Why is quality assurance important?
The benefits and importance of quality assurance to any delivery team, explained
Today, when the development sphere has gone way beyond traditional software, most IT practitioners are aware of the value a quality assurance (QA) team can bring to their product.
Just a few years ago, this wasn’t the case, as far fewer companies engaged in quality assurance practices. It wasn’t uncommon for developers to ask, “Why is quality control important?”, or “Why do we need a QA team?” While these views are less commonly held today, quality assurance as a practice is still vastly undervalued in many organizations.
Leaders who define QA teams as the group that “just tests software” fail to realize the true goals and responsibility of quality assurance as a practice. In this article, we’ll explore why QA is important and matters for successful business outcomes.
Can you ensure the quality of a product without quality assurance?
From a budget standpoint, it might seem reasonable to ask your software developers to test their own code. Why bother about a dedicated QA team when you can cut costs and deliver the product to the market faster? There are some successful examples of teams that operate without quality assurance, like Facebook or Yahoo. However, such practice suits enterprises with highly evolved team cultures and require a significant amount of test automation.
By limiting testing activities or moving them lower on the list of your priorities, you might be missing out on ways to improve your application. Also, the bugs may not only mar the user experience, but severely compromise your product reputation and stability. The aforementioned tech giants are also not immune to these pitfalls. Below are a few well-known incidents caused by plain oversight of those responsible for quality control:
- Starting with the one from 2016 you might’ve heard of: Concerning Yahoo, when hackers leaked 500 million credentials due to a software security breach.
- Often called “history’s worst software bug,” a miscalculation in the software of a radiotherapy device caused the radiation dosage to go 100x higher than it was intended. Needless to say, the consequences were disastrous.
- Another error involving lack of quality control caused a commercial flight crash back in 2015. Airbus confirmed that a serious assembly control issue was the cause of the tragedy.
- Let’s finish with an example from the finance sphere from 1996, when a First National Bank of Chicago system error at a major U.S. bank credited $920 million to 823 clients’ accounts. The bank was quick to get the entire amount of money back, but can every financial institution be this lucky next time?
Below, we will explore the purpose of quality assurance and the main benefits of including QA in the product development process in detail.
The importance of a QA team
As stated in Wikipedia’s quality assurance definition, it’s “a way of preventing mistakes or defects in manufactured products and avoiding problems when delivering solutions or services to customers.” There’s more to QA than this, after all.
Benefits of quality assurance a skilled QA team can bring
1. QA teams help in meeting customers’ demands and expectations more fully
Whether your application is B2B or B2C, user experience can make or break your product. In the case of enterprise software, companies go for solutions to solve their business inefficiencies and accelerate their processes. Slow, unproductive, and glitchy software will fail to bring the organization value. Quality assurance helps ensure that end users are satisfied, and the application closes all functionality gaps as is expected of it.
2. QA teams help to build trust with customers and beat the competition in the long run by producing a better product
Having a high-quality product makes the process of building long-term and mutually beneficial business relationships much easier. This is especially true with B2B products. By prioritizing quality, you will help your customer generate value and eventually, greater profits. In the long run, the stability and sustainability of the services and products you offer will convert clients into returning customers.
3. QA processes help to save costs by detecting and fixing issues and flaws early in development
Bugs will happen; they’re an inevitable part of the software development cycle. What you want to avoid is the chaos of discovering them too late in the development process. Late-stage functionality issues inevitably cause delays and hurried fixes, and clog developers’ schedules, eating away at the resources you’ve planned for other activities. Organized testing processes and having a clear test implementation strategy will allow you to allocate your resources more strategically and catch the bugs before they cost you more work hours than you have available.
4. QA analysts assist in setting and maintaining high quality standards and shift focus from detecting issues to their prevention
Gradually and with time, a consistent quality assurance strategy, coupled with agile methodology best practices, will bear fruit and result in more time for exploratory testing and searching for improvement possibilities
Investing in quality assurance is not only worthwhile, but indispensable, particularly given today’s fierce competition in IT. It is useful to know and use QA team best practices to achieve optimal results. So, let’s discuss how to create a good quality assurance team and run it effectively.
Creating a QA team
When building a QA team, it’s crucial to consider your key goals and choose candidates based not only on their current skills but also on their potential for growth. Before you set off, make sure you have clearly defined QA team roles and responsibilities in order to choose the team members who are most suitable for the role.
Since quality assurance engineers usually handle diverse tasks with different complexity levels, the best approach to compiling a team is not to look only for the best and brightest. A solid team is comprised of varying skill levels, not just all-stars. The team will benefit from members who are able to diligently handle routine, repetitive tasks. Those who are perfection-driven, people who tend to look deep into the root of an issue, team members with leadership qualities, techies, and even freshmen will make a good addition to the team, as long as they are open to learning new things.
Read also: How to Become A Software QA Analyst
Managers should work to discover everyone’s talents and consider an individual’s unique skill set when assigning roles within the QA team.
Managing a QA team
Like any team, a QA team is strong and successful when it’s well organized, features a healthy atmosphere, motivation, and a common goal. All of this is the result of solid management. Typically, a quality assurance team lead possesses superior technical skills and expertise, but not necessarily the knowledge of how to run a QA team. Aside from the general guidelines on team-building, here are some industry-specific recommendations that are worth considering and implementing:
- Make sure that the requirements for each test case are specified clearly and understood by team members for greater performance
- Establish rules and processes for everyone to follow (you can involve all team members in their creation)
- Track progress on all projects regularly
- Encourage ongoing learning, improvement, and support initiatives
- Provide each team member with the software quality assurance tools necessary for the most effective work
- Nurture a friendly atmosphere within the team
The aforementioned recommendations can be successfully applied both to teams gathered “under one roof,” as well as remote and hybrid teams.
Final thoughts on the role of quality assurance
QA analysts usually hear questions like, “Does Google have a QA team?” The answer is yes! And so should you. Behind each successful and high-quality product, there’s a team of professionals who work on maintaining and improving its quality standard and serving as a sentry against bugs and defects to stop them from getting to users. A QA engineer questions the developers’ work on improving software by dealing with finding and fixing all kinds of flaws.
Editor’s note: The article was first published on March 14, 2020, and was updated for relevancy and accuracy on September 30, 2021.