New NATA accreditation to put software-testers to the test

The National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) has developed a program that assesses the quality management and technical competency of software-testing laboratories.

NATA traditionally assesses the testing of electrical, mechanical, chemical and medical laboratories, but has recently moved into software to give the business community and the developer community confidence in the testing procedures of software-testing labs.

NATA is an association that holds a memorandum of understanding with the federal government to compare testing laboratories in Australia against international standards.

Software testing laboratories test the functionality, usability of software and, in many cases, whether it meets the basic needs of the organisation or industry that will use it. The laboratories check that there is sufficient documentation provided for users to run the software, and there are no obvious bugs that need to be ironed out.

This new accreditation is designed to give the customers of testing laboratories, software developers and corporations, the confidence to know that what they have developed or purchased meets international quality standards.

Ray Finch, IT co-ordinator for NATA said "corporations are moving toward getting their testing done by someone else within the company, or a third party from outside the company rather than the creator of the software."

NATA assess the laboratory in terms of the technical competence of its equipment and personnel, and also checks the quality management processes in place, such as whether there are appropriate systems for the recording and reporting of results, and how these results can be kept from compromise.

The accredited laboratory then pays a recurring annual fee to become a member and gain voting rights in the association.

NATA also gains revenue from government grants, for the purpose of establishing mutual recognition agreements with accreditation bodies elsewhere in the world. Test results obtained by NATA can then be accepted by the laboratory accreditation bodies of other countries, and vice versa.

"The government is motivated to break down any trade barriers that exist, and software-testing has been seen as such a barrier," said Finch. He believes that once testing barriers have been resolved, any barriers to the flow of software products between national borders should also be resolved.

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