the metrics tracking methods and finalizes the Test Plan, complete with person-hours estimates.
  3. When it comes to test case development, the QA team works their way through the requirements and designs tests for every one, following the RTM.
  4. The test environment setup calls for the use of the right hardware and software to assess the requirement fulfillment. In most cases, the development team is responsible for setting up the testing environment, while the QA engineers run Smoke Testing to assess the prevalent user flows.
  5. Test execution comprises the implementation of the test cases and scenarios and the forwarding of the bug reports to the development team for fixing.
  6. During test cycle closure, QA engineers compile reports, analyze testing metrics, and come up with quality assurance strategies to be implemented in the future.

Final Thoughts

Quality assurance is an underappreciated, unglamorous, and underrepresented facet of software development. However, QA cannot be an afterthought or a way to cut expenses. Without proper testing, the project is likely to fall short of its requirements. Worse still, it is likely to gain an unfortunate reputation for being bug-riddled and glitchy when the first users run into errors and crashes. NASA, Apple, Heathrow Airport, Knight’s Capital Group, and many others experienced first-hand the misfortune of poor software quality assurance. So let’s learn from their mistakes and award the QA team the time and resources necessary to guarantee a successful launch and operation.

Cover Image by Freepik

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Editorial Officer, I'm an avid tech enthusiast at heart. I like to mug up on new and exciting developments on science and tech and have a deep love for PC gaming. Other hobbies include writing blog posts, music and DIY projects.

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