Software testing and quality assurance, even though often thought to be the same thing, are not the same concepts. They have different objectives, specific features and methods that are applied. Since there are many misconceptions surrounding the nature of testing and QA, “testers” and “QA engineers” are also not clear job descriptions. To help you fully comprehend what both roles entail, we’ve decided to take a closer look at what QA and testing really mean.

Even within the quality assurance team, there might be different opinions on what the job title should be.  Some disagree with calling it “quality assurance” because it is impossible to ensure the quality of software with the activities they do. However, others do not like to be called testers because they feel they do more than just testing, like working closely with the development team to prevent defects.

Many organizations sooner or later realize that teams containing only developers simply cannot deliver the desired product on their own. The customers who have used the services of such teams start complaining that the final product has many mistakes and does not meet their requirements and needs. Currently, many organizations decide to open their own departments dedicated to testing and broadly defined as QA. Unfortunately, in most cases the name doesn’t reflect the truth – in fact, they employ manual and automatic testers who simultaneously test different products, forgetting about the principles of maintaining quality. After some time of developing a certain product, organizations find out that although the users of the product don’t complain about errors, they are still not fully satisfied with the level of quality of services. This is because most people who are not directly involved in QA often do not know or understand the difference between quality assurance and testing.

What is Quality Assurance?

Quality assurance is a way to avoid mistakes and consequently prevent any potential problems in your project. It is the part of quality management that focuses on maintaining the integrity of the product or service, giving confidence that all desired requirements will be met. This method develops ways to control the flow of work to make it easier to find errors during the software development process. 

QA is one of the pillars of success with IT solutions because it takes on some management issues: development methods and techniques, project analysis, checklists, etc. It is much easier to achieve a long-term goal with a well-planned testing process evaluation strategy, as it makes the development process more effective. It’s important to follow the strategy at all stages of product development to meet the highest quality criteria and track progress of a project as well as the work of every team member. The QA team collects and analyzes statistical data from the product development process to shift the progress whenever necessary. In our experience, having such statistics helps the whole team find weaknesses that affect the product. In principle, there is a risk at each stage, e.g. a large number of regression errors, minor adjustments that will require additional financial resources and postponing the release date beyond the desired range. It’s safe to say that QA work affects all product development processes, such as the pre-design phase, proper development with testing, and, finally, product release. In an ideal environment, QA can simplify things and change processes so that problems do not occur. In practice, it reduces the problems significantly. It’s worth having the QA principles in the back of your head and sharing that responsibility with the whole team.

What are the benefits of software quality assurance? Find out

What is Software Testing?

In brief, software testing is a way of testing the system in order to find possible defects and bugs as well as checking the action pieces of code written by developers. Different methods are used to test the product, locate errors, and check if they have been fixed. Testing allows us to check whether the developed product meets the expectations or customers’ needs regarding design, compatibility, functioning, etc.

In general, we can call it a group of processes whose aim is to make sure that the current version of the product gives results as close as possible to those defined in the acceptance criteria or other specification. One of the biggest advantages of testing in IT projects is providing error reports that are clear and understandable. That way, developers can easily understand what went wrong and how to fix it. It’s worth mentioning that testing can only find weaknesses and defects in an existing product or smaller chunks of it. 

Tests can be carried out using various methods and types of approaches, they can be fully automated or performed manually. If possible, they can be carried out for static or dynamic elements at every stage of the chosen development cycle. Simply put, testing is designed to ensure that problems with the product do not reach customers after it is released correctly.

The Difference Between Quality Assurance and Testing

Briefly, Software Testing helps find and fix already existing mistakes and Quality Assurance helps avoid them. Both of these processes are important and if you want to meet the best quality criteria, you cannot have one without the other. But a separate QA department in IT is quite rare, that’s why sometimes it’s better to outsource one than build an in-house team. 

QA is about making sure that the design meets stakeholders’ expectations, while testing is mainly detecting the bugs or bigger failures. Testing focuses on system control and error detection, with product orientation and corrective actions. Testing is about checking the behavior of the application, while quality assurance is about making the overall quality level of the project better each day. 

Some may worry about the risks involved in extending the team: every additional tester added in a product development team makes the development cycle more expensive and less competitive than other products that offer the same function.  On the other hand, it is impossible to find a person who would be familiar with all stages of product development at such a high stage that they will be able to competently assess its effectiveness from the start. However, if we look at the product development cycle, it’s obvious that the team with testers that are starting working in a project from the beginning is gaining crucial expertise over time. Therefore, in most cases, Testers can perform Quality Assurance duties, because they are familiar with every aspect of the product and specific conditions such as business logic behind it. This situation is also fairly reasonable because being aware of the problems that emerge in the product development process, it is also easier for team members to pinpoint their main roots in the process of their manufacture.

After analyzing these two concepts, we can compare them according to their purpose, subject matter, definitions, type of action, and orientation. QA controls the testing process and verifies that the software is capable of working under certain conditions. Testing focuses on case studies, implementation, and evaluation. QA means quality assurance and it is common knowledge that quality cannot be “tested” in a product. Therefore, quality assurance is mainly about optimizing the process in such a way that quality is achieved. To track the success of such quality measures, manual tests are often used and their respective reports. 

Quality Assurance is the overall management approach to ensuring the successful implementation of a company’s quality objectives. It covers all processes, policies, standards, tools, training, etc. that are necessary to support the successful achievement of quality objectives. Testing is a very small part of a well-integrated quality assurance strategy. A good quality assurance strategy should be both proactive and reactive.

Quality assurance vs testing - illustration

Let’s meet halfway: quality control

The methodology that connects quality assurance with testing is quality control. This methodology focuses largely on the search for errors in the operation of the application by testing software at various test levels and types. The more types of the tests covered, the better it is for the overall tendency of discovering defects. Each level of tests covers different types of usage, e.g. acceptance tests with real users in comparison with integration tests of web services. 

Quality control is heavily product-oriented. It verifies and validates the product for compliance with the users’ requirements and recommendations. Based on that, the engineers responsible for quality control write appropriate tests answering the demands. From time to time, quality control may be considered as the end of the production line or last stop of maintenance, however, this is not completely true. The intent of quality control is to prove that the product does work as intended by breaking it or finding differences between requirements and current working results, but testing itself is an endless action and testing cycles will continue until a decisive person responsible for maintaining the overall quality plan decides to stop.

Testing is in fact a part of quality control activities. It is the process of building a system with the intention of finding faults. In this approach, frequent detection is just as important as maintaining overall quality every day of the development cycle. Quality assurance should be the commitment of every person involved in the development work. The quality of software cannot be ensured by one or even several QC activities performed by one directly delegated person. From the very beginning, teams focus on quality, above all working together, listening to each other, helping each other, choosing the right tools and support process – a process that requires cooperation at every stage of software development. Quality means being responsible for one’s work from the first second to the last moment of work in production.

The key to your project’s success and why it’s so important

Testing software is important because we all make mistakes, it doesn’t matter how cautious we are. No one is infallible. Some of these errors are small, but there are also those that are expensive and even dangerous – that’s why it’s better to find errors at early stages or even before starting actual development. 

Since we assume in advance that the results of our work may contain defects, we must ensure that they are found and corrected. By combining the two approaches described in this article, we have a greater chance of success. Isn’t that what we all want?