Quality Assurance

What Is Quality Assurance?

The quality assurance process helps a business ensure its products meet the quality standards set by the company or its industry. Another way to understand quality assurance (QA) is as a company’s process for improving the quality of its products.

Many businesses view their QA program as a promise to internal stakeholders and customers that the company will deliver high-quality products that provide a positive user experience.

What’s the Difference Between Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control?

Quality assurance is a broad process for preventing quality failures. The QA team is involved in all stages of a product’s development: production, testing, packaging, and delivery. In contrast, quality control (QC) is a narrower process. QC focuses on detecting mistakes, errors, or missed requirements in a product.

The two key differences between QA and QC are:

1. QA is proactive vs. QC is reactive.

The QA team operates proactively. They seek to uncover and address the sources of quality problems, such as human error or a business using the wrong materials. Whereas the QC team is reactive, checking the product for mistakes or components not built to specification.

Here is another way to understand this distinction: QC seeks to catch quality errors, while QA seeks to uncover and fix the issues that lead to quality errors.

2. QC takes place after development, while QA is ongoing.

The QC team performs their tests after the product team has built the product. So they are looking only to catch errors and bugs before the company makes the product available to customers. On the other hand, the QA team is working throughout the development process, making sure each aspect of the product is on track to deliver a high-quality customer experience.

Quality Assurance vs Quality Control

What Do Quality Assurance Engineers Do?

The roles of quality assurance engineers will vary by company and industry. Using software as an example, a QA engineer’s job description might include the following responsibilities:

  • Usability testing
  • Feature testing
  • System testing
  • Integration testing
  • Creating test plans built on automated scripts to test the product
  • Developing standards to ensure quality software code

What’s An Example of Quality Assurance in Practice?

The following hypothetical story illustrates how quality assurance might work in a business.

ABC roofing company has a leak problem 

The problem:

A national roofing installer receives an increase in customer complaints about leaks. The common thread is that customers whose roofs were installed within the last six months are experiencing leaks during the first rain.

The source:

The QA team investigates and finds that the company’s roof tile supplier changed the composition of its tiles. After speaking with experts, the team realizes the supplier’s cheaper components make their tiles more porous.

The solution:

The QA team alerts the executives, who put the pressure the supplier to improve its tile quality or lose the company as a customer. The QA team then writes a new policy requiring a weather test for any new materials added to the company’s roof installation process.

Related Terms

continuous improvement, alpha test, definition of done, acceptance criteria, Quality Function Deployment (QFD)

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