Like any professional service, engineering and integrating software systems carries some risk. A minor miscalculation in a line of code can bring down an entire system, causing your client to lose time and money. That’s why quality control should be at the forefront of your mind throughout any software or system project, and a formal quality assurance program should be in place to prevent or catch any errors or issues before they can cause problems.
According to Bender RBT Inc., a firm specializing in requirements-based testing, there are three key reasons for a strong focus on improving the quality of your software solution:
- Reducing the costs to detect and remediate defects
- Reducing the time it takes to deliver the software
- Improving the probability of successfully installing the right solution
By focusing on quality assurance and testing from the start, you can detect any problems early and minimize the cost of fixing them, while reducing the risk of system and software failure for your client. At the same time, a thorough QA methodology reduces the risk of being sued by your client for delivering a product that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do – or worse, that damages other system components.
What Is Quality Assurance?
Conducting quality assurance involves using systematic processes to examine the quality, efficiency or effectiveness of a system or software. These processes are designed to identify opportunities for improvement and develop ways to implement those improvements, as well as to continually evaluate the project and the improvements made to it.
In the software world, QA means monitoring software development processes to ensure quality, and often involves ensuring compliance to standards such as ISO 9000 or CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration). Both of these approaches give developers and systems integrators a framework to guide process improvement for virtually any type of project.
Regardless of the method used, quality assurance is an ongoing process – starting before a project begins and continuing even after it’s complete. For a software designer, quality assurance might encompass careful advance planning and design before any code is written, a comprehensive process for making and documenting changes, and a detailed QA testing methodology to flush out any defects in the product so they can be corrected before release.
According to Bender, it’s about shifting from a focus on defect detection to a focus on defect prevention. Bender notes that the requirements-based testing process addresses two major issues: first, validating that the requirements are correct, complete, unambiguous and logically consistent; and second, designing a necessary and sufficient set of test cases from those requirements to ensure that the design and code fully meet those requirements.1
The overall requirements-based testing strategy, Bender notes, is to integrate testing throughout the development lifecycle and focus on the quality of the requirements specification. This leads to early defect detection, which has been shown to be much less expensive than finding defects during integration testing or later.1
Done well, an ongoing quality assurance process with thorough QA testing involves the entire project team and calls upon each person to take responsibility for the quality of the end product. Accurate record-keeping and a focus on continuous improvement are critical, as is the need to continually monitor the QA process itself to ensure that it’s effective.
How Does QA Help Control Risk?
A quality assurance methodology is a valuable part of an overall risk management strategy designed to protect you and your business.
Careful project management and QA documentation typically result in a better-quality product that’s less vulnerable to scope creep and delays, resulting in a more satisfied client and better management of risk for your business (See A Simple Solution to Reduce Liability Insurance Claims: Change your Quality Control Practices). But more importantly, a solid QA and testing methodology helps you reduce your exposure to a lawsuit from your client.
Without ongoing QA, your project could fail to meet identified objectives, creating delays that cost your client both time and money. At the same time, your software or system’s failure or inability to integrate could have a negative impact on other system components, causing downtime or financial loss for your client. Any of these scenarios open your company to liability if a client should decide to sue you for damages.
A controlled development and quality assurance testing strategy helps you create a better-quality product that requires less maintenance and repair over time, keeping clients happy and helping you avoid potential lawsuits. At the same time, a solid QA strategy, implemented early on in the project, reduces costs for your client because it’s less expensive to fix a problem the earlier it’s identified.
Once the work is complete, you’ll also be able to draw upon your QA testing documentation to show your client evidence that any defects have been identified and corrected, and that the product accomplishes the client’s intended objectives. Such documentation reflects well on you as a systems integrator or software programmer who can manage your work and deliver a product that meets the client’s needs. Plus, it could serve you well in court if you should ever have to defend yourself against a professional liability lawsuit.
Writtten by Brenna Lemieux - check her out at Google+ or Twitter