What is compliance testing, and why is it necessary in organizations?

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There are certain criteria every software product or service must meet before being thrown into the market. Of all these criteria, software performance and safety are two important standards most software companies take cognizance of before they consider releasing their product or services.

End users care very much about whether the products they want to use meet all the necessary standards and regulations. Hence it behooves software development companies to ensure that their products comply with these acceptable safety and performance standards.

A set of processes by which companies ensure that their software products and services meet these acceptable safety and performance standards is known as compliance testing.

What is compliance testing?

Compliance testing involves procedures organizations undertake to ensure that their products and services meet a set of internal and external regulations or standards. It is a term that refers to a nonfunctional testing method conducted to validate whether the product or services satisfy the organization’s standards.

Compliance or conformance testing, as some people call it, takes different shapes and procedures depending on the industry. Regardless of the industry, compliance testing is a term widely used to suggest the process by which a product goes under thorough scrutiny to ensure that it meets certain yardsticks for measuring standards.

Forms of compliance testing

There are different forms of compliance testing. It could be internal, external, mandatory or optional. Let’s break them down.

Internal testing

This is compliance testing done to validate whether the product and service conform with the internal standards set by an organization’s management. At this level, this test is solely a responsibility of the internal management of an organization.

External or legally mandatory testing

This test is carried out by an external body or a government regulatory agency to assess if a product or service meets the government-approved standard. Compliance testing at this level is critical as failure might lead to loss of license, withdrawal of government contracts, payment of fines and more strident actions against the company.

Obligatory or mandatory testing

Unlike the legally mandatory compliance testing, which a government-approved agency backs up, this level of testing is usually between partnering organizations to check if products and services meet their set standards. Failure at this level may lead to the termination of the contractual agreements between companies.

Voluntary testing

Compliance testing at this level can happen if a company voluntarily invites another company to conduct compliance testing to obtain a certificate of compliance.

Standards in compliance testing

There are recognized set standards developed by professional bodies or government agencies used as a point of reference for compliance testing across many organizations. However, companies can also set their own standards to define how their products or services should perform when launched.

With regards to standards set by professional bodies, below are organizations that usually set standards used in different sectors:

  • World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)

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Why organizations need compliance testing

There are several reasons organizations need to compliance-test their products and services. Let’s check them out below.

Safety

The safety of products you release into the market is very crucial. Without compliance testing, organizations might not catch or spot some vulnerabilities in their product. With compliance testing, some hazards which could have been missed due to cut corners, carelessness and ignorance of safety measures would be avoided.

Quality

Testing for compliance ensures effectiveness, efficiency, and quality of products and services. Regular audits make sure that performance is satisfactory.

Legality

When testing is required, it would be against the law to release a product or service into the market before it had demonstrated that it met certain requirements.

Customer satisfaction and trust

Compliance testing ensures that companies maintain their reputation, customer trust and satisfaction.

Conformance

Adhering to uniform standards ensures that products in the market are compatible and in compliance with other standard products.

Steps in conducting compliance checks

The steps taken in conducting compliance testing vary from industry to industry. For internal compliance, organizations usually take charge of the audits involved, set the required standards to be assessed, carry out the testing and take every action required to ensure that internal standards are met.

However, for external compliance testing, there are some commonly acceptable steps to follow. They are highlighted below.

Hiring external auditors

Hiring or getting in touch with reputable organizations that conduct audits is necessary. The auditors must be skilled in the standards or regulations you are testing for and suitable for your industry.

Submission of data

Your company’s internal data has to be submitted to the auditors for them to perform a comprehensive evaluation of your product and services.

Auditing

The agency performs audits through different means. Your organization is expected to comply and be in constant communication with the external editors during the timeframe given for compliance checks. This stage might involve filling out the questionnaire, employee interview, etc.

Receipt of audit report

A summary of the external agency’s conclusions in an audit report is submitted at this level. This report may come with suggestions for improvements. After the audit, certifications or accreditations might or might not be awarded.

Improvement actions

Based on the audit report’s recommendations, action must be taken. For example, if the reports suggest specific actions to improve performance, quick corrective actions must be taken to ensure this.

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