Quality Assurance and Quality Control (Testing)

What are Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC)?

Quality Assurance is defined as any system devoted to ensuring a product or service meets specific requirements and standards. The implementation of Quality Assurance differs between industries, products, and companies but the focus is the same; ensuring the final product/service meets the criteria it needs to in order to be considered a sufficient final offering.

A common misconception is that Quality Assurance is a form of testing, but this is not the case; good QA is present throughout the development of a product or service as it is focused more on preventing defects in the processes used to create the products, not identifying them. Which brings us nicely to Quality Control…

Quality Control (Testing) is a reactive process with the objective being to identify discrepancies in a product and then correct them; this is where the testing happens. QC is usually the responsibility of a single team, this in contrast to Quality Assurance which is the responsibility of everyone working on the project.

Unlike QA, Quality Control is not necessarily present throughout the entirety of the development lifecycle for a product; it is usually carried out near the end when there is a product to test. However, QC can be utilised earlier in the development of a product and there are benefits to implementing tests at all stages of development.

Why are they important?

There are many benefits to both implementing Quality Assurance measures and carrying out Quality Control testing during a project, with the most obvious advantage being a much higher chance of a high quality product at the end which of course has positive effects on the reputation of the product/service provider.

Consistently producing high quality products is a sure-fire way of developing a positive reputation among customers as well as other internal and external stakeholders. If a customer purchases a poor quality product or service, they are unlikely to return for more; QA and QC can help to ensure a customer is satisfied thus increasing the chances of that customer making a return purchase.

Costs of no QA/QC outweigh those of QA/QC

Quality Assurance is something that is often overlooked due to the effort, time and money it can take to put in place, but the costs of no QA or QC can potentially be much higher.

No QA can lead to negative impacts on the development lifecycle of a project; if defects aren’t prevented as the product is developed then the best case scenario would be that they are caught during testing and easily fixable, but this is unlikely. The more likely scenario is an overwhelming array of defects that require a lot of time and money to fix, or even worse, the need to start over. Here the costs start becoming apparent; the development timeline has to be extended, pushing deadlines back, resulting in financial repercussions with regards to both the extra money spent on fixing the defects and the losses that come with pushing back product/service releases.

See the graph below for an example of how the cost of fixing defects in software rapidly increases according to the lateness in the project lifecycle.

 Costs of bugs

These impacts are enough to make any project manager shudder but despite this, many defective products still get the go ahead for release. That’s when the real damage happens.

Developing a bad quality product is one thing, but releasing a bad quality product is just inviting trouble. Earlier in this post was a description of the benefits of QA and QC that explained how much they can help improve a reputation, unsurprisingly the opposite happens when a product’s quality hasn’t been assured and/or controlled.

The reputation of the product/service provider will be severely damaged, customers will lose faith and trust in the provider, and they certainly won’t be making any further purchases in the near future. The ramifications of a product lacking in quality are not limited to the business, they can also have serious consequences for customers and users of the product/service.

A good example of these impacts is the RBS IT Meltdown of 2012 where, through poor quality assurance and control, 6.5 million customers were unable to properly access their money. The failure, caused by a faulty software update, resulted in the Royal Bank of Scotland being fined £56 million (€78.9 Million)as well as having to shell out over £125 million (€176 million) in compensation and costs, on top of the ‘hundreds of millions’ they have since put into improving their computer systems.

Conclusion

Both Quality Assurance and Quality Control are vitally important in the development of any new product or service; the benefits they bring are invaluable while the risks created by developing a product without the necessary QA/QC measures should be enough to make a person recognise that QA/QC are integral in any success the product/service provider is going to have.