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Here’s how you improve your software quality assurance 12 min read
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A software bug can be — and often is — as tiny as a typo in a single line of code. But, if nobody’s there to catch that bug, it’s going to come back to sting you later.

That’s why software quality assurance is so important.

A software QA engineer tests your software to find any chinks in the armor. This helps to assure quality so that your software performs exactly as it should, meeting pre-agreed guidelines.

Read on to find out how to improve your software quality assurance and how can aid in that process.

What is software quality assurance and why is it important?

Software quality assurance is the process that assures the quality of your software.

During quality assurance (QA) phases, a QA engineer will make sure that all engineering methodologies, processes, and activities stand up against the pre-agreed standards.

In some cases, you’ll define these standards internally. In others, you might pick a predetermined model such as CMMI, SPICE, or ISO/IEC 9126.

You may be forgiven in thinking that software quality assurance only happens late in the game. Most people think that the QA team drops in at the end of a project to ensure that everything works correctly.

This isn’t the case.

That’s why it’s important to have a robust Software Quality Assurance (SQA) plan that outlines the standard operating procedures, techniques, QA software, and tools you’ll use to test at different stages.

software quality assurance plan on

There are so many aspects of quality assurance, it can be hard to keep on top of everything without everyone on the same page.

Where are you recording quality assurance standards and methodologies? Where are you reporting test results? What’s the protocol for communicating bugs and monitoring fixes?

With so many dangling threads, you need a SQA plan to follow and a tool with which to manage it.

Top organizations like Adobe, Uber, and Universal use’s Work OS to manage all these processes in one place. So should you.

Why is quality assurance so important?

1/3 of test engineers complain that it’s difficult to clearly explain the value of software testing to managers and the rest of the organization. They’re right to moan — the value can’t be understated.

The QA process is vital to making sure that when your software is released, it does exactly what it should do to the standard you want.

Developers have to write thousands of lines of code. In the industry, it’s commonly accepted that a developer will make 15-20 errors per KLOC (thousand lines of code). If you don’t catch those errors, you’re piling mistakes on mistakes as you go.

It’s the job of quality assurance to weed out these errors. After all, don’t you want your software to run like clockwork?

What many business leaders seem to miss is that clunky software can ruin your reputation.

Chart showing executive management QA objectives

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Quality assurance departments see bug detection as their 2nd most important priority. They see their main priority as making a contribution to business growth and outcomes.

Quality assurance professionals understand that if the product isn’t perfect, overall growth will suffer.

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How to improve software quality assurance

When it comes to software QA, your biggest mistake would be to leave it all until the very end. You’ll wind up combing back through code, frantic to find that one bug that’s sending your software haywire.

Instead, try planning your route forward and testing along the way. Here’s a few tips on how to do that.

1. Create a software quality assurance plan

Put simply, your SQA plan outlines the objectives of quality assurance, what you plan to measure, and how you plan to test it.

The thing is, when you don’t have clear documentation that solidifies working practices, quality assurance won’t be carried out the same way every time. Not only can this lead to missed errors, it can also erode relationships between a QA engineer and a developer.

Take documentation for example. How will you report bugs?

While 74% of test engineers are tasked with checking automation and script, only 44% are tasked with creating quality reports. This means many testers won’t have experience in creating high-quality bug reports for developers.

Chart showing different QA testing tasks

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The problem is that badly-written documentation is the biggest pet peeve for developers.

If you don’t clarify exactly how bug reports should be written and presented, you’ll end up with low-quality reports, grumpy developers, and a clear breakdown in communication.

Here’s what your SQA plan should include:

  • Purpose and scope: this section should explain why you’re writing the plan and outline what will and won’t be covered by these quality assurance guidelines.
  • Quality objectives: this part should look at the objects of quality assurance, both in terms of product and process.
  • Management: here is where you outline the management structure, noting who is responsible for what and how the chain of command works.
  • Documentation: in this section, list the documentation that will be produced during the process of quality assurance. Explain how you’ll collect it, maintain it, and store it.
  • Standards and guidelines: outline the standards used for measurement and where these can be found. Standards should refer to programming, documentation, testing, and security.
  • Tools, technologies, and methodologies: list the general methodologies you’ll use to test and document at each stage and the tools you’ll use to do this. Hint: this list should definitely include
  • Software testing methodologies: use this section to go into specific detail on the testing methodologies you’ll use. Explain their objectives and benefits, and the activities that will be carried out
  • Software configuration management: in this section, discuss the policies, activities, responsibilities, and resources around configuration management and change control.
  • Problem reporting and corrective action: use this last part to explain who is responsible for dealing with issues that arise.

2. Use a multi-testing strategy

It’s not wise to depend on a single testing approach, as you may miss errors.

For example, some software testing methods, like exploratory testing, are more flexible. On the other hand, testing methods like traditional script-based testing offer less freedom.

While it may seem that a software QA engineer would find more with an exploratory method due to its high level of freedom, these searches are often biased by the engineer’s own skill and knowledge.

Essentially, a QA engineer will find the errors they’re better at looking for.

However, with script-based testing, these testers all tread the same paths to find errors. Without deviating, they’ll miss mistakes.

In this sense, it’s far smarter to combine different testing mechanisms. That way, one method catches what the other misses.

Imagine you’re panning for gold. Using a multi-testing strategy would be like laying an extra mesh over your original sieve, so the tiny flecks don’t slip through unnoticed.

