Software Quality Assurance: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Software quality assurance is a critical part of a successful software development process. The more intensive the quality assurance, the better off your business will be in the long run. 

Besides meeting the general requirements of your project, your development team should meet certain standards of technical quality on which the software development industry relies. Ensuring these standards are comfortably yet rigidly met is what software quality assurance entails. 

Of course, the specific details of software quality assurance are a bit more complicated. But you can keep reading to learn more about how your business can benefit from software quality assurance and quite frankly why your business needs it. 

What Is Software Quality Assurance?

Software quality assurance (SQA) is a methodology of checking that software development projects comply with a predefined set of standards. 

Software quality assurance takes place before, during, and after the software development life cycle

Organizations must ascertain both internal and external characteristics of a software product are up to par. External qualities describe how the software performs in real-time, while internal qualities refer to the more fundamental building blocks of the software, like the code. 

Examples of what organizations examine to guarantee external quality are reliability, efficiency, maintenance cost, and reliability. 

Internally, organizations evaluate the complexity, structure, flexibility, readability, testability, and coding practices used in the program or programs that make up the software product. 

There are two main approaches to software quality assurance:

  • the defect management approach 
  • the attributes approach. 

Each SQA approach is explained below:

Software Quality Defect Management Approach

The defect management approach works by counting and managing defects. Defects encompass a large range of errors from poor data handling to bad code. 

In defect management, once your development team has identified a defect, they assign it a category given the severity of the defect. Then, the team takes specific actions to address the counted defects. 

Usually, such an approach operates best with clear and concise control charts to measure and improve development process capability. Process capability determines how well processes manage to meet standards. 

The defect management approach works by counting and managing defects.

Software Quality Attributes Approach

The quality attributes approach directs attention to a number of quality characteristics. Depending on who you ask, there are between six and a dozen or more of these characteristics. 

This is likely because some attributes overlap or fall under one another. For instance, suitability is a matter of functionality. And usability extends learnability. 

That said, just these six basic attributes will cover what you need to know for the moment:

  1. Functionality 
  2. Reliability
  3. Usability 
  4. Efficiency
  5. Maintainability
  6. Portability

Why Is Software Quality Assurance Important?

Not only for the consumer’s sake but for the sake of the software product itself, it is important that businesses use a credible SQA process to establish a baseline of expectations for the product. 

Software quality assurance is a reliable means of producing high-quality software. There shouldn’t be much justification as to why you wouldn’t want high-quality software, but if that’s not the case consider the other reasons why improving the software quality is of the utmost importance. 

First, a high-quality software product will save you time and money. As a business, providing a good that’s worth buying is one of your primary objectives. 

If you’re building software, software quality assurance can confirm that your good, or software product, is worth buying. 

The problem with a product that is not worth buying is that you lose money making the product, and you don’t get a dime of that money back if there’s no profit earned. 

To that same end, delivering a high-quality product implies less maintenance over time because your software product will be resilient in the first place. Therefore, you can spend the least amount of time and money on upkeep, if the product needs future maintenance at all. 

Altogether, software quality assurance remains a key factor in scaling your business as well as preserving a good reputation for your brand. 

Why Is a Software Quality Assurance Plan Important? 

A software quality assurance plan (SQAP) documents the procedures, techniques, and tools your business uses to enforce quality assurance. 

Software quality assurance plans have variable formats but in almost every case, you can find these constituents:

  1. Introduction
      a. Purpose
      b. Scope
  2. Reference Documents
  3. Management
      a. Organization 
       b. Task
      c. Responsibilities
  4. Documentation
  5. Standards, Practices, Conventions, and Metrics
  6. Reviews & Audits

The SQAP is an essential step in software quality assurance as a whole. Documentation of this kind prevents reworking or renegotiating any of the processes or roles defined in the software quality assurance plan. 

In virtually every industry, keeping records prompts more organization throughout a business's workforce and workflow. Software development, and similarly software quality assurance, is no different. 

Designing your software quality assurance plan is just as important as developing your software product. In the same fashion as SQA, a SQAP empowers your business to deliver a high-quality product.

What Are the Software Quality Assurance Standards?

Quality is hard to define. When you think of something that is of good quality, does that mean that something is excellent — because that is a subjective measure — or simply fit to fulfill its purpose? 

While on the surface software quality assurance might seem just as ambiguous, there are several different guidelines for SQA that are well-recognized in the industry. It’s kind of like the scientific process, except there are multiple. 

Software development teams typically use one or a few of the following standards explained below. 

Software Quality Assurance Standards: ISO 9000; CMMI; TMMi

ISO 9000

The ISO 9000 defines a family of standards, with the ISO 9000 and ISO 9001 being standards within the family. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) first published the ISO 9000 family in 1987.

For the ISO 9000, there are several principles that put significant focus on a software product’s ability to meet customers’ needs. 

The ISO 9000 principles are as follows:

  1. Customer focus
  2. Leadership
  3. Engagement of people
  4. Process Approach
  5. Improvement
  6. Evidence-based decision making
  7. Relationship management

Currently, the ISO 9000 is one of the more widely used criteria for quality management systems (QMS). More than a million businesses and organizations across the world in 170 countries have an ISO 9001 certification. 

Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI)

There’s also the CMMI or Capability Maturity Model Integrated. This standard is popular amongst contracts for software development from the United States government.

In 2009, approximately 70% of adopters of CMMI in the US were associated with the military and/or government. The government is deeply involved with the development of CMMI, namely the Department of Defense (DoD). 

Along with the government’s help, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University created CMM — the precedent to CMMI — in 1991. This team dons the name CMMI Product Team. In 2000, the same team published CMMI. 

Unlike the ISO 9000, CMMI hasn’t quite gone global yet. Several thousand businesses in 94 distinct countries adopt CMMI but ISO 9000 is still more pervasive. 

CMMI is particularly focused on process improvement. With CMMI, organizations measure their alignment to quality assurance based on maturity.

There are five levels to meet by this measure: 

  1. Initial: No processes have been followed or documented. 
  2. Repeatable: Some processes have been followed and repeatable. 
  3. Defined: The set of processes have been defined, documented, and are subject to improvement. 
  4. Managed: At this level, organizations use metrics to measure and control processes. 
  5. Optimizing: Focus on process improvement. 

Testing Maturity Model (TMM)

Testing Maturity Model (TMM) or Testing Maturity Model integration (TMMi) is based on CMMI. Launched by the TMMi Foundation in 2005, it was designed to be complementary to the CMMI. 

This model delineates standards for software testing. Like CMMI, TMMi uses the concept of maturity levels. The five maturity levels are:

  1. Initial 
  2. Managed
    • Test Policy & Strategy 
    • Test Planning
    • Test Monitoring and Control
    • Test Design & Execution
    • Test Environment 
  3. Defined
    • Test Organization
    • Test Training Program
    • Test Lifecycle & Integration
    • Non-Functional Testing
    • Peer Reviews
  4. Measured 
    • Test Measurement 
    • Product Quality Evaluation
    • Advanced Reviews
  5. Optimization 
    • Defect Prevention
    • Test Process Optimization
    • Quality Control

Because TMMi is rather young, it is even less popular than CMMI. 

What Is the Difference Between Quality Assurance and Testing?

Quality assurance and testing share many similarities, especially when software development is the topic of discussion. 

Generally, quality assurance denotes a set of methods and activities that validate a software product’s compliance with established specifications.

Software testing is a specific activity that leads to debugging. After a function or program is written in code, software developers must test their code. 

Ideally, the code should run smoothly with no mishaps. And the idea is to work diligently at finding and fixing bugs until this occurs. 

As an illustration, imagine you’re preparing a meal. For quality assurance, there are several things that need to be in order. 

You should make sure that the ingredients for your chosen recipe are correct and unspoiled. In preparing the food, you should make sure you have the right settings on all your cooking equipment. 

For example, cooking food at high temperatures kills bacteria. The United States Department of Agriculture Cooking (USDA) recommends that steak be cooked at 145°F — which will leave you with a medium-well finish. 

Even without meat, there are still certain things you keep in mind for quality assurance. Or at least there are things you should be keeping in mind. 

Hopefully, you know that cooking rice on a stovetop only requires a gentle simmer. Otherwise, it will overcook. When you bake a cake, you put a toothpick in after the timer stops and hope that halfway-cooked dough isn’t attached to the other end. 

But testing your recipe is an entirely different thing. That’s taking your big spoon to the pot to see if the flavor is right or chewing on some noodles to examine the texture. 

Point in fact, quality assurance and testing are similar, but they are not equivalent

Who Is Responsible for Software Quality Assurance? 

It’s natural to think that a question like this has an easy answer. But in reality, everyone in a software development team is responsible for software quality assurance. 

Software testers play a big role in SQA by debugging and doing the work to ensure the final product released to the public is bug-free.

Software testers and software developers are not the same profession. Instead, software testers write bug reports so software developers can fix the buggy code. 

But without software developers, code would not execute at all. For that reason, their role in carrying out bug fixes and writing code that runs well is also software quality assurance. 

Project managers themselves do not write code or identify bugs. Yet they are responsible for numerous undertakings like defining requirements and time and task management. 

Indeed, the logic is cyclical. This is why software quality assurance is everyone’s responsibility at the end of the day

Everyone in a software development team is responsible for software quality assurance.

Conclusion

Software quality assurance is a must-have for any business using software development, whether it’s for day-to-day operations or a product for consumers. 

There are many subtopics that compromise software quality assurance including standards like ISO 9000 and CMMI; the different SQA approaches such as defect management and versus the attributes approach; and naturally, the importance of a software quality assurance plan. 

Everything you’ve learned will have you well-adjusted when it comes to implementing software quality assurance for your business. 

Have more questions about software quality assurance or even need a software development team of your own to start your next project? 

Trio has qualified software developers to do just that.  Contact Trio to get started right now!

 

 

Cordenne Brewster

Content Writer

About

A tech enthusiast whose ardor is best expressed through the written word.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Software quality assurance (SQA) is a methodology of checking that software development projects comply with a predefined set of standards.

Software quality assurance is important because a high-quality product will save you time and money. It is a key factor in scaling your business and preserving your business's reputation.

A software quality assurance plan (SQAP) documents the procedures, techniques, and tools your business uses to enforce quality assurance.