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In software development, delivering high-quality products and services is critical. To achieve this, organizations must adopt robust software quality management practices.

This article will explore the best practices in software quality management, focusing on the fundamental principles and strategies to help organizations develop reliable, secure, and user-focused software solutions. By following these best practices, organizations can improve their software development lifecycle, reduce risks, and ultimately deliver better software products to their customers.

What is Software Quality Management? 

In the fields of software development and software outsourcing, software quality management, or SQM, is an essential process. It includes a variety of methods and techniques designed to guarantee that software products fulfill predetermined criteria, conform to customer specifications, and provide excellent outcomes. Throughout the software lifecycle, SQM is a proactive strategy that starts before the development phase.

The goal of the software quality management process is to create and maintain software quality so that you can guarantee that your solution satisfies all expected quality standards established by your client while considering necessary regulatory and development criteria.

Software quality management comprises three main areas: software testing, quality assurance, and quality control.

Software Testing

Testing is mainly the process of identifying and resolving bugs in the software's source code and evaluating the product's overall performance, security, compatibility, and usability. Based on the methodology applied to the software development cycle, it is a targeted task that test engineers do either during the designated testing stage or simultaneously with the development process.

Unit testing, integration testing, and user acceptance testing are just a few examples of the different stages that testing activities cover. Software developers and testers may find and fix problems through thorough testing, guaranteeing that the finished product meets customer expectations.

Quality Assurance

QA is a methodical quality management process that assesses whether a product or service will satisfy a customer's demands and requirements. Establishing and maintaining the standards required for creating reliable products is the primary goal of quality assurance. By implementing an effective quality assurance system, you can boost your job efficiency and raise client confidence.

Quality assurance (QA) is essential to the early detection and prevention of product defects. Its principal undertakings include:

  • developing quality standards and procedures
  • creating rules to adopt throughout the development process
  • creating metrics
  • reviewing and modifying processes to improve them

Software developers, QA engineers, business analysts (BAs), and other internal specialists can all be involved in the QA process. Its main objective is to create an environment that guarantees the development of high-quality products and, consequently, builds client confidence.

Quality Control (QC)

QC assesses the software product's quality as it is being developed. Finding and addressing errors from the established standards and requirements of customers involves systematic validations and inspections. Quality control (QC) operations involve code reviews, software testing, and inspections to ensure the software satisfies the requirements and works as intended.

In short, quality assurance is a collection of methods designed to avoid errors and guarantee quality. Quality control is a collection of methods designed to find defects and issues with the products before they are delivered to final consumers. Testing is one of the methods of finding bugs and defects in the software.

Do’s and Don’ts of Software Quality Management

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Do: Implement Continuous Testing and Integration

Continuous testing is an approach where the apps are tested at every stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC). Its primary objective is to improve software quality and development efficiency in the continuous delivery process. Some advantages of continuous testing are:

  • Better speed: Agile and DevOps are dynamic methodologies where continuous testing is critical because it speeds up product delivery. Faster go-to-market (GTM) tactics are one way that this acceleration might improve corporate processes.
  • Improved code quality: Continuous testing raises the code standards by identifying defects early in the development cycle, which lowers the probability of errors.
  • Cost efficiency: Continuous testing seeks to reduce costs by reducing the number of defects that make it into production and raising the bar for code quality.
  • Increased security: Due to continuous testing, applications are shielded against unanticipated changes and security risks before, during, and after deployment.
  • Improved team communication: The degree of cooperation necessary for successful continuous testing not only helps teams find issues faster but also helps teams get more in line with each other's overarching goals, which include user experience and business objectives.
  • Standards for quality assurance: The Quality Assurance team is held to a high level by continuous testing, which guarantees that the early investments in things like test automation pay off.

Don’t: Point fingers for software bugs

Quality, in software and in general, is everybody’s responsibility. So, when a bug gets introduced in the application, it isn’t helpful to look for the person responsible for creating it (or missing it during testing), but this is a time when all the team members should work together to fix it and prevent a similar situation from happening.

For example, the development team can improve the test coverage of unit and integration tests. In contrast, the QA team can see why the test cases did not uncover a bug and improve the testing strategy to make sure that better coverage is achieved during both automated and manual testing.

