At the 2018 Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference, “somebody” stole the show and blew everyone’s minds.
It was “Google Assistant” making a restaurant reservation. The task seemed simple enough—but not when you realise that it’s just lines of code talking to a real person. “Google Assistant” sounded so natural and, at times, even exhibited absolute human language comprehension, that by the end of the call, the task was not only accomplished...the person on the line did not even realise she was talking to a bunch of code!
Technology, led by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoT), will have more mind-boggling exploits in the coming years, that’s for sure.
It is estimated that by 2025, there will 21 billion IoT devices in circulation. Not only are there going to be “smart” cities and “smart” buildings. Smart kettles, smart bathtubs, and smart refrigerators will be part of our daily lives.
But before these utopian things can come to pass, these technologies have to go through an awful lot of trial-and-testing, and unprecedented scrutiny. We had to be sure that the driverless trucks plying the highways are as safe as can be. We need to know that our home appliances are secure and don’t broadcast our diet and daily ablutions to the rest of the world. We had to make sure that the tech will do the things they’re supposed to do, not more...not less.
And that’s software—the millions of lines of code that tell products what they’re supposed to do. That’s where our peace of mind lies.
(Unfortunately, exactly because it involves millions of lines of code, “bugs” can happily hide behind them.)
And so, before we can enjoy the blessings of tech, we need the services of an army of software quality assurance specialists and testers who go under the hood and make sure that everything’s fine and products meet exacting specifications and standards.
We need testers and quality assurance people because we can’t spot software defects with the eye. A new smart product may look shiny on the outside, but if its circuits contain faulty code, then it will fail in the market.
In essence, bugs are all “asymptomatic.” Not until we run the software do we get a sense of what’s what. Just as the COVID-19 experts are screaming it, we need to “Test! Test! Test!” and make sure that the tech really works.
In line with that, and in the name of quality assurance, this post will give you three guiding principles to ensure excellent software products:
# 1 Good Processes Make Good Products
Good products, quality code, don’t just appear out of thin air. They come from a robust process that connects good intentions and the intended consequence.
(Everybody has good intentions, but not everyone delivers the goods.)
Quality assurance looks after the software development process. And one of its most important questions is: “Are we employing the correct approach for this particular project?”
Different teams, working on different scenarios would require different types of processes.
Will the product require continuous feedback and updates? Then maybe “Agile” or “Scrum” will be appropriate.
Are you working on limited budgets and tight deadlines? Then maybe “V-shaped” is for you.
Do you prize flexibility over speed? Perhaps incremental and iterative processes or a hybrid of some sort would prove suitable. The quality assurance specialist helps the dev team pick the ideal optimization plan.
You see, the quality assurance game covers the entire lifecycle. It starts working from “Day 1” and shepherds the software development from start to finish.
# 2 Prevention Trumps Any Cure
We already said that the answer to any “asymptomatic” problem (that only shows up when it’s in the hands of users) is “Testing! Testing! Testing!” But that doesn’t mean we do not employ pre-emptive strategies to reduce mistakes and slip-ups.
Quality assurance is not after-the-fact. As mentioned, it’s actively providing input throughout the whole development lifecycle.
Just as in combating COVID-19 we boost the immune system to help prevent serious infections, we can also utilise best practices that protect the process from needless errors.
For example, when coding, software quality assurance specialists can propose guidelines, methodologies, and procedures that make the code to be eminently readable by others, making it easier to debug.
Consistent indentation, proper code grouping, deep nesting avoidance, limiting line length, and properly organizing files and folders are just some of the coding best practices that can be standardised.
It’s often been said: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Tech, as a field, can do most with this nugget of wisdom.
#3 Continuous Improvement
Software development teams are finding themselves in a tighter squeeze each passing day. On the one hand, innovations are moving at a faster clip as development cycles get shorter, on the other, customers have higher standards and an ever-expanding expectation of products and services.
The only response to this confluence of events is by becoming a super-productive and super-learning development team.
This means automating much of your processes, harvesting all the knowledge and wisdom gained from previous projects and iterations, and stacking them in your favor. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. You really do not have time to, because as you do that, your competitors are wheeling their respective rockets out of the hangar.
If there’s no business side to things, and it’s all about passion...sure, you can take your own sweet time. But there’s a whole class of customers out there and you do have a business to run, and the team who first gets to market, with the best product, wins.
Software quality assurance specialists have a critical role in your team. They are reservoirs of technical knowledge and a well-spring of practical know-how. And, when your dev guys are too embedded in the project, your quality assurance specialist can be the fresh eyes who can give sticking points a different perspective.
All these make your team sharp and ready to play in the most competitive sport ever: Software Development.
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We then vet the candidates for you so you can choose from a pre-selected pool of highly qualified talent.
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