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Inflectra 2023 Predictions: The Year Testing becomes Quality Engineering


Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2023.  Read them in this 15th annual series exclusive.

The Year Testing becomes Quality Engineering

By Adam Sandman, Founder and CEO, Inflectra

If we look back at the last couple of years, it has been a time when information technology and software have radically transformed the world around us, from online meetings and classrooms to self-driving cars, smart electrical systems, and AI facial recognition. Yet, at the same time, this seemly serene, upward journey into the pastures of a digital utopia has been punctuated by an endless profusion of security breaches, data privacy failures, and safety critical systems failing due to software problems. As we become more dependent on technology, yet at the same time more vulnerable, 2023 needs to be the year that we realize that we as software professionals need to focus on quality.

What About Quality Assurance and QA?

Before the agile manifesto, software was developed using linear approaches called "waterfall" because it consisted of stages that you did in sequence, like a series of cascading waterfalls. In that process, you typically had a dedicated team of software testers, also often called Quality Assurance (or QA). The idea was that they would take the work from the developers in the design and development phases and test it independently to ensure it works. This is not actually Quality Assurance but really Quality Control since you are just checking at the end to see if the system works as it was supported too.

With the advent of agile methodologies such as Scrum or Kanban, the different phases were eliminated, and projects were broken up into cross-functional agile teams with designers, developers and testers working simultaneously throughout the process. In theory, the team should be managing quality holistically from the inception of each project release to the software delivery. Still, in reality, the focus is mainly on "testing." Modern software teams will use a combination of automated software tests that can test different parts of the system (unit testing, system testing, API testing, user interface testing) as well as manual tests done by humans to find any problems or areas where the system does not conform to its requirements. That sounds like a recipe for high quality, right?

Quality is Larger Than Testing

The problem is that the world of QA has become synonymous with testing. In most teams, you have developers who write the software, QA engineers who write automated tests, and QA analysts/testers who do manual tests. However, no one is looking out for quality at a holistic level. A proper understanding of quality would include the quality of the requirements, the quality of the processes, the quality of the code being written, the quality of the training the team has, and the quality of the feedback we're getting from users. Unfortunately, that is unrelated to what most software QA professionals are tasked with.

For example, when the Boeing 737MAX plane had an issue with its MCAS software system, it wasn't that the software was faulty or had a bug; it was that the requirements were incorrect and that the training and manuals for the pilots were not appropriate for its intended usage.

So, even though in theory, software Quality Assurance should mean looking at quality from start to finish (vs. Quality Control, which means checking at the end), because of its historical connections to software testing, there is now the rise of Quality Engineering (QE). Unlike QA, QE deliberately includes the quality of the entire engineering process, including the other aspects mentioned above. In this regard, quality engineering is about returning to the roots of what QA was meant to be.

When the ISO:9001 standard for QA was created, it was used in manufacturing to monitor quality at each stage in the manufacturing process (from raw materials to finished products). It included the facilities, the people, the methods, and the training. By applying that wider quality lens to software development, we can enjoy the fruits of a technology-fueled utopia without the risks and dangers of inadequate quality.

At Inflectra, our quality engineering platform - Spira - is designed to tackle quality holistically, supporting requirements engineering, quality assurance, project planning, and risk management. So when you need to test your software and comply with audits such as ISO:9001, we have your back.




Adam Sandman, who founded Inflectra in 2006, has been a programmer since the age of 10. Today, Adam serves as the company's CEO. He is responsible for product strategy, technology innovation, and business development. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his family.

Prior to founding Inflectra, Sandman worked as a director for Sapient Government Services, where he was in charge of development with the U.S. Marine Corps. and other government agencies, and was responsible for leading many capture teams and writing whitepapers and position statements to build Sapient's reputation as a leader in the defense space. He studied physics at Oxford University.

When he is not working, he can often be found giving talks at events such as NDIA Agile in Government Summit, STAR East, Software Testing Professionals Conference, and Swiss Testing Day. He is passionate about economic empowerment by helping to bridge technology opportunity gaps in the developing world.

Published Friday, January 20, 2023 7:32 AM by David Marshall
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