Don't: Overlook Documentation

Documentation should not be overlooked. It records the testing process, documenting test plans, test cases, and test results. Having well-documented testing procedures makes the testing activities transparent, traceable, and consistent. It also enables better collaboration among team members and improves communication with stakeholders.

Documentation can serve as a reference for future testing cycles or when encountering issues in the software. By maintaining thorough documentation, organizations can enhance their testing efforts' efficiency, accuracy, and reliability, leading to improved quality in software development and, ultimately, a better user experience.

Do: Focus on User Experience and Feedback

Customer satisfaction should be one of the biggest priorities in any project. To ensure the final product meets expectations, get user feedback by conducting usability testing or recruiting a group of beta testers. Regularly gather and review user feedback by conducting surveys, monitoring online reviews, or conducting focus groups. Multiple methods for gathering feedback to identify trends or common issues among different segments of the target audience.

Both qualitative and quantitative user feedback—which is based on views and perceptions—are possible (based on numerical data and metrics).

Incorporating user feedback into the quality assurance process involves several steps. The first step is to gather user feedback through surveys, focus groups, usability testing, or online reviews. It’s also important to analyze and prioritize the feedback and consider the feasibility and resources required. Consider incorporating this feedback into the testing plan and involving the development team. The testing team can validate changes or new features based on user feedback from usability testing or surveys. 

Don't: Ignore Technical Debt

Technical debt, sometimes referred to as tech debt or code debt, is the term that describes the results of activities taken by development teams to accelerate the delivery of a project or a piece of functionality that eventually demands refactoring. Put another way, it's the outcome of putting quick delivery ahead of quality code.

Ignoring technical debt and putting off paying it off can result in more costs, reduced revenue and sales, and a drop in client satisfaction and retention. It can also reduce team output, raise the danger of cybersecurity attacks, and make it more difficult for a business to develop and stay flexible. 

Businesses must give technical debt management a priority in light of these consequences. Companies can effectively manage technical debt and lessen its impact on their operations by identifying and prioritizing technical debt, investing in continuous integration tools, cultivating a quality culture, regularly assessing technical debt, and finding the right balance between short- and long-term goals. 

Businesses should make sure they are delivering high-quality goods, offering a first-rate customer experience, preserving team productivity, reducing cybersecurity threats, and planning for the future by giving technical debt management first priority. 

Do: Prioritize Security and Compliance

As a QA leader, balancing testing speed with risk reduction while complying with new regulations can be challenging. Testing teams should prioritize data compliance and security to ensure safe scaling. Start by implementing security-by-design or privacy-by-design approaches in collaboration with architecture, development, and other stakeholders. Consider basic data requirements such as encryption, perimeter control, breach detection, compliance demonstration, and test plan revision. 

For mature products, focus on common use case testing like OS-specific, administrative access, single sign-on, password complexity, and user controls.

To ensure successful collaboration between testing and development teams, it's important to keep QA involved from the beginning. This helps avoid working at cross purposes and minimizes the need for direct user input later. Building privacy and security compliance into test cases can streamline work and simplify regulatory audits. A test management system that integrates with development and product planning tools can help keep all teams coordinated.

Don't: Skip Post-Release Support

While the team may be relieved after the release, the work is not yet done. The app's reliability must be guaranteed by ongoing maintenance and support. A methodical approach to post-development support can have a significant impact. 

Keep in mind that software maintenance is not limited to the phase that follows development. Along with ensuring that their program is error-free during development, dev teams also need to ensure it is scalable and safe. If they don't continue to improve their program with new features and bug fixes, it can become outdated even before it is released.

There are four types of software maintenance: corrective, adaptive, perfective, and preventive. 

  • Corrective maintenance involves keeping an application running.
  • Adaptive maintenance adapts to environmental changes like hardware upgrades, operating system updates, and security policies. 
  • Perfective maintenance evolves with user preferences, deleting redundant functionalities. 
  • Preventive maintenance makes minor adjustments to ensure software applications work longer.

