Software testing and quality assurance (QA), even though often thought to be the same thing, are not the same concepts. Software testing is the process of evaluating a software product to identify defects before it goes live. QA, on the other hand, involves all the planned and systematic activities throughout the software development lifecycle to ensure that the software meets the specified quality standards.

They have different objectives, specific features, and methods that are applied. Since there are many misconceptions surrounding the nature of software 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.

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illustration to Can QA really ensure a software's quality?

Can QA really ensure a software’s quality?

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

The role of QA departments in organizations

Many organizations sooner or later realize that teams containing only developers simply cannot deliver the desired product on their own. 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, 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.

Because of that, only somewhere deep in the development process, organizations find out that although the product’s users don’t complain about errors, they are still not fully satisfied with the level of service quality. This is because most people who are not directly involved in QA often do not know or understand the difference between quality assurance and software testing.

What is quality assurance?

What is quality assurance?

Quality assurance is a way to avoid mistakes and consequently prevent any potential problems in your project. Quality assurance software testing is a method to evaluate a system or its components to check whether they meet specified requirements. It is a 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 addresses some management issues: development methods and techniques, project analysis, checklists, etc.

The importance of a well-planned evaluation strategy

A well-planned quality assurance testing process evaluation strategy makes achieving a long-term goal much easier, 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 the 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.

The role of early quality assurance testing

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. Early testing in the software development life cycle is crucial as it impacts the overall software quality.

It’s safe to say that quality assurance 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 quality assurance principles in the back of your head and sharing that responsibility with the whole team.

What is software testing?

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.

Software testing allows us to check whether the developed product meets the expectations or customers’ needs regarding design, compatibility, functioning, etc. Automated testing is a significant part of continuous testing for saving time and effort.

The advantages of software testing

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 specifications.

One of the biggest advantages of software 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. Automated testing further enhances this by quickly identifying issues and generating detailed reports.

It’s worth mentioning that testing can only find weaknesses and defects in an existing product or smaller chunks of it. Functional testing checks the part of the system necessary for a user to complete a business scenario.

Various types of software testing

Tests can be carried out using various methods and approaches, fully automated or performed manually. Automated testing is particularly beneficial for repetitive tasks and regression tests, ensuring consistent results without human error. If possible, they can be carried out for static or dynamic elements at every stage of the chosen development cycle.

Simply put, software testing is designed to ensure that problems with the product do not reach customers after it is released correctly. Integration testing is a level where a complete software system is tested as a whole to verify the product’s compliance with functional and non-functional requirements.

Performance testing

Performance testing evaluates the speed, responsiveness, and stability of a system under different loads. Regression testing verifies software behavior after updates to ensure that changes haven’t harmed the updated element or other product components. Security testing is crucial for ensuring software vulnerability identification and protecting against various attacks.

System testing

System testing aims to mimic what users experience with the product in real life. The testing phase is important in the software development life cycle. Unit testing is the smallest testable part of the software system, performed early in the development process. User acceptance testing (UAT) focuses on verifying the product against end-user requirements.

The difference between quality assurance and software testing

The difference between quality assurance and software testing

Briefly, software testing helps find and fix 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. However, a separate QA department in IT is quite rare, so sometimes it’s better to outsource one than build an in-house team. Integration testing is a crucial step in verifying the product’s compliance with functional and non-functional requirements.

Roles and focus of quality assurance and software testing

QA ensures that the design meets stakeholders’ expectations while testing mainly detects bugs or bigger failures. Testing focuses on system control and error detection, with product orientation and corrective actions. Testing is about checking the application’s behavior, while quality assurance is about improving the project’s overall quality level daily. User acceptance testing (UAT) helps decide if the product meets acceptance criteria and is ready to be shipped.

Balancing teams and responsibilities

Some may worry about the risks involved in extending the team: every additional tester added to 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 level that they would be able to assess its effectiveness from the start fully. However, if we look at the product development cycle, it’s obvious that the team with testers who are starting working on a project from the beginning is gaining crucial expertise over time.

Comparing QA and software testing

Comparing QA and software testing

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 the 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. Quality assurance controls the testing process and verifies that the software is capable of working under certain conditions. Software testing focuses on case studies, implementation, and evaluation. 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.

QA as a management approach

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. software testing - illustration

Let’s meet halfway: quality assurance and 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 tests covered, the better it is for the overall tendency to discover 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.

System testing is a stage that verifies the product’s compliance with functional and non-functional requirements.

The role of quality control

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 to address 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.

Unit testing is the smallest testable part of the software system, performed early in the development process.

Testing as part of quality control

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 supporting the 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

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

Testing software is important because we all make mistakes, no 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. The testing phase is crucial in identifying and correcting errors early in the development process.

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. Testing at different stages of the software development life cycle is essential to ensure overall software quality. Isn’t that what we all want?

What are the benefits of software quality assurance? Find out