It’s often said that quality must be built in, not added on. But when it comes to the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), the reverse often happens: defects are identified late on in the Testing Phase, after coding is done. This means bugs are expensive to fix and solutions are found last-minute, putting quality at risk. Early Lifecycle QA, from requirements definition onward, results in a better software development experience and, hopefully, a better end product.

But even when Early Lifecycle QA does happen, it’s not always plain sailing: business requirements documents are often scanty and don’t provide QA professionals with enough information; other stakeholders may be resistant to QA specialists coming in and “telling them their job” at the review stage; some requirements are untestable thanks to lack of clarity. And of course things change throughout any project, it’s a fact. Flexibility is a must.

So how can QA professionals ensure that they can get involved and be effective from the outset of the SDLC and throughout it? Step up interactive prototyping. Using an interactive prototyping tool can facilitate early stage QA and avoid common pain points.

Requirements definition and gathering

QA specialists sometimes receive little information on which to base tests at this stage, thanks to paltry requirements or incomprehensible Business Requirements Documentation (BRD). Additionally, QAs are often sent the documentation too late, meaning there’s no time to set up adequate tests. By gathering, defining and gathering requirements using a prototyping tool – requirements can be imported or created directly in the prototype, and all invited stakeholders (including QAs) can add or comment upon those requirements in real-time. Once you have the baseline of requirements, a System Testing Plan can be finalized.

Interactive requirements and iterative process

Once the BRD and System Requirements Specification are agreed upon, the QA team can set about reviewing requirements in the prototype. Running user test cases with a designated User Proxy – someone who takes on the role of User – will allow QA to be approached from 3 angles: functional, structural and conformance. All QA team members can add to and edit the BRD in the prototype, ensuring that user and system needs are accurately represented at this early stage.

Using a prototyping tool to facilitate this process reduces time and budget concerns for project managers, which means they are more likely to agree to incorporating QA teams early on.

Design and QA

With a version history of requirements accessible within the prototype, the design team has a clear map to work off. They can build an interactive prototype based on the validated requirements, linking each feature to its relevant requirement and thereby facilitating QA testing. Once the design team has produced a high fidelity prototype, activities such as verifying system architecture and carrying out system audits can be done on the prototype. Finding and fixing bugs through prototype testing is a lot cheaper than fixing them in the code.

Coding and Deployment

Later SDLC stages can now go ahead, with the QA team carrying out coding-related Quality Assurance activities such as verifying implementation of top requirements, and checking the quality of code with Product Quality Analyzer tools.

Key Success Markers

Early Lifecycle Quality Assurance requires collaboration between teams and a shared vision, factors supported by the inclusion of interactive prototyping in the SDLC. By prioritizing Early Lifecycle QA rework and costs are reduced, QA input is incorporated at every stage of the project, and time to market is optimized.

Justinmind is a prototyping tool for web and mobile applications that allows you to visualize your software solution before starting development