Do: Go low-code where it feels right

There’s been a considerable debate going on for the past few years about whether low-code or no-code solutions are worth the trouble for automated testing. This type of automation tool usually requires no (or very little) programming knowledge from the testing team and relies primarily on record-and-playback approaches.

Low-code automated testing tools can benefit businesses of all levels, including those with limited coding experience and pro-code software developers. These tools reduce the need for coding experience and replace manual testing processes with automated automation. This allows testers to focus on innovation and testing that requires human oversight, such as exploratory testing. Low-code testing solutions enable users to quickly generate test scripts, run tests on multiple applications, increase test coverage, and perform regression and end-to-end testing faster.

Don’t: Leave Stakeholders in the Dark

Stakeholders should be actively involved and informed throughout the entire software development process. Firstly, they should have a clear understanding of the project's goals, scope, and objectives from the very beginning. By involving them in the initial stages of the SDLC, such as requirement gathering and analysis, stakeholders can provide insights and help shape the project's direction. This ensures that their expectations are aligned with the development team and prevents any misunderstandings or scope creep down the line.

Secondly, regular and transparent communication is essential to keep stakeholders informed of the project's progress. Providing timely updates, progress reports, and regularly scheduled meetings or demos ensures that stakeholders have a clear picture of how the development is proceeding. This allows them to provide feedback, raise concerns, and make informed decisions throughout the SDLC.

Best Practices for Implementing Quality Management

The Software Quality Management Process can go through several phases before it reaches maturity.

Practice 1: Implement a Company-Wide Quality Management Program

All quality-focused activities are covered by software quality management. While quality assurance aims to improve procedures where defects are prevented rather than fixed retroactively, quality control is more process-oriented. It guarantees that the software complies with all anticipated user and business criteria.

Set clear process guidelines for project teams to follow and monitor. This doesn't mean overhauling your entire organizational structure. What helps is establishing a Testing Center of Excellence to play a key role in shaping a comprehensive quality strategy. It's where decisions are made about hiring and upskilling human resources, developing overarching KPIs, and creating a standard quality management process template that can be followed to achieve a high degree of test maturity.

Practice 2: Use Test Automation

Integrating test automation is a game-changer for an efficient Software Quality Management Process. Pivotal to this are automation testing tools, which offer speed, accuracy, and consistency in testing. By automating repetitive and time-consuming tests, teams can focus more on complex, high-value aspects of quality assurance.

Automation not only streamlines the testing process but also enhances the overall reliability and robustness of the software. It ensures continuous testing throughout the development life cycle, enabling early detection of defects and contributing significantly to the quality of the final product.

Many testing types are ripe for automation, ranging from functional to non-functional. This includes performance testing, accessibility testing, and compatibility testing, among others.

Practice 3: Consider Agile Testing Processes

The primary goal in any software quality process is the early detection of defects. The later a bug is discovered in the software development process, the more expensive it will be. Agile test management tools are a critical component, and testing is often conducted collaboratively by development and QA teams – in incremental stages – to detect defects sooner, enhancing the overall quality of the software.

Software Quality Management is anchored in adherence to established standards, comprehensive testing, and a strategic approach. By embracing internationally recognized standards and focusing on quality assurance, planning, and control, organizations can systematically ensure their software aligns with user expectations and industry norms. A thorough quality management strategy involves a balanced mix of preventive and corrective measures and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Practice 4: Utilizing Metrics and KPIs Effectively

A quantitative assessment of the program is frequently necessary, much like in all scientific and engineering fields. These metrics are particularly useful for assessing the quality of software and are applied in many different contexts, including planning and performance optimization.

