QA vs. Testing – Part 3: What is the role of Quality Assurance?

Obviously, I have a silly peeve about mixing QA and Test.   They're not the same thing.  I'm certainly not the first to bring this up.

IEEE 12207 defines QA as “... a process for providing adequate assurance that the software products and processes in the product life cycle conform to their specific requirements and adhere to their established plans.”

I'm sure many of you are thinking - "that's exactly what our QA team does - that's why we call ourselves QA instead of test."  In fact, when I joined the WinCE team, big parts of the test team called themselves "QA" - when I said "you are test, not QA", the response was "no - we do more than just test, so we're QA!"  Once my eyes returned from rolling deep into the back of my head, I said something like this:

Although QA may encompass testing, QA is traditionally responsible for the measurement and auditing of the processes used to make a product.  Not only is a Quality Assurance "team" not the same as a test team, they shouldn't even exist in the same organization.  Quality Assurance evaluates or establishes processes, sets up measurement programs to evaluate processes, and identifies weaknesses in those processes so that the errors do not happen again.  This includes analyzing the tools, metrics, and processes used by Program Management (including specification processes), Development, and Testing.  If you agree with me that the role of test is to provide information, the role of test fits well with QA, but it's definitely not QA.

Take a step back from software and envision an assembly line manufacturing plant.  The workers on the floor (I always picture Laverne & Shirley working at the bottling plant) are checking every sixth bottle to make sure it was filled properly and is capped correctly.  They may (and probably do) even do more, but their job is testing - or to be more correct, Quality Control.  The staff who looks at output metrics, conveyor belt speed optimizations, and the actual inspection process are Quality Assurance.  They need to evaluate input from metrics, the equipment manufacturing team, testing (QC), and everyone else involved in the process equally. 

I think the "Tester" title has a bit of a stigma with it.  I think image counscious testers would rather be thought of as having a more prestigious title, and "QA" fits the bill nicely.  I can't just pick on Microsoft regarding this rant.  The industry has created laughable titles like SQA Tester which make no sense to me.  I looked at recently for QA positions (I'm happy here, but I like to know what's out there), and virtually every "QA" position is really a testing position. 

I'm already dipping into part 4, and this post is too long already.  I'll continue shortly.



Comments (2)
  1. Manan says:

    Thats what Cem Kaner has suggested to all of his students, yours truly included.

  2. Rajiv Walia says:

    nice artical…

Comments are closed.

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