From mobile games to software for launching rockets into space, improving product quality, whatever it may be, is more and more important for businesses on a daily basis. And the main role in this is played by specialists who ensure software product quality.
All of them are divided according to their professional levels and areas, but they have one goal – verification and availability of quality standards for the product that is being developed. An outsider may suggest that all “testers” got results after completing boring tasks, but this is not the case. In this article, we will try to understand what professional testers like Quality Assurance engineers actually do and what is their role in the team.
A quality assurance engineer is a specialist whose activities are aimed at improving the software development life cycle, preventing defects, and identifying errors in the operation of the product.
Tasks and responsibilities of QA engineer in project maintenance
The main task of a software test engineer is basically quality assurance. QA engineer focuses on software development processes, improves them, and prevents defects and problems (makes sure you are doing the right things, the right way).
The quality assurance job description consists of the following components:
- verification of product requirements;
- risk assessment;
- test plans to improve the quality of the product;
- software testing planning;
- analysis of test plans and results.
Inside the quality assurance process, the Quality Control process stands separately. QC specialists analyze the test results and are responsible for identifying and eliminating defects in the product (make sure the results of what you have done are what you expected).
An even narrower specialty within QA / QC is a software tester who checks the finished product for errors (bugs) and non-compliance with requirements, and then documents the defects found and ways to reproduce them. Software testing is one of the stages of quality assurance and quality control.
QA roles and responsibilities on maintenance software projects
1. Quality Assurance Analyst (Test Analyst) – is engaged in static testing of requirements: checks if they are complete, unambiguous, consistent, etc.
2. Test Designer – creates a set of tests based on requirements, and plans the necessary configurations for software testing.
3. Test Executor – executes pre-prepared tests, documents found errors, and steps to reproduce them.
4. Test Manager is more of a manager than an engineer. Plans and controls work related to testing: estimates of deadlines, work on the schedule, control of coverage of requirements by tests, setting tasks for development team members, and communication with stakeholders.
“Quality assurance specialist must understand exactly at what point the tester will take over, and have time to prepare a test plan, test documentation, test environment by then”
“The tester knows how the system works, how it doesn’t work, and where it doesn’t work as intended. He knows how to determine what caused the error, or at least knows where to look for it. The more experienced the tester, the more challenging and interesting the work seems to him”.
Sometimes people are blurring the differences between the positions of QA and tester, and think that in practice they are one and the same. While in theory, the tester tests the product as a result, the quality assurance engineer works to provide processes that can improve the software quality as a whole.
“If we were talking about medicine, then quality assurance would be doing prevention, and testers would be doing diagnostics. But it so happened that these two different professions have become synonymous. Even in test plans for customers, testers are recorded as quality assurance engineers”.
Quality assurance engineer responsibilities include:
- Analysis and clarification of requirements with the customer or business analysts;
- Planning the testing process;
- Writing test cases (test scripts);
- Functional testing;
- Identification of problem areas, entering them into the tracking system;
- Discussion of fixes with software developers;
- Tracking the life cycle of errors;
- Re-test of fixed defects;
- Testing analysis;
- Optimization of the software testing process;
- Analysis of teamwork processes;
- Improvement of processes;
- Maintaining test documentation.
“A good quality engineer understands the logic of the product and knows the project thoroughly: the requirements, the current state of affairs. He may have to answer clarifying questions from software development engineers who only know their part of the task and related areas”.
A typical working day for a quality assurance engineer includes:
- Writing test cases, testing, and documentation of errors (depending on the phase of the project);
- Checking the bug-tracking system for the appearance of corrected errors;
- Stand-up rallies;
- Studying the requirements, and their clarification with the customer;
- Active communication with developers;
- Preparation of test documentation.
“Morning is a revision of the tasks that fell or gathered during the night. Day – preparing and launching compilations, analyzing the results of automated tests, issuing tickets, etc. Evening – restarting compilations and updating task statuses in the bug tracker”.
Advantages and disadvantages of hiring QA for a maintenance project
QA engineers are attracted by the opportunity to improve the software quality and at the same time master different technologies and delve into the details of the product.
“I like the opportunity to realize my perfectionism without compromising my social life” Some respondents note that interest in work increases over time: at first it is not clear what is being done and why, and then understanding and a desire to take on complex tasks comes. “This profession requires the presence and constant application of analytical skills. It does not allow you to relax and mentally degrade, but makes you constantly study new technologies and areas of knowledge”.
Last but not least is the opportunity to join the world of high technologies and high salaries. Some quality engineers came to their profession because they wanted to work in IT, and the entry threshold for QA is lower than for a programmer. Some consider QA work to be more interesting and varied than developer work.
“I went to QA because I’m interested in IT, but I don’t want to be a programmer. I like to figure things out more, look for errors, especially in logic, that Business Analysts and developers might have missed”
“A tester should be cleverer than a programmer… Well, at least smarter!” “The thinking of programmers and testers is “sharpened” in different ways. The programmer looks for a short path to a solution, reaches the goal – and after that, he strives for new tasks. And the tester thoroughly checks the unaccounted moments, checks different combinations”.
The monotonous component of work is considered to be the main disadvantage, especially at the beginning of a career. This includes passing test cases during manual testing and working with documentation. “Disadvantages, most likely, can be called most of the routine work that must be done.”
The benefits of hiring QA for project maintenance
- QA engineers perform additional checkups while working on the software product under maintenance services like the checking of saving the user data under the regular solution updates, therefore, QA prevents user data loss;
- QA specialists additional test the software product on the latest versions of operating systems to prevent the software system errors that may occur to end users;
- QA is capable of reproducing the error that was revealed in the production stage and building the plan of steps for its reproduction, thereby the developer doesn’t spend time searching and reproducing the error but can resolve it at once;
- QA needs to discuss the client’s concerns related to the software product, specify the core problems and requirements in order to convert these concerns into tasks or required changes for further software development process;
- QA engineers always pick the client’s and users’ side; that is why testers think of all possible scenarios and behaviors of users to check each of them, which eliminates the system errors and bugs in the production stage.
You need to understand that QA is, in fact, the user’s advocate. In any incomprehensible situation related to the operation of the application, the tester must put himself in his place. If through this simple manipulation of consciousness, it turns out that the application does not suit something, then you need to start a ticket. And it can be a button in the wrong place or some other little thing from the developer’s point of view, but it often happens that for the user this little thing can turn into hell and an annoyance point.
As an example, you can take the wild number of pop-ups in the application. Yes, the program performs its function, but it is difficult to use it, because this function takes a lot of time and effort for the user, who has to click through a bunch of unnecessary windows with downloads and other things, instead of doing all the work on one screen.
And if a person approaches his work responsibly and with common sense, then he will be able to avoid most of the problems on his way, not only in the QA profession.