Testing is a vital pillar of ensuring the high quality of your software products, as well as an integral part of the software development process. It ensures that standards and regulations are continuously met when creating new software, and that anything that goes wrong can be corrected before it turns into a costly and time-consuming error to fix. With a huge number of companies moving their workflows to remote operations, and the onus on software development teams to bring products to market as fast as possible, it is more important than ever to have an efficient testing process. But why (and how exactly) should you make the effort to improve your organization’s software quality assurance? Read on to find out!
Eyes on the prize: the benefits of robust software QA
Getting your software quality assurance process right means several things for your team. It means better planning, more cost-saving, and fewer errors across all stages of development. It also presents a key opportunity to increase your team’s knowledge and efficiency, when supported by optimal procedures and organization. Finally, this will allow your software development team to bring bug-free products to market at a reduced time and cost. That’s why it is of vital importance to continuously evaluate and improve your testing strategy — to make sure it aligns with business goals and serves your overall strategy when it comes to quality assurance in software engineering.
That being said, before you start setting ambitious improvement goals and envisioning countless opportunities for innovation, you’ll need to take a step back and evaluate what you have in place. Let’s explore what key aspects you should take into account when evaluating your current software testing maturity, as well as crucial questions to be asking yourself and the team as you go along.
It all starts with your people and their environment
The work environment you create for your testers directly impacts their productivity and ability to carry out software quality assurance processes. As a result, it’s incredibly important to understand if they’re being set up for success, and if not, how to rectify it.
Quality assurance in software development involves a myriad of activities, all carried out by different types of specialists. Defining these roles at the beginning of a test plan ensures that you have a smoothly running process ahead of you. Some common roles in QA include software test engineers, test analysts, test automation engineers, test architects, and test managers, amongst others. If everybody knows the scope of the project and what they’re responsible for, as well as what their teammates are in charge of, you’re getting off to a good start and ideally creating the foundation for solid team communication.
Upskill, upskill, upskill
Investing in the development and training of your QA specialists is paramount. This helps them make strategic decisions in line with business objectives and come up with new techniques to solve issues. It’s a huge bonus if you can find testers with coding skills or train up the ones you have – engineers appreciate working with testers who can understand at least some code and maybe even code some of their own testing tools themselves. The more ways you can find to integrate the two functions, the better. Even seemingly small steps like involving developers in reviewing test documentation and conducting a product demo for the whole team before the client sees it make a world of difference when it comes to effective collaboration.
So, when evaluating your team set up and environment, and looking for areas to improve, these are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself:
- Do you have the right team structure, skills, and communication in place?
- Are the roles and responsibilities clear to each member?
- What information gaps are in the team? How can you mitigate them?
- How can you mitigate them, as well as any other risks?
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Don’t run before you can walk – choose an industry-proven methodology to follow
After you’ve assessed the state of your team, it’s time to delve deeper into the methodology (or methodologies) you are following to get the job done. While some testing teams like to organize work in their own way, this can lead to miscommunication and information gaps during quality assurance and quality control in software testing. That’s why it helps to pick an industry-proven method, get buy-in from your QA specialists, and stick to it as a team.
Once you have chosen a methodology to follow, you should identify which metrics make the most sense to track for your workflow and business goals. There isn’t just one way to measure code quality, so this can be unique to your team, not to mention overall business goals. Most teams track the primary five aspects of software quality as defined by the CISQ Software Quality Model: reliability, performance efficiency, security, maintainability, and rate of delivery. This can also be expanded to include testability and usability if needed.
So when looking into your current processes, here are a few questions you should bear in mind:
- What are the business goals and is everyone aware of them?
- Which methodology is the team using to meet those goals?
- Is it streamlined across the board? If not, how can you align?
- What quality metrics are you tracking, and how do they contribute to the success of the business?
- What opportunities for innovation can you spot? Can you shift testing to the left, what can you automate, could you be doing more exploratory and ad hoc testing for example?
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Technology & tooling matters
Once you’ve examined the status quo of your team and methodology, the final step is to evaluate the tech stack you have in place. If effective test management is the key to successful QA process improvements, test management tools are the software products that help testing teams structure and manage this process. The ultimate goal of test management is to create a predictable and controlled, yet reasonable process which can be molded to fit any project, rather than a static and strict test plan which is hard to adapt and keep updated. Testing tools can help test managers do the following:
- Create a test plan
- Capture and document requirements
- Execute and control tests
- Track and store test information
- Create test reports
- Enable data sharing between team and others
Of course, it is possible to carry out these activities manually – but that’s not only time-consuming, manual processes also leave a lot of room for error. Time and resources are better spent on innovations like automating testing, exploratory testing, and more. Using dedicated tools greatly speeds up the process and helps ensure the accuracy of testing and documentation activities.
When choosing a software tool, you’ll need to decide between a separate testing tool or an Application Lifecycle Management tool which will provide test management as part of an integrated software development approach. The latter provides the benefits of gapless traceability from requirements all the way through to testing. Intland’s codebeamer is one such tool that is used by global innovators all around the world to carry out end-to-end development through Requirements Management, Software Development, Risk Management, Quality Assurance & Testing, Release, and Operations – all in one platform.
What comes next?
Once you have evaluated the status quo and identified key areas for improvement, it is time to set objectives and decide what tactics will get you from basic testing, to efficient testing, all the way to continuously improved and optimized testing. It can seem daunting to improve a complex strategy but the benefits consistently speak for themselves. Using an integrated Application Lifecycle Management platform has the added benefit of enabling you to access key insights throughout all stages of product delivery.