Back in the early 20th century, the term “quality assurance” used to refer to rejecting unusable components in production facilities. Fast-forward a good 100 years of rapid developments and major technological advances, and it’s astonishing that this old concept of quality assurance is still the go-to definition: “The tester’s job is to check the main functions one by one at the end of the production cycle. That completes quality assurance.”
In this article, we look at some key questions, including: Why is this definition nowhere near adequate these days? How does quality assurance work in a fast-paced, agile setting like software development? What is “shift left,” and why has this approach become essential to a company’s success in the digital world?
Quality assurance from day zero
The methods and approaches for developing software have changed and evolved constantly over recent years and decades. And agile methods aren’t really anything new, but they are becoming increasingly entrenched in every possible sphere of the digital world. This is definitely a blessing for quality assurance. Why? Because the quality managers and the development team don’t have to sit back and wait to respond to new requirements. These days, ensuring basic functionality isn’t a criterion for a product’s quality anymore – it’s long been a minimum requirement. But simply meeting the bare minimum is something that only monopolists can get away with now. If a product is to be successful on the market, it needs to meet or even exceed the high requirements and expectations its customers place on quality. The only way to achieve this is by conveying a certain awareness of quality and an understanding of these new requirements to the development team through the shift-left methodology.
What does this mean in practice?
Companies can, of course, use standard methods such as behaviordriven development (BDD) and testdriven development (TDD) to promote shift left. But even the best methods won’t be of any use if this approach to quality doesn’t become embedded in people’s minds. It’s important to engage with every role and area of responsibility, from management down to interns. Accessibility, performance, reliability, and security have to be taken into account at every level, and both nonfunctional and functional requirements need to be specifi ed, carefully considered, and consciously integrated into the development process. But this won’t happen unless there is an awareness and understanding of these aspects. Only then can the company know for sure that the product it’s putting on the market is the right one and has the required quality.
Reactive and proactive testing
Of course, companies still need to monitor quality as they have done previously, and classical reactive testing will always have its place. A sound approach to introducing and setting up automated testing means less work for quality engineers, and the resources this frees up can be shifted left. Taking quality assurance measures into account at an early stage of the development process and applying a healthy mix of manual and automated test processes leads to a high level of test coverage. What’s more, it increases the reliability of the product’s quality and thus reduces its overall risk.
In addition to this reactive process, quality control should also be proactive. This might include static code analysis, for example, in the form of reviews and by employing AI-based tools, as well as implementing continuous integration, or improving communication within the development team via various methods. All of these steps can head off potential risks, error statuses, and quality deficits or quickly resolve them if they occur.
Innovation means change
Introducing new, innovative methods and technologies requires a cultural shift within the organization. Developers and testers have to adapt the way they work and collaborate more closely. Breaking down silos and creating a culture of cooperation and continuous learning are the keys to success. Innovative ideas in quality assurance need space to grow, and companies need to create this space.
The bottom line
The only way to create a successful product is for everyone in the company to embrace a certain basic understanding of quality in everything they do. In order for this to happen, specialists in quality assurance have to pass on the necessary knowledge, ample experience, and the right tools to the development teams. Quality assurance has to be both reactive and proactive. But above all, it has to happen earlier in the process and become an active part of the company’s work. Integrating quality aspects at an early stage, close collaboration within the development teams, and ongoing improvements in testing practices and technologies are essential. These steps help to speed up the development process, enhance product quality, and meet the market’s growing requirements. Companies will find that implementing shift left and recognizing and promoting the role of quality engineers in software development pays off. Those that do so will be better equipped to develop competitive products and hold their own in our increasingly digital and networked world. And ultimately, this holistic approach to product development and quality assurance will result in more satisfied customers, a better market position, and healthy, sustainable business growth.