Every organization runs according to a set of protocols. In software engineering, process and policies vary based on the type of industry and operations. In software testing, apart from identifying functional bugs, a testing review also takes place to determine whether the build or the upgraded system is compliant and adhering to the defined policies.
What is compliance testing? It’s a type of non-functional testing, sometimes known as conformance testing, that involves conducting an audit for reviewing policies and procedures to ensure the system is compliant with the relevant laws and regulations. In compliance testing, the primary goal is to provide a compliance report with details of any violations or missed procedures. The development team then uses this report to identify root causes and fix the identified gaps. Hence, compliance testing is different to all other types of testing. In testing generally, the primary objective is to test the system and identify bugs, but because compliance testing is more of an audit, it does not follow any specific testing methodology.
Why is compliance testing necessary?
Compliance testing assists in finding deviations from the company’s prescribed standards, if there are any. It’s used for checking and confirming standards and protocols that are followed for software development and aid in a smooth product launch. It’s also beneficial in saving the company from having to pay large fines if found to be non-compliant. Compliance testing also helps with coding standards, which in the long run, support easier code maintenance. It also helps in identifying any requirements violations so timely remediation can be taken to mitigate any compliance risk.
How and when to Conduct Compliance Testing
Compliance testing can be performed by an in-house team or wholly outsourced to an external group. The important aspect for consideration is compliance testing must be done only by authorized personnel or an organization. At the start, the selected team must be aware of the system’s standards, criteria, and norms under test since every organization follows a different set of standards.
Software standards are issued by either the government or the leading industries to make the software safe and secure for its end users. Some of the commonly defined criteria for the software Industry are:
- ISO/IEC/IEEE12207 Systems and software engineering – Software life cycle processes is an international standard for software lifecycle processes.
- The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which defines the Open Web Platform for development and support on multiple devices.
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that sets the standard for sensitive patient data protection, every healthcare sector must be HIPAA compliant.
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is a must in the EU.
- The Payment Card Industry(PCI) compliance is a must if the system involves any credit card transactions.
- PCI secure and protect the customers against identity theft.
Reviewers need to become accustomed to the standards of the release countries, global standards, and organization standards. Sometimes an organization sets their internal standards. For example, setting up web pages to be responsive to specific redirection rules. The compliance testing team must also brief themselves on the application under test, as well as collect and analyze data from any previous compliance checks and reports.
During compliance testing, some of the focus areas will include checking the software’s coding style and the encryptions. The audit also includes reviewing all documentation to check if standards have been followed.
Steps to Conducting a Compliance Audit
The team conducts a compliance testing review by following these steps:
- Commence by gathering information about all applicable standards, norms, regulations, and any other relevant input.
- Once the data has been collected, a checklist of standards is created that contains the norms and regulations.
- The next step involves assessing and analyzing the developed code and identifying any gaps and flaws by comparing it with the checklist.
- Once the assessment has been completed, the reviewers consolidate their findings, list the flaws, and share the report with the team. This report becomes the source for the developers to take action and make necessary changes.
- The system is reviewed again until it is approved and deemed compliant as per the stated checklist.
After a successful completion of the review and confirmation that the system is compliant, a certificate is issued by the authority concerned. This certificate provides added value and can benefit the organization’s publicity.
Compliance testing can begin as early as the project’s initiation and can take place during each phase of development.
Compliance testing not only tests the final built product but ensures that every phase of the development, including documentation, is compliant and adheres to the defined protocols. Software compliance requirements can be a bit complex and require proper planning and execution. Knowledge, expertise, and sufficient process training is needed before conducting the audit. Before finalizing a vendor to complete the compliance audit, it is recommended that their case studies, reporting format, and the overall review and rating are evaluated and examined.