Quality is of paramount importance, especially when the consumer has a plethora of options at his or her disposal. When it comes to software, the consumer of today has no time to spare for slow performing, defective or bug riddled applications. Clearly, quality issues are a huge business risk, because of which there has been an increased emphasis on Quality Assurance and Quality Control. However, in our conversations with clients we have often noticed that when discussing product quality and software testing, the terms Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) are used interchangeably. While both QA and QC can be considered two sides of the same coin when it comes to managing quality, they are not one and the same thing. In this blog, we take a look at the main difference between QA and QC and understand the role each plays in the software development and testing process.
Quality Assurance and Quality Control – What do they mean?
To begin with, let’s understand the roles of QA and QC. Quality Assurance is a process that deliberates on ‘preventing’ defects while Quality Control deliberates on ‘identifying’ these defects. Given the adoption of new development methodologies such as agile, QA works towards improving and optimizing the development cycle by performing process audits, establishing process checklists for the project and establishing metrics to identify process gaps and ensure that the product works as per expectation.
QC, on the other hand, focuses on identifying any defects in the product after it has been developed. The QC department is responsible for testing the end product and verifies that there are no discrepancies between the product requirements and its final implementation and that the end product performance is optimal.
To put is quite simply, Quality Assurance works on managing the quality of the product being developed and Quality Control validates the quality of the output.
Strategy and orientation – Prevention v/s detection
QA is focused on a strategy of prevention and hence is more focused on planning, documenting and setting guidelines for product development to ensure a desired quality of the product. It is because of this that QA activities are undertaken at the inception of the project and have to ensure that software specifications meet the company and industry standards. Designing quality plans, conducting inspections, identifying defect tracking tools and training the responsible team in the defined processes and methods fall within the purview of Quality Assurance. This process is more proactive than reactive since the aim of the QA team is to prevent defects from entering the development cycle in the first place and to mitigate all the risks that have been identified in the specifications phase. Thus all people who are responsible for product development are responsible for QA.
QC activities are more focused on defect detection and verifying the product output against the desired quality levels. This method is more reactive in nature as it identifies defects post the final production of the product. QC checks are conducted at different points in the development cycle to ensure that the final product meets and performs according to the agreed specifications.
Unlike QA, which may or may not involve executing the program or code, QC activities will always involve executing the final program or code to identify defects and implement the fixes in order to achieve the desired quality of the product.
Scope – Process v/s Product
The scope of QA can be said to be more in the process of development rather than on the product itself. The aim of QA is to ensure that the development team is doing the right thing at the right time and in the right way. QA activities are verification oriented, they can be related to all products that will be created using that process.
The focus on QC, on the other hand, is only on the product and not necessarily on the development process. QC activities are primarily the responsibility of the testing team and are conducted once the QA activities are completed. QC is a line function that is product or project specific and involves activities such as testing and conducting reviews to identify defects in the final product.
Having listed out the key difference between QA and QC, it is also important to note that these two are equally important parts of a quality management system and ultimately have the same goal – to ensure a great quality, optimally performing product. Using Quality Assurance and Quality Control in conjunction with one another and developing a consistent feedback loop can help in identifying the root causes of defects and thereby allow teams to develop strategies that can entirely eliminate these problems at the development stage itself and achieve high-quality products.