Only a few things grab my attention as easily as thinking that the future is here. However, I often get reminded that there is still a long way to go before reaching a techno-utopia. There are still many things that need to occur before we can go moving around in our flying cars. As demotivating as this sounds, I firmly believe the future might be closer than we think if we could focus on the things that really matter in order to make it happen. One of those things is putting back quality assurance to the place it deserves in the different stages of product development.
Quality assurance is an idea that changed the way we humans live. Its rise within industrial management theory paved the way for the world we live in today. Its implementation in industrial processes and in the service industry has been a major contributor to improving living standards throughout the world. In the Twentieth century, companies that excelled in quality were above their competitors. Can we say the same about companies today? Is quality a differentiator of great companies? Is it still necessary, or has it become commodified? These questions will tend to become more relevant as the world transitions towards a technology-dominated society, but it feels we are not having the right discussions.
It often seems that throughout the past decades the idea of quality has been trivialized to the point where society at large has forgotten about its importance. Think about it. Quality is one of those concepts that are found everywhere. You read about it in any regular sales ad, you hear about it from your auto repair shop, your favorite beer or wine most likely has ‘quality’ written all over it, and even socializing is often referred to as ‘quality conversation’. Quality has become a necessity, something that almost everyone offers, but that not everyone can deliver.
It might be the case that the world needs a reminder about the importance of what quality assurance actually means. This is especially true when it comes to the tech industry, particularly in software development. Many tech companies tend to think that quality is something embedded in their products just because technology ‘helps make lives better’. Under this perspective, apps are seen as an end by themselves, but this leaves aside the fact that there is a huge gap between ordinary problem-solving apps and outstanding life-changing apps. Companies that actually guarantee the quality of their products are the ones that end up creating life-changing products. The recent event with a problematic app at the U.S.’ democratic caucus in the state of Iowa is a great example of how the importance of quality assurance has been forgotten and needs a major overhaul.
The caucuses are the primary elections in which certain states decide who their presidential nominees will be. As you can imagine, there is little space for mistakes. Thus, it is not surprising that the issue became so mediatic after the app used to tabulate votes presented some faults. Almost immediately the app became the target of critics. What caught my attention is that most discussions on the subject failed to notice that app development is, in some regards, like many other industries that introduce products to the market. Without appropriate quality assurance, even technology fails to deliver value.
Put in a broader context, the app’s failure at Iowa’s caucus reflects one of the most common mistakes in the tech industry: failing to assure quality. Many projects fail because there is an urgency to launch and enter the market. Yes, any project that fails to enter the market within the estimated launch date might get into financial trouble, but that is no excuse to deliver a poor quality app. This is most likely the result of companies misunderstanding what a minimum viable product (MVP) is. An MVP is one of the most powerful tools to understand your users and improve your app through design thinking principles, but it is not a way to justify mistakes. It is necessary that companies take into account that an MVP’s standards change according to the industry it serves. In some cases a simple but well executed MPV is enough, while in other cases a more rigorous MVP is necessary.
Developers work ceaselessly to develop high-quality software, but even the most refined processes are exposed to mistakes if the right quality management is not in place. The correct app development involves testing for bugs or vulnerabilities, even more so if they serve delicate purposes like electing the next president, diagnosing patients with terminal diseases, or handling personal finances. Society at large needs to understand this if we want to deliver a technology based future that works.
As technology dominates more aspects of human life, it will be necessary that developers adopt the quality assurance mantra as an ethical maxim. Technology needs to reassure its credibility at times where many questions exist regarding how apps need to be regulated. Inadequate testing methods are only going to harm the tech industry.
Agile and Lean methodologies have certainly revolutionized how work is done, but they are no replacement for quality assurance. Management theories will surely keep on changing. Some trends will come and some will go, but as long as we live in an industrial world the need for quality will still be here.
Having a quality development partner helps ensure that an app is developed in a proper way. At Koombea, for example, quality assurance is one of our main drivers when developing an app. Our Agile Testing Strategy has proven time and time again that only rigorous and continuous testing guarantees customer satisfaction. This, together with our automation engineer role for cross-browsing and mobile UI/API tests, guarantees the result is a scalable and long-lived app. We take very seriously how our development process runs by considering essential functionalities and major risks.
All of this guarantees that the customer is satisfied with the result; it also ensures that the project’s time and cost estimations are met in a reasonable way. Most importantly, quality assurance with the right partner helps guarantee that things work. This is the first step in building the future we want.