The importance of quality assurance in software development
Making mistakes is human nature and happens every single day, in all areas of life. But sometimes the smallest mistake can prove to be incredibly costly — and this is especially true for software development. Over the years, flaws in software development have wreaked havoc across a wide variety of industries — from banking and travel through to healthcare and social media.
With the sweet smell of summer faintly in the distance and holidays understandably on our minds, it has us thinking back to a particularly headline-grabbing software error. In 2008, as hopeful travellers eagerly waited to jet off to their favourite holiday destination, visit loved ones or attend that all-important business trip, a software flaw at Heathrow Airport had other plans.
During the opening of Heathrow’s £4.3 billion Terminal 5, a bug in a new baggage handling system caused major disruptions including malfunctioning luggage belts and countless items being lost or sent to the wrong destinations. It was reported that the ordeal cost over £16 million.
As shown in the above example, flaws in coding and software design that go unnoticed in the early stages can lead to compromised software quality which has the potential to have pretty expensive consequences. This is where the importance of Quality Assurance (QA) comes into play.
What is QA in software development?
Quality assurance is one of the most vital processes during software development, bringing with it imperative value by ensuring that the product meets specific requirements. It helps companies to design and develop products and services that are aligned with the expectations and requirements of customers. By following a QA program, developers can make sure they deliver high-quality products that boost their credibility, improves customer loyalty and increases trust. Software quality assurance is essential for each development phase of a software product until the final release.
Here at Rocketmakers, our software design and development process focuses on two core messages - 1) build the right product and 2) build the product right. Building the right product is all about doing the right research and testing concepts early to ensure that what we intend to release actually meets customer demands. Building the product right is all about ensuring that every feature in the product is clearly articulated, that specific “acceptance criteria” (or “ACs”) are defined and that those ACs are all ticked off by having specific tests being performed and code peer-reviewed. We also do all sorts of automated testing to ensure that any changes don’t break those things which have already been created.
The difference between quality assurance, software testing and quality control
When it comes to quality assurance in software development, it is common for the term to be confused with the practice of ‘software testing’ and ‘quality control’, with many people using them interchangeably. But the reality is, they are separate concepts that have different objectives, features and methods applied. Let’s dig a little deeper.
In a nutshell, testing is a process that helps to find and fix already existing flaws and errors in software. It helps evaluate and verify that a software product or application does what it’s supposed to do. Software testing is a huge step required ahead of the launch of a product to market. It involves a combination of product examination, analysis, observation, and an evaluation of many different aspects of a product. Both manual testing and automated tools are often used to check the performance of a software product.
Quality control (or QC) is a product-oriented process that helps to determine whether the end result is what was expected. It is a corrective measure that aims to identify and fix defects that requires the involvement of the testing team. It involves a set of activities that help to uncover quality issues before the product reaches the hands of the client. ‘Software testing’ (as above) is one of the ways in detecting those defects, along with technical reviews and code inspections.
Next comes quality assurance - the focus of this article - which is essentially all about engineering a set of processes that assure quality right from the get-go. Whereas testing and quality control help to detect defects and is more reactive, QA is all about avoiding these defects happening in the first place by implementing best practices and reviewing the processes that go into developing a product. Quality assurance covers much more than the end product, taking a full view of the development process from start to finish in order to improve the likelihood of a positive outcome.
What is the impact of QA on the software development process?
Let's explore why exactly it is so important in the software development lifecycle.
- Increase competitiveness
In today’s digital age, there is competition at every corner turned. Because of this, businesses are under increasing pressure to make sure that their product or service maintains the very best standards of quality when taking it to market. Imagine releasing a product only for it to be fraught with technical issues causing a poor customer experience and bad PR? In most cases, there is simply no room for cutting corners and rushing to launch a software product if it’s going to compromise on the quality, which could ultimately harm your existing brand reputation. Good QA practices will help ensure market competitiveness by maintaining the quality of the product well ahead of being released to the market.
- Improve user satisfaction
As we touched on above, in today’s hypercompetitive market, the modern consumer has come to expect a top-quality customer experience. If they don’t get it, you should expect them to jump ship to your competitor's offering. Quality assurance in software development relates to the steps taken to prevent problems, anticipate needs, and truly understand your customers. When these steps have been successfully carried out, you will ensure your end-users are armed with a quality product or service that is reliable, easy to use and turns them into a loyal customer.
- Save time and money
Businesses and software development agencies that ensure a consistent approach to quality assurance will save time and money in the long run. Why? Mistakes that go unnoticed until the final stages of the development process can be a lot more time-consuming to fix due to it being in an already-coded product.
As an award-winning software agency, our expert team ensures that we maintain the highest standards of quality assurance and testing at every step of the journey. Through a well thought out strategy and an exceptional eye for detail, this makes sure that we’re at the leading edge of software quality and customer satisfaction.
- Enhanced security
In the last 12 months, 39 percent of UK businesses identified a cyber-attack (Gov.uk). As cybercriminals become more and more sophisticated in their ways, security has become a top-of-mind priority in software development. In the product development lifecycle, quality assurance teams are continuously working to minimise the risks and uncover vulnerabilities that may impact the quality of the end product or user experience. This doesn’t just refer to functional and performance levels, but also to vulnerabilities in a software system’s security. A solid QA process takes all the steps and measures to ensure that code is written in as secure a way as possible to help minimise the risks of cyberattacks.
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