Unravelling the differences: Quality Assurance vs Software Testing

10 Oct 2023
Unravelling the differences: Quality Assurance vs Software Testing

The pursuit of excellence is a cornerstone of business success, and even more so in the dynamic world of software development. Ensuring the reliability and quality of software products is not only the responsibility of isolated testing teams, instead, the responsibility lies with the entire organisation. Quality assurance and software testing are pillars upon which great software is built, and understanding their unique roles is vital for businesses aiming to deliver excellence through their software products. The two pillars differ in the objective, core activities, and tools used to achieve the objectives.

Quality assurance (QA) is a systematic approach to preventing defects and ensuring that software meets the required standards. It involves planning, implementing, and monitoring processes to ensure that the product adheres to quality guidelines. QA spans the whole of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). On the other hand, software testing focuses on finding defects and identifying bugs in the software through various testing techniques and methodologies.

Understanding quality assurance

QA is an overarching approach with the goal of ensuring that software meets the required standards while preventing as many defects as possible. QA is all about building quality into the software development process from the very beginning, rather than trying to catch errors at the end.

The goal of QA is to minimise the number of defects that make it into the final product. This is done by implementing standardised processes, procedures, and guidelines that ensure that all team members follow the same quality standards. These standards cover everything from coding practices to documentation to testing methodologies across the entire SDLC.

In essence, QA is about building a culture of quality within the software development team and ensuring that everyone is focused on delivering a high-quality product. According to this process, everyone on the team is responsible for the quality of the product.

Quality assurance during the software development lifecycle

QA is involved in every stage of the software development process, from requirements gathering to deployment. In the requirements-gathering stage, QA is responsible for ensuring that the requirements are clear, complete, and testable. During the design stage, QA ensures that the design meets the quality standards and is testable. During the development stage, QA monitors the development process to ensure the code is developed according to quality standards.

By ensuring that the software meets the required quality standards, QA helps to minimise the risk of defects, which can be costly to fix and can damage the reputation of the software development team.

The importance of software testing

Software testing is the process of finding defects in the software through various testing techniques and methodologies. Testing is an important component of the software development process because it helps to identify defects early in the development cycle when they are less costly to fix. Before the advent of Agile development processes, software testing took place at the end of the development cycle and was the sole responsibility of the testing team. These days however the software tester is an integral part of the development team, and testing starts much earlier in the SDLC.

Testing can be performed at various stages of the software development process. Testing that’s done earlier in the SDLC is often cost-effective and less complex, as it is usually easier to fix any bugs and issues it uncovers. Each type of testing has its own goals and objectives, but the overall goal of software testing is to ensure that the software meets the required quality standards and is free of defects.

Testing is important because it helps to identify defects that may not be apparent during the development process. Even the most experienced developers can make mistakes, and testing helps to catch those mistakes before the software is released to the end-users.

Quality assurance vs software testing: Key differences

While quality assurance and software testing are related, they are two distinct components of the software development process. Key differences between the two components lie in the objective, core activities, and tools used in each process.

Quality assurance ultimately seeks to prevent defects: a correctly followed process should yield a quality product that adheres to requirements. Software testing aims to validate that the software aligns to the stated requirements and that it operates as intended.

Core activities
The core activities of QA center around the methodology that will guide the development process: defining and refining processes, ensuring that staff meet capability requirements, and conducting evaluations. Software testing activities include test case design and execution, reporting defects, and analysis of results.

As QA is a process or approach rather than an action like software testing, its tools relate to process management, auditing, and training rather than execution. Software testing tools will depend on the type of testing performed such as test automation or performance testing. It also includes test management software and defect tracking systems.

Types of software testing

There are several types of software testing, each with its own goals and objectives. These include:

Functional testing
Functional testing is done to verify that the software meets its functional requirements. Determining exactly what those requirements are is part of the overarching QA approach.

Test Automation
Software test cycle times can be reduced through test automation which speeds up regression testing. By removing the burden of manual regression testing, the time to market can be significantly improved – in this case from 3 days to only 2 hours.

Performance Testing
Performance testing validates the software and its environment at different user loads to ensure that there are no bottlenecks or other issues impacting the user experience during times of high traffic.

Security Testing
Security testing aims to identify flaws in security mechanisms to protect data and maintain functionality. This type of testing also evaluates a system’s ability to withstand different types of attacks and provides the opportunity to prepare for potential security incidents.

Accessibility testing
Accessibility Testing is done to confirm that the system complies with accessibility regulations. Regulations that guide the minimum requirements for accessibility for those with different abilities are a growing trend and compliance holds multiple benefits such as a bigger user base, improved brand loyalty and overall user experience, and the reduced risk of litigation.

The benefits of implementing quality assurance and software testing

Implementing quality assurance and software testing can provide several benefits, including:

  • Minimising the risk of defects and bugs in the software
  • Improving the quality of the software
  • Reducing the cost of fixing defects
  • Improving the reputation of the software development team
  • Ensuring that the software meets the requirements of the end-users

By implementing quality assurance and software testing, software development teams can deliver high-quality software products that meet the needs of their end-users.

Best practices for quality assurance and software testing

To ensure that quality assurance and software testing are effective, there are several best practices that software development teams should follow, including:

  • Defining clear quality standards and guidelines
  • Implementing standardised processes and procedures
  • Focusing on continuous improvement
  • Using automated testing tools and methodologies
  • Collaborating and communicating effectively within the team

By following these best practices, software development teams can ensure that their quality assurance and software testing processes are effective and efficient.

Conclusion: The symbiotic relationship between quality assurance and software testing

While both QA and software testing share the common goal of ensuring software quality, they approach it from different angles. Quality assurance proactively prevents defects, while software testing diligently identifies them. By harmonising the strengths of quality assurance and software testing, organisations can achieve the holy grail of the software world—delivering high-quality products that cater to the diverse needs of their end-users. This symbiotic relationship between quality assurance and software testing ultimately paves the way for the delivery of excellence through high-quality software products.

Mathew Zungu

Test Architect

Mathew Zungu is a Test Architect at Inspired Testing. His passions include Business Agility, Continuous Quality, Test Automation and Design Thinking. He holds a Masters in Business Administration and his experience in software quality spans nearly two decades.

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