Quality assurance. It’s a term we hear often in the business world. But do we think about what it means? The idea is rather simple: QA ensures a product is (of course) quality. QA is a step-by-step method to guarantee a business process or enterprise happens the way it is supposed to happen.
What’s the result of a properly executed QA plan? Satisfied customers, fulfilled employees, enhanced standard operating procedures (SOP), and boosted revenue. The challenge? We live in turbulent times. A new major disruption affects our economy and our business almost monthly.
In terms of software development, QA focuses on identifying and overseeing requirements for reliable product development. Use cases include financial software, web and mobile apps, supply chain platforms, and online/remote learning modules.
In the realm of software testing, QA manifests in careful and successful analysis of a given software item to detect the differences between existing and required conditions. A QA process is ruthless. It weeds out the bad and nurtures the good. But how is it done? Through a careful deployment of an intuitive tool powered by a provider that understands the best QA practices—a provider like TestMonitor.
QA and Testing
Often, software teams can confuse a quality assurance focus with the actual testing process. That’s kind of like confusing the map with the road. QA focuses on the processes and procedures across the entire testing project. This ensures that the software delivered to the customer is free of defects and that testing is done at every stage in the product's development.
If your QA process is effective, your team will identify defects in software before customers buy the product. This causes the software to exceed customer expectations and maintains your company's reputation as a quality provider.
A QA program saves money by curtailing returns from the first sale. You also save money upfront with QA. You avoid expensive refunds, and write-offs. You avoid going back to square one to fix a problem that should have been identified at the start.
By finding and fixing issues before the software hits the market, your company avoids costly expenditures and reputational harm that stem from needless product recalls, damage control, regulatory fines, and lawsuits. Finally, a robust QA process empowers employees, instilling them with confidence as they bask in the success of the software release and that kind of reputation, in turn, attracts future superstar employees.
"By finding and fixing issues before the software hits the market, your company avoids costly expenditures and reputational harm that stem from needless product recalls, damage control, regulatory fines, and lawsuits."
In 2019, the cinematic world was abuzz with the planned release of Cats, the film based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running Broadway juggernaut. The musical had garnered millions of fans over a multi-decade run. Expectations were beyond high for the film’s release and meteoric success. And Cats was primed for more success: Universal Studios spent $100 million to produce the film, with an additional $95–100 million for global marketing and distribution fees. An all-star cast—Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Judi Dench, and Idris Elba, to name a few—donned cat costumes and even attended “cat school”. What could go wrong?
Lack of QA, that’s what. Production was rushed. The director made needless changes right up until release. The timing of the release was disastrous. Because of QA failures within the visual-effects department, the rushed film release had to be recalled from theaters with a better version promised. The result? Millions lost in box office revenue. Universal panned by critics and viewers. A Cat-astrophe. Why? Lack of QA. Failure to adhere to expected processes.
The moral: Your QA process can either be an Oscar-level endeavor or an epic flop. So, yes ... QA matters!
Ensuring Top-Flight QA in Testing
QA managers face a growing cascade of obstacles and challenges in an evolving environment. QA managers face expectations to provide solutions within a market landscape that changes constantly. Executives expect QA managers to do more with less. QA managers can get the most out of the QA process from the start by focusing on teams/roles and requirements.
To ensure success, make sure you, as a QA manager, and your team understand every role and expectation. Of course, no two teams are alike with regard to structure, organizational needs, and team size. Testers, for example, can encompass a variety of roles: technology, business domain, various testing types, and expertise.
Every company is different—different hierarchies, different roles, and different responsibilities. Of course, there are the traditional roles of QA manager, IT manager, test manager, and release manager. These roles tend to be clearly defined by the organization in an official capacity.
"Every end user has their own point of view, and it’s important to involve end users throughout the project from the very beginning."
An end user has the final word. They’re the person who will actually use the product out in the wild. Their input affects developers, installers, and servicers of the product. The “end” in end user refers to the fact that they stand at the end of a chain of interconnected product components. Every end user has their own point of view, and it’s important to involve end users throughout the project from the very beginning.
The role of the end user as the primary software tester goes beyond testing and reporting issues. The user works with everyone in the team in order to improve and build quality into the product. When an end user gets more responsibility, they feel more engaged. And engaged testers improve QA. You can increase tester involvement through several tactics:
To ensure the top level of QA for your project, you need a way of knowing if you’re traveling in the right direction. You must have the right tool that helps define requirements and risks vital to the project—a tool that allows the team to navigate the testing project from beginning to end.
Tools like TestMonitor empower QA teams to easily deal with large amounts of requirements and risks by organizing them into groups. Users classify requirements into different types and can easily prioritize risks.
By assigning one or multiple requirements or risks to test cases, QA managers can adjust relationships automatically to connect to test runs, test results, and issues.
