How to ensure an efficient Software Quality Management Process
By Sourojit Das, Community Contributor - April 18, 2022
Low-quality software not only leads to an inadequate user adoption rate but puts the company’s reputation at stake and increases software production costs. Sub-standard software results in low customer retention and disrupted user engagement. Thus it is not surprising to see 36% of respondents in the current World Quality report mention higher quality software to be the main goal of their strategic planning for IT.
Before creating an efficient SQM process, it is important to understand what it is and why is it important for software engineering teams around the world.
What is Software Quality Management and What are its components?
ISO 8402-1986 defines software quality to be “the totality of characteristics and features of a product or service that bears its ability to imply needs or satisfaction stated.” Simply speaking, Software Quality can be said to be the degree to which correct software is produced.
Read More: How to set goals for Software Quality
It is often said that it is hard to describe what quality is, but it can definitely be recognized if present. Thus, an efficient Software Quality Management process is imperative to ensure visible quality in both the final product as well as the processes required to make it. Software Quality Management (SQM) refers to the comprehensive process that ensures a software product is in compliance with not only its requirement specs but also any relevant national and international standards like ANSI, IEEE, and ISO.
In general, SQM is said to be composed of the following activities:
Quality Control (QC)
Often said to be the “tip of quality management”, this step is observed even when other aspects of SQM are overlooked. This component is more product-oriented and begins simultaneously with software development. QC includes manual as well as automated testing including phases like functionality, integration, usability, performance, and regression testing. The main goal of Software QC is to check if the software is compliant with the business requirements and prevent any major bugs from propping up once the software is launched into production.
Quality Assurance (QA)
This is the process-oriented part of SQM and needs to be inducted as early as possible in the project planning stage. QA deals with questions like:
- What are the standards that the software should comply with?
- What are the responsibilities of the individual stakeholders in ensuring high-quality software?
- What are the optimal production processes that can help prevent defects from cropping up? How do you establish these optimal production processes?
The US National Institute of Standards and Technology have postulated that it is 6 times more expensive to fix a bug found during software testing than to optimize requirement gathering in a way that prevents them altogether. A Mature and well-structured QA process aims to prevent defects rather than identify them through testing.
Read More: Essential Metrics for the QA Process
Quality Planning (QP)
A QP is either focused on company-wide quality management practices or specific projects. At the project level, a Quality Plan formalizes the aspects of SQM like:
- Roles and Responsibilities of stakeholders wrt QA
- The Software Requirements specification and the standards it should comply with
- Relevant types of testing and test documentation.
- An approximation of the test schedule, costs, and resources required
- Testing KPIs or metrics, etc.
Read More: Calculating Test Automation ROI: A Guide
Now that the overview of Software Quality Management is complete, it is important to understand the need for optimizing the same.
The Need for Software Quality Management
Software Quality Management is essential to enforce because of the following factors:
- Predictability: A high-quality software is considered predictable in its performance and outcomes. As quality suffers so do re-work and the risks of delivering a low-quality product. Delivering high-quality products on time not only reduces costs but increases stakeholder faith in the product and the company.
- Reputation: Any company is as good as its products. Mistakes leading to low-quality software can be costly, and a loss in re can cost more than just money.
- High employee morale: A confident workforce is a happy workforce. Inferior quality products lead to re-work, complaints, and loss of reputation. This in turn leads to a loss of morale and hampers efficiency and performance.
- Customer Satisfaction: High-quality products always ensure customer satisfaction. Once a product meets the user requirements to the T, the customer has no cause for complaint. Errors in the software development process cause patches and corrective versions which prevent customers from pre-booking the product, not to mention low ratings.
Gauging your current stage of Software Quality Management
An effective quality management process can be gauged by its maturity level. Before seeking to optimize the software quality management processes present, it is important to understand what stage the process currently sits at. There are several QA maturity models that can be used to do so.
The Testing Maturity Model (TMM) in Software Testing was developed in 1996 at the Illinois Institute of Technology. It lays out a set of levels through which a team or organization can move towards higher test maturity.
TMM in software testing can also be used to evaluate how mature the current test pipelines are. Once the current maturity has been measured, the TMM can also help decide targets to achieve when moving to higher maturity levels.
The Testing Maturity Model is based on the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), created earlier by the same Institute.
- TMM Level 1 – Initial
This stage verifies that the software fulfills the users’ basic requirements. There is a lack of proper documentation, testing focuses on debugging and not proactive product quality. There is a general lack of the proper tools, skills, and resources to ensure high-level software quality.
- TMM Level 2 – Managed
The test process is now defined, structured, and established into a cohesive, executable strategy. Test plans, cases, and procedures are put in place with a focus on requirements and specifications. The focus at this stage is to explore techniques that evaluate software quality rather than just fix bugs.