Equally, you’ll get to see errors from a different perspective.

While 82% of QA testers use exploratory testing, only 20% use persona simulation testing. If you’re not incorporating persona testing into your assurance methodologies, you’re not seeing it through the end user’s eyes.

Charts showing the prevalence of testing techniques

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Try mixing and matching some of these testing methodologies:

  • Exploratory testing
  • Scripted testing
  • Bug hunts
  • Beta testing
  • Pair testing
  • Use simulation testing
  • Mob testing

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3. Test early and often

The idea of QA testing early and often is referred to as ‘Shift Left’ testing.

Traditionally, QA testing was left until the very end. But, as more software teams are using Agile methodologies, organizations are seeing the value of testing throughout the development process.

Currently, 52% of organizations are using Shift Left testing.

Since Shift Left practices are mostly used by Agile teams, this manifests as ‘in-sprint testing.’

This idea is that by continuously testing within each sprint, teams can more easily adapt to issues as they arise.

By shifting the testing process left in the timeline, software teams can identify features that don’t work, aren’t suitable, or could be altered and improved. Instead of putting hours of work into something that gets scrapped later, early quality assurance nips these things in the bud.

A chart showing how many team use Shift Left

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It also helps to create a better working relationship between developers and testers. Instead of testers throwing a whole software product back at the end, they can work side-by-side with developers as the project unfolds.

4. Work on communication

Nobody likes to hear criticism of their work. Unfortunately for the QA team, that’s the very basis of their job — they pick apart developers’ work.

Without good communication between the 2 parties, the relationship can — and does — turn sour.

Developers need to make sure their work is appreciated, whereas QA testers need to make sure everyone understands the value of testing. These 2 ideas need to combine harmoniously.

Pair testing is a great way to foster this 2-way conversation.

Strangely, only 28% of organizations use pair testing. This would explain why developers and testers butt heads in so many organizations.

Pair testing is when 2 people work together on the same computer to test the code.

That way, developers can see their mistakes first-hand, instead of feeling disgruntled with a third-party report. Equally, testers can identify repeated mistakes that developers may not notice.

When both parties are on the same page and working together, errors can be rectified without a long, drawn-out back-and-forth battle.

5. Create a software development risk register

Obviously, understanding the potential risks during software development will help you to know what to look for when testing.

A strong risk assessment identifies what could go wrong, so everyone’s on the lookout for these issues. This helps the quality assurance team stop these risks before they blow up into a crisis.

But there’s more to it than that.

By analyzing the general risks, quality assurance teams can tailor plans and create guidelines that help mitigate these risks.

For example, a big risk in software development is employee turnover. While everyone on the current team may know the expected standards, a replacement developer may not be on the same page.

Quality assurance teams can mitigate this risk by ensuring that quality guidelines are tightly written and super clear. That way, any old newbie can hit the grade without intense training.

Chart showing how many QA engineers perform risk assessments

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Despite the importance of a software development risk register, fewer than half of all testers perform a risk analysis.

Without one, you could fall foul to risks related to:

  • Estimation and scheduling
  • Scope
  • Employee turnover
  • Productivity
  • Design
  • Operational risks
  • Technical risks
  • ‘Gold-plating’ (this is when developers add unnecessary features to look flashy)
  • Security

How to use to aid software QA

Don’t make the conversation between developers and testers any harder than it needs to be.

Instead, use a tool that facilitates easy back-and-forth between team members to make sure bugs get picked up quickly and fixes get completed ASAP.

Here’s how’s Work OS can help you with that.

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1. Bug reporting

Bug reports don’t need to be static.

Instead of presenting a whole list of problems to the development team, use this Bug Reporting Template to record mistakes and monitor fixes.

Example of's bug reporting template

Thanks to these color coded status bars, it’s abundantly clear what needs to be addressed first and how far along developers are with those fixes.

By collating all the information in one easy-to-use dashboard, you can keep a record of progress, along with a running commentary on improvements.

2. Risk register

Keep a handle on your risks with this Risk Register Template.

Example of how to use's risk register

Either organize your risks by project or by risk type to make it easy for your team to understand the potential hazards — not to mention a plan of action should these issues occur.

Use the colored status bars to assign probability, impact, and risk level. When a risk is in red, it’s pretty clear that the impact would be alarming.

Assign responsibility to different quality assurance team members, so you know who is accountable for making sure each risk is kept at bay.

3. Shift Left planning

If you want to test early and often, try this Sprint Planning Template to integrate testing into your sprints.

Example of how to use's sprint planning template

Using this template, you can create your backlog and assign tasks to each sprint, attaching quality assurance mechanisms as you go.

That way, if testing throws up errors, you can immediately incorporate bug fixes into the next sprint.

Testers can leave notes and checklists in the items for developers. The development team can then respond with updates and files.

Think fast, test early

If you expect a developer to write thousands of lines of code without a single mistake, you’re living in a dream world.

That’s why software quality assurance is so important — you need to catch those bugs before they fly right through the net.

Specialist quality assurance teams aren’t as hard and fast as they once were thanks to Agile methodologies and ‘Shift Left’ thinking. That doesn’t mean you can slack when it comes to keeping a check on quality.

Instead, it means you’re going to need a tool that allows you to highlight and communicate bugs in a flexible and comprehensive way. That’s why forward-thinking software teams choose — try it for free today.

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