The Evolution of QA Processes and Methodologies: From Waterfall to Agile

by Shagufta Syed

Have you ever wondered what our world would have been without software? Not really, isn’t it? Almost every other piece of equipment we use today operates under the guidance of some sort of software. So much so, analysts expected the software market size to grow to $652.61 billion in 2023.

Well, what’s with the numbers and why you may wonder. (Quality Assurance)QA processes are the backbone of every software that’s being developed and launched in the market. However, there’s an evolution story to the QA processes that we see in the SDLC lifecycle today.

A quick look at QA Processes

Quality Assurance (QA) perfectly fits into the software development practices with the ultimate goal to ensure that the software product meets the pre-set or expected quality standards. It has the set methods and processes to detect, identify, and fix issues in the software while ensuring that the critical aspects such as reliability, functionality, and performance remain intact.

The Evolution of QA: A Brief Overview

It was in 1970 that Winston Royce introduced the waterfall model. Over the years, there have been significant changes to the QA processes. In the nascent stages, the process mirrored the manufacturing principles but it was not enough. Over the years, we have encountered several new challenges, especially in QA for software development. As a result, the process had to adapt to the industry’s unique challenges. The evolution in the QA has largely been based on the development methodologies, and this holds for the Waterfall and Agile practices.

The Early Days: Waterfall Model in QA Processes

Waterfall, known as the traditional approach to software development, was one of the first process models introduced in this space. It has both the linear and sequential processes involved in the overall scheme of things. Just as a waterfall would flow from top to down, the process moves from stage to stage in a sequence. Each phase has to be dependable on the previous one. Only after one phase is complete, the process moves to the next part, and the sequence continues.

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A illustration for early days in the QA processes

Limitations of Waterfall QA Processes

The waterfall model has been a traditional approach for many years, but there are still some limitations that organizations need to face. The model has been termed as outdated due to the several limitations that it has. Depending on the project size, goal, and type, we may further manifest the limitations of this approach. Let’s take a look at some of them. 

Not Flexible

The approach of the waterfall is when the team is always moving forward. We allow almost no room for any new or unexpected changes to be introduced in the development cycle. If the team carefully follows all the steps in the waterfall model and then hits a roadblock, pivoting from that will not be easy. Whenever there’s a development process, the QA has to put in a lot of time, work, and effort to follow through with the rigid guidelines of the approach. 

Less Transparency 

The waterfall model focuses very little on the end user or all the stakeholders involved. The main purpose of the waterfall approach in the QA process has been to keep the internal teams on the ball with the project. However, nowadays, clients would prefer to get complete transparency over the project. They would like to add their own opinions and preferences as the project moves forward. Unfortunately, the waterfall model does not have transparency across the board. 

Slow & Delayed Testing Time

In this approach, we usually reserve the testing towards the conclusion of the project. At this point, the project would’ve taken a considerable time to complete and any large revision could take a long time for completion. Multiple teams would have worked to get the project toward the conclusion, and so any change would mean implementing it across the SDLC. As a result, the overall QA process becomes slow and delayed, in turn, impacting the time, effort, and resources of an organization.

The Shift to Agile Methodologies

In an Agile QA process, the Agile software development methodology is followed. In this approach, the projects evolve in each stage of the project. In this approach, the software development and QA testing run in sprint. The tech teams, collaborators, and stakeholders all involve themselves in the project from the start. In the agile QA approach, quality is the central theme from the start of a project. CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous delivery) are two important aspects of agile testing.

Agile QA vs. Waterfall QA: A Comparative Analysis

Agile methodology is a progressive approach when compared to that of a traditional Waterfall approach.
In an agile QA process, we carry out testing throughout the various sprints of project development. The continuous testing of the software allows the team to have the possibility to give immediate feedback and quicker revolution for the same. 

Flexibility – An agile approach to the QA process is preferred by many teams because it allows the possibility to implement changes quickly. On the other hand, in a waterfall methodology making changes is painstaking. 

Time to Market – Agile QA process is iterative so it makes it possible to have a faster time to market.
In the waterfall methodology, we conduct testing during the concluding stages of the project, which may prolong the time to market. In Agile QA, we manage risks early in the process due to frequent testing practices, while the waterfall method could lead to higher risks throughout the development process because we discover issues only in the later stages.

Agile QA enhances adaptability to change, improves product quality through continuous testing, and fosters better team collaboration and customer satisfaction.

A team discussing the benefits of moving from waterfall to agile QA process

Key Agile QA Methodologies

By integrating the testing in the software development lifecycle, the whole approach to QA has seen a transformation. Now quality is not the responsibility of just one member or a team, rather, a shared responsibility of all the stakeholders involved in the project. Check out these key agile QA methodologies and how they contribute to the overall success of the project. 

Test Driven Development (TDD)

In this approach, the tests are written much before the actual code. The team first writes and runs the tests, and then writes the code. In this test-driven development approach, the code is tested from the start. This approach promotes a simple, clean, and bug-free code. This reduces the overall development time and cost. 

Behavior Driven Development (BDD)

In this approach, a shared language is provided to all the stakeholders to reflect how the application should behave. It focuses on defining user behaviors, creating test cases, and developing features.

We write user stories in a language like Gerkin, understood by all users, to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of the project and its entailments. Additionally, this approach meets user expectations and business objectives.

Continuous Integration and Testing

In this approach, the developers regularly merge their code into a shared repository. To detect problems in the initial stages, each merge is verified by an automated build and test. This involves automated testing, instant feedback loops, and regular builds. This approach helps improve the overall software development speed and quality as well.

Challenges and Best Practices in Agile QA

Agile QA, while highly effective, presents unique challenges that require thoughtful strategies and best practices for successful implementation. One of the primary challenges is adapting to changing requirements and priorities, which can disrupt planned testing activities. Agile teams often face difficulty in ensuring comprehensive test coverage due to the iterative nature of development and the constant evolution of features. Another challenge is maintaining a consistent pace and quality of work in the face of tight deadlines and frequent releases.

There are several emerging trends and predictions that are poised to shape the future of Quality Assurance (QA) in software development. As we move forward, AI and Machine Learning will likely play a pivotal role in automating complex test scenarios and enhancing the efficiency of testing processes. This will enable QA teams to focus on more strategic tasks rather than repetitive testing.

Additionally, it is anticipated that the integration of QA into earlier stages of the development cycle, often referred to as “Shift Left Testing,” will gain more traction. This approach helps in identifying and fixing defects early, reducing the time and cost of software delivery.

Another significant trend is the increasing adoption of Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD), fostering a more agile and responsive QA process. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data will also bring new challenges and opportunities, demanding more robust and versatile testing frameworks. 

Furthermore, we can expect a greater emphasis on user experience (UX) testing, ensuring that software not only functions correctly but also delivers a seamless and intuitive user interface. Overall, the future of QA is aligning towards more proactive, automated, and user-centric approaches.

Practical Logix

Practical Logix is experienced in implementing Agile QA processes and methodologies in the software development lifecycle and specializes in customized digital solutions that precisely cater to our client’s unique requirements. Our extensive experience in Agile methodologies equips us to quickly and adeptly adjust to the dynamic needs of projects.

Our expertise lies in crafting state-of-the-art digital solutions through an Agile QA lens, and we ensure that our strategies intricately align with user requirements. This focus significantly boosts user experience and operational efficiency.

Reach out to us to see how we can collaboratively advance your journey in outstanding digital product development.

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