Guide to Conformance Testing

Software development begins with the gathering, analysis and implementation of functional requirements to develop the required software product. However, in this complete process, non-functional requirements are often overlooked, which is a minus point and may not contribute in the long-term performance & success of the product. Thus, non-functional requirements are equally important, and needs non-functional testing of the software product to ensure adherence of different non-functional requirements. One of the types of non-functional testing is conformance testing.

What is Conformance Testing?

Conformance testing is a non-functional testing technique to evaluate & assess system against prescribed and established industrial standards or specific compliances set up by the organization prior to software development. More than a testing technique, conformance testing may be seen as the task of auditing the software product to ensure the fulfilment of specified standards by it.

Most of the organizations usually consider and implement pre-defined global standards and norms as specified by the international bodies like IEEE (International institute of electrical and electronics engineers) or World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) or ETSI, etc. Deviation or flaw in required standards and specifications may affect the following attribute of a product:

  • Functioning;
  • Performance;
  • Robustness; and
  • Interoperability
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Some of the areas or domains where the need of conformance testing arises are:

  • Software Engineering.
  • Electronic and Electrical Engineering.
  • Medical Engineering.
  • Document Engineering.
  • Telecommunications Engineering.
  • Datacom Protocol Engineering.

Conformance Testing Objectives

Although, stated the primary purpose of performing conformance testing, we are listing out the different primary and secondary objectives of conformance testing.

  • Whether Development, Maintenance or Support should be determined as per recommended approach and specified standards & norms.
  • To ensure non-deviation of prescribed standards and norms by the product.
  • Each and every phase of development along with their corresponding deliverables is strictly in compliance to pre-defined standards, guidelines or norms.
  • To ensure the completeness and correctness of different documentation work throughout the development like SRS, BRS, system design, etc.

Moreover, the compliance of regulatory norms and standards would ensure the quality of the software development work-flow throughout the phase, and subsequently will ensure the production of better quality of end product. In addition, it avoids any sort of objection from the regulatory bodies with respect to specifications and standards of the developed or released product.

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Who performs conformance testing?

First of all, it is pertinent mention here that most of the organization doesn't consider conformance testing as the critical and mandatory testing for their product and services unlike functional testing, performance testing, security testing, etc.

Conformance testing is primarily based on the management's decision. Whenever they feel the need of conducting conformance testing of their product due to different business reasons, they may hire or deploy a conformance testing team independent and separate from other testing and development teams or may outsource the task of conformance testing to any external organization or third party proficient in conducting conformance testing.

However, in most of the organizations, a panel of experts or a regulatory body is being formed and deployed to monitor and keep check on the standards, policies, guidelines and regulation being adopted and followed in each and every development phase.

How to perform conformance testing?

There is no specific procedure or method for conducting conformance testing of the product. It may be carried out similar to other general testing methodologies as defined below.

  • In the very first step, all the specified standards, norms, regulations and other relevant criteria need to be gathered and documented.
  • Second step involves the evaluation of each and every development phase through the assessment of their deliverables against the documented conformance testing requirements to identify and detect deviations or flaws (if any) in the implemented process.
  • Next step involves the reporting of these deviations or issues to the concerned team or authority in order to correct or fix them.
  • In the final step, the affected areas need to be re-verified and validated, post fixation to ensure the compliance of the desired standards and to certify product's compliance to different necessary standards.

Conformance testing may be seen as an inspection process which may be carried out by the in-house team itself, which is mostly not recommended, instead should be executed by an independent and separate team, other than the teams involved in the development.

Note: Conformance testing may also be carried out with help of testing tools, which need to be selected based on the requirements.

Whether conformance testing and compliance testing are similar terms?

Yes, conformance and compliance testing are similar or may be called as look-alike approaches with different names. Then, why two different names of the same testing methodology are swirling in the testing field? It is because; they possess very minute differences in their working, which is often overlooked or neglected.

Conformance testing is more formal and detailed act of ensuring standards whereas compliance testing is less formal or informal act of assessing product's standard. Conformance testing is used to certify the system against all the prescribed and mandatory standards, while compliance testing is used to evaluate system's standards for a particular operation like maintenance or support.


Precautions are necessary to avoid glitches or issues in future. With conformance testing, it is easy to guarantee the smooth and appropriate functioning of a product in compliance to specified and recommended standards and specifications.


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