A typical waterfall project has well defined phases that go from the idea conception until putting the solution in production, being the most typical of them:
- Requirements gathering
- Design of the solution / Architecture
- Testing phase (including all kinds of tests)
- User Acceptance Test
- Go Live (put in production)
- Post Go-Live support
It’s very common in big companies that there’s a functional team responsible for each phase. Thus, we get:
- Business Analysts to gather requirements
- Architects, Systems Engineers or Software Analysts to design the solutions
- Programmers or coders to implement it
- Quality Testers or Quality Assurance engineers to check its quality
- The customer to test the delivered solution
However, one of the big problems from this approach is that usually these teams work in silos. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing and this causes inefficiencies. To make it worse, sometimes the way to try to reduce silos is through an immense increase in bureaucracy, forcing teams to communicate through documentation.
If you are still working in a waterfall methodology, you should know that the world is moving towards new methodologies… some famous concepts would be Agile, XP or Scrum and surely those words will sound familiar to you especially during the recent years.
Especially in the case of scrum, the first scrum team in which Jeff Sutherland participated took place in 1993, literally 20 years ago, and now it’s mature enough to be taken by big companies.
Since years, many software companies have their Quality department, which in many cases implies that they have the responsibility to assess the quality of the releases. This department is typically called QA department (standing for Quality Assurance), but I rather think that they are doing much more of checking releases than to assure the quality and I see a huge difference these two concepts, that is, between a QA engineer and a QC engineer:
- QA stands for Quality Assurance, therefore an engineer that ensures the quality. Every time a new release is being built, the QA engineer ensures that the quality is built in it. The QA is responsible for improving the processes and participates actively in the creation of the testing tools.
- QC stands for Quality Checking or Quality Control. This engineer typically waits for the release to be finished in order to check if the quality is built there. A Quality Checker typically creates a list of test cases based on the requirements themselves and puts them in a tool to plan each of the BTCs. Later he executes all the test cases, in most cases manually and tracks their execution.
Testing shows the presence, not the absence of bugs. Edsger W. Dijkstra
Two common types of testing are black-box and white-box testing. Both can drive or be driven by development.
Black-box testing (also known as functional testing) treats software under test as a black-box without knowing its internals. Tests are using software interfaces and trying to ensure that they work as expected. As long as functionality of interfaces remains unchanged, tests should pass even if internals are changed. Tester is aware of what the program should do but does not have the knowledge of how it does it. Black-box testing is most commonly used type of testing in traditional organizations that have testers as a separate department, especially when they are not proficient in coding and have difficulties to understand the code. It provides external perspective of the software under test.