With the right QA tool, you’ll be equipped to interview end users and stakeholders in order to discover their expectations which will inform the analysis of documentation or design plans. You can then incorporate the data you get from interviews into an actionable requirements document.
As a result, requirements will be clear and concise, detailed, with the proper scope, quantifiable, testable, and traceable. To ensure the peak level of QA success, requirements documents should be reviewed periodically by end users and customers to ensure the requirements continue to meet the customers' needs.
Optimizing Test Plans and Test Cases
Focusing on the end-user, user acceptance testing (UAT) is the perfect technique to get their feedback. As you may recall in our opening “feline” example, the movie Cats movie seemed a success right up to the point when moviegoers actually saw it in theaters. Quality UAT tools must effectively interact with the “bread and butter” of the project—test plans and test cases.
To maximize UAT within the QA process, you have to know where your test is going. What’s the plan? Who is involved? When the time comes to plan the test, the team must have confidence that the UAT tool leverages intuitive navigation and performs the proper steps in the proper order.
Your UAT tool and process must avoid establishing an objective that’s either ill-defined, confusing, or not defined at all. The test plan must specify what success looks like. All-star planning tactics direct your testing approach, detail key testing practices, and define the responsibilities and expectations of the team, as well as the testers.
Your test objective should be simple enough to define in a sentence. By understanding the need to be met, your team can better understand how to interact and communicate the test outcome with users. Finally, once the objective and stated needs are crystalized, deployment of specific tools can be launched to cover requirements, risks, test cases, and dependencies.
A quality tool must optimize the entire testing process: test cases, requirement/risk management, test runs, results analysis, and issues management. Such tools will also offer multiple runs and milestone cloning, as well as comprehensive result tracking, smart reporting, filter and visualization options, intuitive user integration, and third-party integration for formats such as Jira, DevOps, and Slack.
As you develop a test plan, ask lots of questions: What does a successful testing look like? What are key warning signs and risks? How will we develop an interactive communication platform for team members and testers? What are user expectations and fears? What toolkit best serves the needs of the project?
Finally, test plans should include the following:
A test case is a collection of test instructions in which the outcome is either the test passes or fails. Test cases fuel the next actions in the process which, in turn, keep the results focused. Test cases define the difference between a well-designed test process or one containing numerous defects and errors. Test cases examine one scenario of functionality for one requirement.
To ensure elevated QA, focus on where defects are most likely to occur when developing test cases across the UAT process. How? Consult and trust experienced testers and designers.
"As you develop a test plan, ask lots of questions: What does a successful testing look like? What are key warning signs and risks?"
Testing provides confidence that the software will work as intended--a must-have for your QA development. Because of this, it’s important to determine what kind of testing is appropriate. Although automated testing may have its place, manual testing offers more ways to ensure quality in more complex testing projects. Test automation deploys a software-based “robot” to work within predefined values to test a specific system or subsystem. By relying on these predefined values, the auto-tester can work rapidly, comparing millions of lines of conversion data without making a mistake. Automated testing cannot stray off predefined values easily and must be trained constantly to perform correct comparisons.
Although automated testing can be effective for what is known, manual software testing is fueled by human intuition and experience to deal with the unknown—providing a higher level of certainty that the testing project remains on course no matter what tides may shift on the world stage. New designs require new testing templates and new assumptions. Only manual testing can address such a tumultuous level of uncertainty, which is why the process requires more effort.
Manual testing helps your QA team find software defects as early as possible, which reduces the cost of fixes. By planning defect inspections and involving the right people—the developer, independent reviewers, and facilitator—the team will be able to easily record all defects that are uncovered.
"Although automated testing can be effective for what is known, manual software testing is fueled by human intuition and experience to deal with the unknown."
The Right Tool
Of all the best practices involved in the UAT testing (as it relates to QA), the greatest involves choosing the best solution. By deploying the latest in cutting-edge UAT tech, you can harness the following powerful features of tools like TestMonitor:
In short, your UAT tool should improve QA by offering the best of all testing worlds—both requirements and test case management—allowing your team to dive into the details with results for each test case.
TestMonitor: Your Solution
TestMonitor takes testing to a higher level when it comes to planning test runs, analyzing test results, managing related issues, designing tests, and defining requirements and risks. The TestMonitor advantage is clear:
"TestMonitor takes testing to a higher level when it comes to planning test runs, analyzing test results, managing related issues, designing tests, and defining requirements and risks."
TestMonitor allows QA managers to track the workload of an entire team with real-time status and progress reports for test runs, test cases, and issues. Integrated reports for requirements, risks, test runs, test results, and issues ensure your team stays connected, empowered, and on task. In short, TestMonitor ensures quality.
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