Before talking in particular about quality assurance, it is best to determine what quality management is and what are its components. Quality management is a general notion for all actions taken and processes underwent to ensure that the excellent level of performance is provided and maintained. The notion is also commonly known as TQM – total quality management, – since it includes quality policy, planning, assurance and improvement. Each of the aspects is more or less intuitively understandable, though complex at the same time, since they bear the whole range of activities and processes which need to work as one whole.
It is a document that contains, defines and enlists all the attributes, requirements and descriptions of how the product will look like, what the main functions will be, how the processes will be executed, by who and via what tools.
What is the QA then? QA in particular is a set of measures and activities implemented with the aim to make sure that the final product or service will meet the established quality level and client’s requirements.
Different sources provide their definition, but in other words, quality assurance is making sure that things work the way they are supposed to. Whether we are talking about production, software development, or even writing, quality is your key to success, audience satisfaction and customers loyalty. Quality assurance activities are meant to monitor and verify that all processes planned and all methods applied meet the needed criteria. It can be characterized as preventive in nature and is always undertaken from the very beginning of production launch, accompanying each phase and till the finish line, sometimes even further (if we are talking about software or other goods with the need of constant improvements).
Among quality assurance examples can be found in all fields which deal with products – manufacturing (ensuring that all standards are implemented and the each piece of a car meets the standards), foods (aimed at best quality provision, compliance with world standards and safety protocols), pharmaceutical industry (in healthcare it can cover for medicine production in providing the safety assurance and full information specifications).
Your next question might be ‘What is a QA manager?” – it is a person who develops, implements and improves all the procedures and activities aimed at end product’s high quality and standards compliance. It is difficult to overestimate this position, since it is the key if you search for ways to provide excellent products and services.
Quality assurance test is an action performed to identify whether the product in fact fulfills its purpose, whether everything functions properly and in accordance with the established standards. QA testing can be considered from two perspectives – manual and automated. The first type is performed by people – the team’s resources, QA engineer, etc., when the second one – by additional software and with the help of other machines. Below there are several examples for each of them:
Many people tend to confuse QA with quality control (QC) and even use them interchangeably. Even though these two notions seem to be similar, one cannot replace the other. The below simple chart shows the best visual way to understand the differences.
Quality control is a set of measures and actions taken to check the ready product and ensure it has no crucial bugs and functions properly. When QA is preventive in its nature, QC is detecting, aimed at verification. QC is also applied on the final stage of product’s development – before the release and can be considered as the final milestone.
If there is QA at place, does it mean we no longer need quality control? It is easy to have such an attitude, however this is not correct. Even though a proper QA aims at preventing all possible defects on the preliminary stages, something will for sure slip through or even appear anew without being foreseen by QA team. All in all, it is much better to fix the issue before the release rather than to have it reported back by users.
As it derives from the name, statistical QC uses statistical methods and techniques to conduct the monitoring of the product quality. One of the methods is known as acceptance sampling and is used when one needs to give a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ to a group of parts or items. For example, when the manufacturer needs to deliver a big portion of products, it is optimal to use this method and check the quality of a certain sample, rather than evaluating thousands of pieces. In case the sample proves alliance with the standards, the whole batch can be accepted.
Statistical process control is a set of activities aimed at monitoring of an ongoing process. Its aim is to ensure that the process runs by the most optimal scenario with minimum possible waste, reworks.
Among commonly used tools of QC, we can enumerate the following ones:
As we can see, the majority is usually focused around visual component and tends to provide the needed breakdown of reasons, immersion to the most important and crucial.
When it comes to SQA (software quality assurance), there are two basic levels of quality – functional and non-functional. The first one includes product’s functionality, interface, features – everything from user’s perspective. Non-functional category includes everything inner – sustainability of the code, security protocols, and so on. It is highly important to build up such a process which will allow to ensure that from planning to development the team is working under the same idea on quality requirements, and that audit and inspection are performed on each stage of production – the sooner implemented, the better.
Quality improvement is at the same time both the component of TQM (total quality management) and its final goal. All the activities described above are a part of the ongoing improvement process, which starts with planning, goes hand-in-hand with all QA activities and receives the contribution at QC as well. There are several tendencies and innovations in TQM and teams’ management in general.
A lot of companies are switching to Agile approach within their teams. With this change the whole team, each and every member, becomes fully responsible for the quality in general, unlike it was before.
At the same time, within the last years crowdtesting has taken its place as one of quality improvement drivers, allowing end users to connect and contribute as well. When many people have the possibility to become an auditor, tester, participate in QA, the developers not only gain the better opportunity to release top product, but also to optimize their costs and processes.
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