Some key metrics that are helpful in the testing process are:

  • Test coverage: it’s a metric that measures the percentage of an application being verified by existing tests. It can be calculated using two formulas: Test Execution and Requirements Coverage. Test Execution determines the number of tests already run and the total number of tests to be run. Requirements Coverage calculates the number of requirements covered by existing tests and the total number of requirements. 
  • Defects per requirement: this can also be useful in monitoring the number of defects that appear for tests covering each requirement. It can reveal if certain requirements are riskier than others and if the requirement may not be realistically deployable in its current state.
  • Test cost: QA teams must keep track of their spending to justify their budgets. There are two main numbers to consider: the total cost allocated for testing and the actual cost of testing. The cost of testing per requirement, per test hour, and per test case can be calculated. 
  • The cost per bug fix: this means the amount spent to have each bug fixed by a developer, factoring in the dev's hourly rate and the cost of testing each bug fix. These calculations may need adjustment in the real world where requirements and bugs may not be equal.
  • Test case effectiveness: it is important to keep track of test execution status to report daily/weekly progress and efficiency accurately. Using visual aids like bar graphs or pie charts can make reporting easier. 
  • Defects per software change: this metric can be measured to make informed projections about what bugs to expect with each change. Defect distribution over time helps pinpoint which areas need more attention, and categorizations like cause, module, severity, and platform can be helpful.

Tools and Technologies for Quality Management

To make sure that the quality of the software meets expectations, the right tools and methodologies must be used. These tools have many uses, from planning and developing to carrying out, keeping an eye on, and reporting on your SQA procedures and outcomes. They can, for instance, automate laborious processes like testing, examining, and confirming your program. They can also offer immediate feedback on the functionality and quality of your program, assist in finding mistakes or defects before they impact users, guarantee adherence to rules and industry standards, and enhance teamwork and communication with stakeholders and clients.

Essential Tools in Quality Management

Below is a non-exhaustive checklist of tools to consider in the software testing process:

  • Project management tools: Tools like Jira or Trello are top-rated for project management, especially when working with Agile methodologies like SCRUM or KANBAN.
  • Bug-tracking tools: For better traceability, track bugs using a specialized tool. Sometimes, these tools can overlap with the project management tools (like Jira).
  • Test case management tools: Great for improving the testing processes, allowing the testing team to better plan their efforts, generate regression testing plans, and generate valuable reports and metrics.
  • Automation testing tools: Used for unit testing, integration (or API testing), and UI testing. They can be applied for functional testing and non-functional testing, such as performance testing or accessibility testing.
  • Continuous Integration and Delivery (CI/CD) tools: Help with version control, code reviews, build and test automation, deployment automation, and monitoring. Some CI/CD tools are CircleCI, Travis CI, GitHub Actions, GitLab CI/CD, and Azure DevOps.

How to Choose the Right Tools for Your Team

One of the biggest challenges is deciding which is the best tool for the team. Many factors should be considered before integrating tool integration. Important points to consider:

  • What are the project’s requirements? Begin by listing the project's requirements and issues you want to solve with the testing tool. Ask questions about the application's language, the type of application that needs testing, and whether you need cross-device or cross-browser testing. For web applications, note the supported browsers; for mobile apps, list the compatible mobile operating systems, and for desktop apps, list the required platforms.
  • What is the learning curve? Especially when it comes to automation tools, it's important to assess your team's skillset and experience level. If your team has no prior experience with software testing, look for a tool that offers extensive training resources or tutorials. Also, ensure that the tool selected does not require any additional technical expertise beyond what is already present in your team.
  • Can it improve collaboration within the team? To ensure successful testing cycles, choosing a tool for efficient collaboration and communication between teams in different locations or departments is essential. Look for tools that offer real-time reporting and automated notifications to keep everyone up-to-date on project updates.

Takeaways

Quality management is important in the software development process because it enables high-quality software to be released. By following best practices, the team and stakeholders can maintain good communication, which leads to a better understanding of the requirements and better QA activities. 

The right tools and frameworks can also improve the testing (and development) processes. This means a more productive team, better time-to-market, happier end-users, and, of course, higher revenues.

Continuous learning helps professionals stay up-to-date and competitive in the business world. Organizations need to prioritize continuous learning, which, in turn, leads to improved processes and outcomes.

If this article answers some of your questions about quality management and testing, please subscribe to the QA Lead's newsletter for more insights from our experts.

Andreea Draniceanu
By Andreea Draniceanu

Hi there! My name is Andreea, I’m a software test engineer based in Romania. I’ve been in the software industry for over 10 years. Currently my main focus is UI test automation with C#, but I love exploring all QA-related areas 😊