While to err is human, sometimes the cost of a mistake might be just too high. History knows many examples of situations when software flaws have caused billions of dollars in waste or even lead to casualties.
To make sure the released software is safe and functions as expected, the concept of software quality was introduced. Therefore, we had software quality management born as an umbrella term covering three core aspects: quality assurance, quality control, and testing. Testing is the basic activity aimed at detecting and solving technical issues in the software source code and assessing the overall product usability, performance, security, and compatibility. It isn’t only the main part of quality assurance; it is also an integral part of the software development process.
Let’s find out the best practices of how to improve the quality of your software products through testing.
1. Plan the testing and QA processes
Test processes should be well planned, defined, and documented. Good documentation is the tool that builds efficient communication within the software team. So, effective planning entails the creation of the quality and test plans for a project.
Quality management plan
A quality management plan is a document that defines an acceptable level of product quality and describes how the project will achieve this level. The main goal of this plan is to support project managers. Accordingly, it should include the software quality requirements and describe how they should be assessed. Key components of the quality management plan:
- Quality objectives
- Key project deliverables and processes to be reviewed for satisfactory quality level
- Quality standards
- Quality control and assurance activities
- Quality roles and responsibilities
- Quality tools
- Plan for reporting quality control and assurance problems
A test strategy is a high-level document that derives from the Business Requirements Specification document. Usually, a project manager or a business analyst creates a test strategy to define software testing approaches used to achieve testing objectives.In a small project, the test strategy is part of a test plan. But, for a larger project, the PM has to create a test strategy as a separate, static document from which each test plan can be further developed. A good test strategy document answers the following questions:
- What is the product?
- What part(s) of it should be tested?
- How should they be tested?
- When should testing begin?
- What are the start/end criteria?
A good test plan should include the schedule for all necessary testing activities in order to control your team testing time. It also should define the roles of every team member so that everyone is clear about what is required of them. There’s no universal way of creating a test plan because it depends on the processes, standards, and test management tools implemented in the company. Some key guidelines for making the test plan more effective:
Make your test plan brief: avoid repetition or irrelevance. It should contain only the relevant information.
Be specific: include all details, e.g. editions and versions of the programs, to make the document searchable
Update a test plan: it’s a live document that must be frequently updated on an on-demand basis.
Share a test plan with your stakeholders: it will give them information about your testing processes. The quality of your test plan will represent the quality of the testing your team will to perform.
Test case is one of the key instruments used by testers, so preparation of effective test cases is an integral part of software testing improvements. Use the following practices to write effective test cases:
Identify testable requirements: identify the scope and purpose of testing before starting the test process.
Customer requirement: the specialist who writes the test case must have a good understanding of the features and user requirements. Each test case should be written keeping the client’s requirements in mind.
Write on time: the best time to write test cases is the early requirement analysis and design phases. That way QA specialists can understand whether all requirements are testable or not.
Simple and сlear: test cases should be simple and easy to understand. Every test case should include only the necessary and relevant steps. No matter how many times and by whom it will be used, a test case must have a single expected result rather than multiple expected results.
Unique test cases: each test case must have a unique name. This will help classify, track, and review test cases at later stages.
2. Test at the right time
To improve software quality as much as possible, it is absolutely paramount to test early. Because testing is really required to point out the defects and errors were made during the development phases. It also helps ensure that any defects do not snowball into larger, more complicated issues. The bigger the defect, the more expensive it becomes to iron out any issues. The earlier you get your testers involved, the better
Get testers involved during the requirements and design stage that can help the team formulate a more effective test framework. More than 70 percent of software issues in a live environment can be traced back to poor requirements.
3. Conduct formal technical reviews
A formal technical review (FTR) is an activity performed by software engineers to reveal functional and logical errors at the early stages. An FTR, is a group meeting at which attendants with certain roles ensure that a developed software meets the predefined standards and requirements, helps to prevent errors and reduce the risk of logical and implementation errors in advance. It also helps a production team observe the whole product’s features, making development more manageable.
The best time to run an FTR is when you have a mature product. But it depends on the type of review. A typical FTR requires a team of engineers with specific roles as speakers, reviewers, or producers.
4. Implement user acceptance testing
In product development, we have user persona to identify a perfect customer or a typical user for your product. A user persona is a fictional character that has the behavior patterns and goals of your product’s target audience. QA teams use personas to identify where and how to seek for a bug. To ensure that your application meets user needs, consider engaging end-users in testing.
End-user testing or user-acceptance testing traditionally comes at the final stages of software development. Engaging end-users to test your application can isolate bugs that might not normally be found. It also proves that your software is production-ready and supplies your developers with user feedback during/after the production stage.
5. Optimize the use of automated tests
If you really want to improve the quality of your software, then automated testing is definitely worth taking into consideration. Two of three key trends are increasing test automation and widespread adoption of the Agile methodologies. It’s really a wise recommendation to deploy automated testing throughout the QA process.
Automated testing means using automation tools to run the tests. When comparing manual vs automated testing, you quickly find that the main difference lies in the way each of the methods is performed. While manual testing is conducted by hand, automated testing relies on the dedicated software tools being used. Test automation tools are used to execute tests, report the results, and compare them with earlier test runs. Such an approach requires less human participation, allowing for multiple test reruns at any time.
6. Employ code quality measurements
If you still wonder how to improve software testing process, make sure your quality objectives are measurable, documented, reviewed, and tracked. There’s no single right way to measure code quality. The best advice is to choose metrics which are simple and effective for your workflow.
The CISQ Software Quality Model defines four important aspects of software quality: reliability, performance efficiency, security and maintainability. Additionally, the model can be expanded to include the assessment of testability and product usability.
7. Ensure communication between each of the member in QA team
Face-to-face communication will help avoid misunderstandings. Good communication within the team allows people to compare results and share effective solutions to problems encountered during tests. You also need a good team leader who will be able to effectively share feedback and ideas with testers. QA managers should encourage team members to speak about existing problems and other issues with the team that could impact productivity and efficiency.
It’s also important to give your testers a chance to talk about things privately, separately from group meetings. QA leaders should be flexible and open to new strategies to best serve their teams.
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