We test, so we do quality, right?

The difference between testing and quality is often overlooked by organisations, or simply not understood, with many assuming that the premise of ‘we test, so we do quality’ holds true.

Testing forms an important part of a quality assurance (QA) journey, but an overall quality approach must encompass all project activities across the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) covering off QA from inception to delivery and governance.


So, what is quality?

It is important to first distinguish between a quality product and a quality process. 

Defining product quality is hugely subjective, based on your point of view (customer, consumer, provider etc.) and often, on how well the product does what you need it to or how much it impacts you.

Whereas a quality process should act as an enabler via a measurable, repeatable and scalable system ensuring continuous improvement over time. Quality processes should help you build quality into a product and refine your quality benchmark, thus providing confidence to your end customer.


And what is testing?

Testing is an activity that occurs on a deliverable, in order to measure its perceived quality.  It is important to note the term ‘perceived’, as depending on the type of testing being undertaken the objectives of quality are very different. 

Testing helps support the delivery of a quality product provided it is run as part of a quality process. Testing needs a strategy, approach, and plan derived from quality processes to ensure that the product quality delivery is robust.


Why is the difference important?

Often testing is your only means of measuring or implementing quality projects. Without understanding the true functions of testing and what needs to be achieved, most projects will run into difficulties once testing begins.

This happens due to a number of factors but is centered mainly on the premise of carrying debt forwards.  If you do not have mechanisms in place to measure quality during all phases of the SDLC, it is often difficult to attain your objectives at every stage.  For example, can you clearly articulate and measure the objectives coming out of a functional design phase of your project?  If you cannot do this for all milestones or phases of your project, then the chances are that each phase will accumulate items that are not fully met - this is what we term debt.  This debt is often exposed by testing, causing significantly more defects and functional gaps to be found than was originally expected and a divergence from the intended goals, which increases the risk of a project. 

In a nutshell, when we leave something to the last minute, the outcome and the costs associated will show that. The goals of both testing and quality management are to reduce risk early in the project lifecycle. How? By applying shift-left thinking, ensuring requirements are met, planning and coverage are considered and implemented earlier to avoid the loss.


How do I get quality through testing?

In both sequential (Waterfall, V-Model etc.) and iterative (Agile, Kanban, DevOps etc.) delivery models there are different phases or activities that are undertaken as part of project delivery. With a quality process, you must be able to identify all activities and, for each one, articulate the intended goal or outcome and how you can measure it.

Shift-Left thinking needs to be applied to ensure requirements are thought of earlier than later. Carrying out analysis of requirements, project planning and risks will ensure coverage is adequately mitigated.

Quality assurance is an essential component of your IT investment. Getting it right from the start decreases the gap of uncertainty. Even more imperative if your product must be “on point” from the get-go. Within the especially competitive consumer-driven market where brand is everything, an absolute must.


Resources to help you on your quality journey...

To enhance your understanding of the quality process and the key steps along the quality pathway, download our 'QA Bundle' which includes an easy to read infographic, “What a Digital Quality Strategy Needs”, to ensure the quality coverage on your next IT project or programme is optimised for quality outcomes.

From here, you’ll also be able to access our checklist “How Does Your Quality Stack Up?”, to get your own Quality Score by answering a few key questions about the state of your organisation’s QA processes, people, and technology.

Get your free infographic and checklist here now.