- TMM Level 3 – Defined
At this level, the testing pipeline is integrated into the software development lifecycle. In each sprint, the sprint development phase is followed by testing. An independent QA team examines the software with predetermined requirements in mind. However, at this stage, testing objectives also take risk management into account. Test planning is done at the start of project ideation, as well as a comprehensive test strategy to handle expected risks.
- TMM Level 4 – Management and Measurement
At this stage, requirements and goals are measured for better management. Reviews and inspection activities are introduced into the lifecycle as a part of testing. Test Cases are documented and archived to be later utilized for regression testing. The main areas of focus now are Peer Reviews, Test Measurement & Quantification, and Software Quality Determination.
- TMM Level 5 – Optimized
This stage is only reached after implementing the key activities of the previous stages. At this stage, the testing process has become result-oriented, data-driven, and cost-effective. The software test techniques, methods, and metrics are all validated and iteratively improved. Testing tools are exhaustively used to record, analyze, and report results. The hallmarks of this level are Defect Prevention, Optimal Quality Control, and Test Process Optimization.
Read More: How to achieve high test maturity using TMM
Steps to Ensure an Efficient Software Quality Management Process
The steps written below are very useful for setting up a streamlined and efficient Software Quality Management Process:
Create a Company-Wide QM Programme
Software Quality Management encompasses all possible quality-oriented activities. Quality control is more product-oriented and ensures that the software adheres to all expected user and business requirements, while Quality Assurance seeks to improve processes where defects are pre-emptively handled rather than retrospectively addressed.
It is of vital importance to QM corporate program to lay out the steps project teams need to implement and monitor. This does not require any changes to the organizational structure. Having a Test Centre of Excellence also helps to bring together a comprehensive quality plan to establish overarching KPIs, decide on recruiting and upskilling human resources, and establish a universal quality management process template that can be followed to reach a high level of test maturity.
Adhere to a Maturity Model
The hallmark of any successful SQM process is to reach an adequate stage of Test Maturity. Maturity models like the Testing Maturity Model (TMM) can help provide a roadmap for improving software quality management processes, as well as help the organization in understanding where their current processes stand.
Follow Agile Testing Processes
The main function of any software quality process is to be able to uncover defects as early as possible. The later a defect is unearthed in a software development process, the more expensive it becomes to correct. In agile teams, developers and testers do not operate in watertight workspaces. In Agile Testing processes, testing is built into every sprint and is often done by both developers and testers. But testers remain a very important part of the agile workflow. A consistent and iterative testing process is a sure way to deliver bug-free software which is why Automation Testing remains at the center of Agile Development.
Read More: Debunking Myths about Agile Testing
Automate as much of the test suite as possible
Test automation allows tests to be run fast enough to yield accurate results in short sprints, accommodating agile teams’ need for quick, comprehensive, and flawless feedback. A diligent test automation strategy allows bugs to be proactively identified and ensures optimized test maturity. This coupled with other force multipliers like Parallel testing can help deliver quality software as early as possible. By following the best practices of Test Automation, achieving the software testing goals becomes easy.
Incorporate Continuous Testing
The key to maintaining QC is to continuously test the product to ensure optimal software creation while ensuring the high watermark of QA is achieved. Both of these can be attained with the judicious incorporation of Continuous testing into the software development lifecycle. Continuous Testing ensures benefits like – Early discovery of critical bugs, Seamless collaboration among developers, QA and Operations team, assessment of the quality of software developed at each stage, Faster time to market with a viable product, and continuous feedback mechanism
Innovation is the single most important factor in growth for any organization. Following a maturity model, or incorporating state-of-the-art processes will be for naught if the QA team cannot innovate ways to get the maximum leverage from these both at a project as well as organizational level.
A Software Quality Management process is the core of any product team and ensures optimal product delivery within the expected schedule. The success of this process affects the reputation, as well as the fiscal bottom line of any company. Thus, it is extremely vital to streamline these processes to perfection. A key requirement for implementing this is to have accurate results through real device testing.
No matter the test, it needs to be run on a real device cloud. This applies to manual testing and automation testing. Without real devices, there is no way to be sure that software is performing as it would in real user conditions such as a low battery, incoming calls, weak network strength, etc.
BrowserStack’s device cloud provides 3000+ real browsers and devices for on-demand testing anytime, from anywhere. Its Cloud Selenium grid offers the same number of real devices and browsers for automated Selenium testing. Users can also opt for Cypress testing on 30+ versions of the latest browsers across Windows and macOS. Use instant, hassle-free parallelization to get faster results without compromising on accuracy.