The right time to involve QA in software development

The importance of quality assurance in the early stages of the software development process.
Sagar Rajput_avatar
Sagar Rajput
Dec 22, 2021 | 6 min read

In today's world, every software development team strives to create quality software, and there is a strong emphasis on delivering quality products to end-users. It has become vital to find the right stage to include quality assurance in the software development process.

Quality Assurance (QA) is an essential part of any software development. It helps the product team save time and money and increase the product quality. Agile software development is an iterative process, and each iteration involves a cross-functional team working simultaneously on different phases such as planning, designing, coding, and testing. This blog talks about the importance of involving the QA team in the software development process from day one.

The Problem: When should testing be performed?

Some teams include QA in the early stages of the software development process, but many still rely on the traditional way. They have the basic concept of Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) in mind: Requirement gathering, Designing, Coding, Testing, and Delivery. As a result, the QA comes into the picture only in the testing phase of SDLC.

The same thought process is prevalent during a sprint in Agile methodology. As per the traditional way, all the SDLC steps occur within a sprint. It makes sense, right? How can you test something before it is ready? However, there is a problem with this traditional way of thinking. The teams do not feel the need for Quality Assurance until the software development is complete. And it seems like an opportunity to save on QA resources. Unfortunately, this leads to increased risk, cost, and project timeline. For example, consider that team A did not include the QA team until the testing phase. During the testing phase, on reviewing the product documentation, the stakeholders noticed that it did not meet their expectations. As a result, team A had to rework.

Bugs found in the testing phase require reworking the existing code, leading to extra time. Nobody likes surprises this late into software development as it often leads to delays and higher costs. It is vital to minimize and avoid any of these outcomes. The best way to do this is to include QA during the first phase.

Impact of early involvement of Quality Assurance

qa efforts The above chart compares late and early participation efforts of QA at different stages of software development. It is evident that not involving QA in the early phase of software development can make it tough to cover every aspect of quality in the testing phase. There are several benefits to having a QA in the early stages of software development. The following are some of them:

  • Product knowledge: Product knowledge is essential for QA to carry out their work perfectly. With experience, QA can help analyze the stakeholders' requirements by understanding the product documentation, UX wireframes, etc. The knowledge gained can be used to assist the development team.
  • Understanding the Unknowns: QA can spend dedicated time digging deeper into product documents to understand the exact needs of stakeholders and raise questions to identify the unknowns. Of course, QA cannot discover all the unknowns, but the number of unknowns can drastically reduce.
  • Test strategy: By the design phase, QA has a bright picture of the software requirements, design, and technology stack that the development team will use. Here, QA can create testing strategies that are more aligned with developers.
  • Feedback on user stories: With knowledge and product experience, QA can help developers better understand the scope and requirements of user stories.

Going further, let's see the role QA can play in the different phases of software development.

Role of Quality Assurance

Requirement gathering phase

Requirement gathering is a very initial phase of software development. Usually, in Agile projects, the scope and requirements are not detailed and precise and lack clarity. Requirement gaps can have a major impact on the time, quality, and cost of the project.

QA can determine whether the requirements document correctly represent what the stakeholders’ need. QA can help determine the correct definition and documentation of stakeholders’ need. QA can raise questions to address unknowns in the requirements.

Design phase

It is the stage of piecing together the requirements for building the skeleton of the final product. It helps visualize the final product by planning how to get there.

With expertise and product knowledge, QA can help review product designs. Expert and experienced QA can also give feedback on the chosen design method. Based on their experience, QA can give feedback on complex user stories. It is the best time to come up with a test plan. QA can identify the focus areas for testing and determine whether to consider APIs, GUI tests, other focus areas. QA may consider various tests required for the software product.

Development phase

In the development phase, the actual implementation happens. Involving QA in the early stage makes it easy to achieve goals.

An extra pair of eyes always helps. QA can pair with the developers to brainstorm the user stories. The knowledge gained in the earlier phases plays an important role here. QA can monitor the features and user stories under development so that testing can begin as soon as the development is complete. QA can start writing test cases. The team can then review the test cases written by QA.

Testing phase

The testing phase is when QA has to hit the ground running, and a good quality analyst knows how to break things.

Involving QA in the initial stages makes tasks easy and less time-consuming, thus sparing time for exploratory testing. In this phase, the developers have already fixed most bugs, and the QA verifies the bug fixes and regression. In this phase, the QA can test localization, cross-browser support, and test out the edge case scenarios that are less likely to occur on the production.

This post aims to understand the importance of QA in the early stages of software development. Quality assurance plays a vital role even after the testing phase. Not only can they take responsibility for software deployments, but, also help debug production bugs.

Conclusion

Modern software development accentuates quality software and prioritises quality assurance. Adding early QA (product spec and design phases) to software development leads to early spotting of common mistakes and thus prevents a possible burst of bugs at the end-stage. It also leads to the QA teams gaining a better understanding of product features, the requirement of the feature, and the best way to build to improve user experience. This initial engagement results in a faster feedback loop; it saves time and money with the quality product.