Conformance testing is used to determine whether or not your software products meet specific regulatory, industry, or contractual standards. Generally, you conduct conformance testing because it’s required by a governing organization or SLA, but you can also use it as an optional self-check to ensure you’re achieving and maintaining conformance outside of the required testing period. These tests are usually carried out by private, third-party companies that specialize in conformance testing, although some larger software vendors keep a team of in-house compliance specialists to conduct more frequent conformance testing as part of their software testing life cycle (STLC).
Conformance Testing vs. Compliance Testing
Conformance testing is often used as a synonym for compliance testing, but this isn’t entirely accurate. Compliance testing ensures that your systems and software meet certain specific legal or regulatory standards such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI/DSS). Compliance testing almost always relates to your ability to keep regulated data private and secure, and includes validating your administrative policies and procedures in addition to your technology controls.
Conformance testing, on the other hand, is generally focused entirely on the performance of your software and systems and whether they meet industry or contractual standards. Conformance testing can be broken down into three basic types:
|Determines the performance of software under real-life load conditions. Load testing essentially measures how well your product performs in normal usage scenarios.||Verifies the stability of the system under extreme load conditions. Stress testing determines whether or not your software will crash when it’s pushed beyond normal operating conditions.||Measures how well your software handles a high volume of data. Volume testing verifies that your databases and systems are capable of processing the amount of data required by industry standards or contractual obligations.|
Characteristics of Conformance Testing
To help you understand the objectives and benefits of conformance testing, let’s look deeper into the characteristics of a conformance test.
Conformance testing is considered non-functional testing, which means it doesn’t measure the actual behavior (or functions) of your software. Conformance testing measures non-functional aspects of your software, including performance, usability, and reliability.
Conformance testing is a type of Black Box testing, which means the non-functional aspects of your software are tested without knowledge of the internal code structure, implementation details, or paths. Essentially, conformance testing is limited in scope and the tester will not consider anything outside of the parameters of the load, stress, or volume testing being conducted.
Conformance testing also evaluates documentation relating to your software, such as the software requirements specification (SRS). This is done not only to ensure your software conforms to those specifications, but also to validate the comprehensiveness and reasonableness of the requirements.
Now, let’s look at the potential benefits you can unlock by performing regular conformance testing on your software and systems.
4 Benefits of Conformance Testing
Conformance testing provides multiple advantages to your development process and your business as a whole. In addition to ensuring you meet the required industry and contractual standards for your software, conformance testing also:
- Guarantees interoperability with other systems conforming to the same standards.
- Ensures industry substitutability; that is, the ability to replace one software component or system with another.
- Streamlines the software testing process by providing approved and effective testing methodologies.
- Allows for a high-quality end product that satisfies all customer, contractual, and industry requirements.
Conformance testing helps ensure that your end product is compliant with industry standards, meets your customer’s requirements, and achieves the greatest possible performance.
Ensuring a Successful Conformance Test
If your software does not pass a conformance test, it could be an indicator that the project requirements were not adequately communicated to or understood by your development team. Often this occurs because the scope and requirements of a project are changed too frequently, which can lead to confusion and frustration.
Implementing an agile development cycle, in which teams work in short sprints and can quickly pivot as requirements change, is one way to prevent this issue from occurring. In addition, project managers should be responsible for reigning in fickle clients and keeping scope creep in check, so development teams don’t have to worry about constant changes and indecision.