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What is the difference between Quality Assurance Engineers and Software Testers?
“A Software Tester is a person who has to be told what to do. A Quality Assurance Engineer is a guy who usually says what I should do and when”, is what one of the Project Managers in my previous job has told me. This sentence kept coming back to me for a long time now and I can say that he wasn’t far from the truth. His definition can be valid in many cases but we have to look deeper into it. It could be a good base for investigating the main differences between these two positions.
Testing — what does it mean?
First of all, let’s focus on the general definition of testing. What is testing? It is an important part of software development. If it’s not performed properly, applications might have issues that can lead to many failures. Testing should start as early as possible to reduce the cost and time needed for delivering software that is bug-free to the end-user. What is the worst part of testing? We can be never sure that the application is free of all defects. One of the best-known testers, James Bach, said:
“Testing is an infinite process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous in order to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous.”
It has been used as a motto by many testers, engineers, and widely referred to in plenty of books and articles. I agree with Bach wholeheartedly. Testing is closer to art, rather than science. It is also a subset of a much larger branch of software development, namely — quality assurance.
Leave ‘good enough’ alone
Now, we can talk about the approach to quality assurance in IT projects. What does it mean to me? It’s not just about finding bugs. It helps a company create products and services that meet the expectations, needs and requirements of a client. It also ensures that the methods, techniques and processes are designed and implemented correctly on our projects. As we know, it is an increasingly more and more popular approach to the development of products at many companies. QA is more focused on processes and procedures, while testing is focused on the logistics of using a product.
Quality assurance engineers should start their work in the early phases of the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle). This way, it is more convenient to capture and eliminate defects in the early stages — gathering requirements, analysis or design. The standards and procedures defined by Quality Assurance Engineers help to prevent product defects before they even occur. It allows us to save money because the costs of fixing a bug during this time are far cheaper than of doing so later on. Complicated projects mean higher risk, and fewer mistakes mean less work time. It’s as simple as that.
The bottom line
We’re finally getting to the heart of the matter. To be honest, at many companies there is no differentiation between Quality Assurance Engineers and Software Testers. It is often related to the fact that projects are not demanding or complicated enough or that the company creates products without any complicated methods, techniques or processes. Also, their clients might not want to spend their money on testing or the budget for it is so limited that testers cannot start their work in the early phases of the project. There might be multiple reasons for such a cause and sometimes it is not only the company that is at fault.
So what are the main differences between Quality Assurance Engineers and Software Testers if we care about the standard of testing?
Responsibility for the project. Software Testers are responsible for finding bugs, creating reports, performing functional and non-functional tests, etc. They don’t have to think about the procedures, methodologies or business aspects of the project. QA Engineers can start their work even before the application has its first line of code written, so they are involved in the product development process from the very beginning.
Preparing test plans and testing strategies. Quality Assurance Engineers might prepare these documents in the early phases of the project. They usually take part in every planning meeting, so they have a broader view and knowledge about various aspects of the project, rather than Software Testers, who focus solely on bug detection.
Preventing product defects before they occur. This is one of the key values of hiring QA Engineers. As I have said before, they can identify weaknesses and inconsistencies in the product throughout all stages and help define project requirements. Their work is somehow similar to security guards, unlike testers who resemble firefighters.
Saving the company’s money and reputation. The first impression of the product is hard to change, so companies want to deliver the best possible product in their first go. They cannot allow losing their reputation. The most optimal solution here is to take care of the product from the very beginning. Software Testers are usually responsible for the project during the testing phase so they don’t make an impact on the product as much as Quality Assurance Engineers.
Not all heroes wear capes
Whenever we start a project, we have to take multiple factors into account. If we only need standard quality for our product, we can work with Software Testers. In many cases, it is not the worst solution. They are prepared to find defects, create bug reports and execute various types of tests. However, if we want to achieve the best possible quality and be sure that our product is in safe hands, we should consider cooperating with QA Engineers.
Every project at Startup Development House has a dedicated Quality Assurance Engineer on board, who is responsible for things such as:
ensuring the implementation of proper standards and methods on the project,
educating other team members in quality-related matters,
proposing adjustments in the project,
performing all types of required tests, depending on the situation.
Furthermore, we are constantly raising the bar for our developers when it comes to quality. All technical departments cooperate closely with one another during each project and help each other in every aspect because we all know that we’re on the same team.
Do you want to launch a project and achieve the best possible quality of your product? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org