Test Accreditation - Minimizing Risk and Adding Value

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or may even be non-existent, eg. the requirement for sampling is important when testing food, or environmental waters, but may be irrelevant when performing a type test on a custom built electrical switchboard for a major building. These variations between technical disciplines are addressed via discipline specific interpretive documents which are prepared by the various bodies which provide ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation services around the world.

5. What does ISO/IEC 17025 require?
ISO/IEC 17025 specifies the requirements for testing laboratories under two major headings, viz, Management Requirements and Technical Requirements. The clause headings are listed below in table 1.

These requirements are regarded as the necessary range of issues which need to be addressed by any testing facility to ensure reliable, “quality”, results, regardless of the technical discipline in which it is operating. The range of requirements listed ensures that the testing characteristics described in section 3 above are achieved.

These management and technical requirements are a package, ie. an effective test result will not be achieved by one without the other. In fact a technically competent tester can produce ineffective results unless his or her testing is supported by an adequate management infrastructure. Obviously the reverse is also true - no quality management system can produce reliable test results unless the technical aspects are also adequately addressed.

Those of you who are familiar with the requirements of ISO 9000 for quality systems will by now recognise a strong similarity between these requirements and those of clause 4 of ISO/IEC 17025. This is not coincidence; in fact it was intentional. Clause 1.6 states that laboratories which comply with ISO/IEC 17025 do in fact comply with ISO 9001 or ISO 9002 as relevant. The reverse is not correct as ISO/IEC 17025 clearly includes technical requirements which are not addressed by either ISO 9001 or ISO 9002.

It is not the intent of the authors to detail the requirements of each clause of ISO/IEC 17025. Instead the focus will be on only the following four clauses which are considered to be of particular significance in the achievement of reliable test results and which have been observed to be often handled by software testers in a less than satisfactory fashion.

5.1 Review of requests, tenders and contracts . (ISO/IEC 17025, clause 4.4) This is the first stage of the test process and is absolutely critical to the success of the testing. At this stage the test facility needs to clarify the requirements with its client and ensure that the extent of testing is fully understood by both parties. This applies regardless of whether tests are done in-house by the developer’s own test staff, or by an independent, third party test facility. The software requirements specification must be available to the testers who need to develop a reasonable understanding of the purpose of the software and how it has been implemented.

The test laboratory must review its capability, ie technical resources, equipment, personnel, skills, etc. to ensure that it can perform the tests required. The client must understand the limitations of the proposed testing and the ensuing remanent risk.

The desired outcome from this process is the development of the scope of the testing agreed between the testers and the client. This will often take the form of a high level test plan which will also form the basis for any commercial arrangements between the laboratory and its client.

The commercial relationship between an independent third party test laboratory and its client may tend to ensure that this process is handled in a far more structured and complete way than might be the case when

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