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Activities Involved in Software Quality Assurance

Software quality assurance clubs together various tasks and activities. There are seven major activities namely application of technical methods, conducting of Formal Technical Reviews (FTR), software testing, control of change, measurement and record keeping and reporting.

Software Quality Assurance (SQA) starts early along with the process of software development. It is initiated with the help of technical methods and tools that enable the analyst to achieve a high quality specification and help the designer to develop a high-quality design. We can always point specifications ( or the prototype ) and the design are individually checked for quality.

Formal Technical Reviews (FTR) is employed for this purpose and by its means the members of the technical staff undergo a meeting to identify the quality problems. Many-a-times reviews are found to be equally effective just as the testing of uncovering defects in software. The next step in the software testing which involves a series of test case design methods to enable effective error detection. It is believed that the software testing can dig out most of the errors but practically as the fact goes no matter how rigorous the testing may be it is unable to uncover all the errors. Some errors remain uncovered. Hence we have to look up to other measures also but this should not diminish the importance of software testing.

Application of formal and systematic standards and procedures vary from project to project and company to company. Either the standards are self-imposed in the whole of the software engineering process by the software development team or they are carried out as per the client’s dictation or as a regulatory mandate. If formal i.e. written, welldocumented standards are not available then it becomes imperative to initiate an Software Quality Assurance (SQA) activity so that the standards are complied with. Also an assessment of this compliance must be regularly undertaken either by the means of Formal Technical Reviews (FTR) or as an Software Quality Assurance (SQA) group audits which the team may do on its own.

Nothing bothers the whole of the software engineering process more than the changes. Any and every change to software will almost incorporate an error or trigger side effects that will propagate errors. The ill influence of changes can vary with nature of the change and it also depends at which stage they are to be incorporated. Early changes are much less harmful than the ones, which are taken into design at a later stage. This is so because any change in the specification or the design will demand a re-lay out of all the work done so far and in the subsequent plans.

Hence the importance of a well-defined specification and detail design are again highlighted. Before the coding starts these designs are to be freezed and all the software development process after the detail design takes the design skeleton as the base on which the software is built. Therefore both the client and the software development team should be sure of the design developed before they freeze it and the process goes to the next step.

Any doubts or requests should be taken into account then and there only. Any further request to add new features from the client will lead to changes in the design and it will result in more effort and time requirements on the software development team’s behalf. Needless to add, this will invariably result in the increase in the software cost. Hence to minimize these effects, change control process activity is used. It contributes to the software quality by formalizing the requests for change by evaluating its nature and also controlling its impact. Change control is applied during software development and also later during the maintenance phase.

Measurement is such an activity that it cannot be separated from any engineering discipline as it is an integral part of it. So it comes into action here also. Software metrics is used to track software quality and to evaluate the impact of methodological and procedural changes. These metrics encompass a broad array of technical and management oriented measures.

Records are usually developed, documented and maintained for reference purposes. Thus record keeping and recording enable the collection and distribution of Software Quality Assurance (SQA) information.

The documents of reviews, results of Formal Technical Reviews (FTR), audits, change control, testing and other Software Quality Assurance (SQA) activities become a part of the project and can be referred by the development staff on a need to know basis.

We now know various activities involved in quality assurance activity. Now we’ll take one activity at a time and look into it in detail.


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