issues, techniques, etc, with true external peers, far outweighs any perceived commercial negatives.
It should be noted that assessors are independent, ie, they have no involvement in the outcome of the testing. It differs from internal peer review performed in some test laboratories. These normally consist of one staff member reviewing the work of another. In these situations the reviewer may be under significant pressure to “approve” the results, eg, the software release date has already passed. It should also be noted that the technical assessors are not NATA employees; they are true peers in the sense that they are involved in some way with software testing on a daily basis and are knowledgeable about the work done by the facility being assessed.
The assessment process is a mixture of discussion, demonstration, and “show and tell”. Records will be examined to confirm compliance with the standard. The technical assessor will try to confirm staff competence via discussion and by demonstration of testing. Discussion will often revolve around the records of some completed series of tests, eg “Why did you do it this way?” “ How do you know that result is valid?, etc.
The process is intended to be friendly, and non-confronting. Discussions are intended to be constructive. If the environment is right, one actually finds out more about the laboratory and this is to the long term benefit of the laboratory. Issues identified should be regarded as opportunities for improvement, rather than failures.
8. Who is NATA?
NATA is the National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia. It has been in the business of providing laboratory accreditation for 55 years. In fact it was the first such body in the world.
It has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Commonwealth Government by which the Government recognizes NATA as the sole national laboratory accreditation body.
NATA has mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) with other laboratory accreditation bodies all around the world. Under these agreements tests performed in a laboratory accredited by one MRA partner will be accepted by the other MRA partners as though the tests were performed in one of their own accredited laboratories.
NATA is an association whose members comprise laboratories, government, regulators, professional associations etc. Members are represented on NATA’s Council which provides general advice to the Board which directs the operations of the association. Specialist technical committees are established in each testing discipline to provide NATA with specific technical advice.
9. What does accreditation achieve?
Accreditation results in a range of benefits for software test facilities, software developers, suppliers, users and regulatory bodies. These include the following:
- Many laboratories have observed that the process of preparation for the initial assessment enables them to identify problems in their operation. You can react to this by saying “ Well I can do this on my own without seeking accreditation”. Correct! You can! The reality is that most people don’t or can’t get around to it. Priorities overtake the intention and with the best will in the world, any detailed review of your own system gets postponed. Laboratories find that the decision to achieve accreditation becomes a driver for improvement of their management system and enhancement of their technical procedures.
- The assessment helps to remove internal “blinkers”. We are all relatively unable to see the obvious due to our closeness to our own systems. It often takes someone with virtually no direct knowledge of our system to identify holes in it.
- There are known problem areas in testing, which tend to be common amongst laboratories working in similar technical disciplines. The assessment process can bring these to the attention of the