Quality: The Process, Part I

[This article was originally published in the November 2002 issue of ASPects.]

It can be known as Quality Assurance (QA), Quality Control (QC), ISO9000, or simply “testing”. Regardless of the name used and the particulars of the implementation, it is essential to have a process for making sure that your products exhibit the highest possible degree of quality.

In my previous article, I mentioned the need for testing three times in the same sentence; such is the importance of this topic. The creation of a quality product begins and ends with testing, so it is worthwhile to discuss the different types of testing that can be incorporated into the development process. Although my focus is on development of computer software, much of the process applies to services and other kinds of projects.

The quality process can range from having a fully documented and certified procedure for assuring quality, complete with personnel devoted specifically to maintenance of the process and rigorous testing of the product, down to the lone developer who compiles an executable, runs it once, and then distributes it. It is easy to tend towards the lower end of this scale, through either ignorance or laziness. As independent developers with limited resources, it is probably unrealistic to be at the absolute top of the scale, either. However, we must strive to find a comfort level as close to the top as possible.

When I wrote my first line of code, more than two decades ago, nobody told me about quality, nor even about bugs. The only test was whether the program did what I wanted when the user did what I had anticipated. This changed rather quickly, though, when I got to sit in a computer lab and watch high school students deliberately try to break our games in order to ridicule our capabilities. The challenge became finding ways to make our programs more resilient to these attacks. Though the motivations may be different, today our software is similarly used and abused by our potential customers.

The gauntlet has been thrown down.

[continued in Planning for Quality]

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