software testing services company

How a Software Testing Services Company Helps a Software Development Company

If you aren’t releasing software as quickly and effectively as you think you can maybe a software testing services company can help.

Or maybe not.

There are 3 key leverage points that you should be getting from using a software testing services company.

  • Speed – delivery times for software project should be faster.
  • Quality – defects should be found more frequently and earlier in the development process
  • Sustainability – subsequent software project should start and end much quicker with higher predictable quality.

Here’s how to know if you are getting the most value from your software testing services company.

It is very easy for a software testing services company to get disconnected from your software development team and then take the blame for late releases or poor quality.

It is very easy for a software testing services company to get disconnected from your software development team and then take the blame for late releases or poor quality.

Daily meetings are good but agendas get stale and the value of the meeting can begin to decline. Daily reports are also good but it is also very easy to just glance over or even delete a status report email. Add to that, the fact that software testing outcomes are a lagging indicator – not a leading indicator – and it is easy to find yourself with a software team that struggles to release quality software on time. Is there a simple fix? Not hardly, but there are 2 simple things you can do that will pull your software testing company closer to your software development team.

Two-a-Days Keep Both Teams Sharp

We have found that software services testing companies that report twice daily and adjust once weekly seem to produce the most benefit in keeping their software testing teams aligned and in sync with software development teams. But, there are some subtle elements to these reports and adjustments that make them very powerful tools you can use to meet your software product release and quality goals.

  • Report what you plan to do and why – each Test Engineer should do this daily as a part of their daily personal planning
  • Report blockers immediately and then assign someone accountable to solve them – the software testing company QA Manager should be responsible for managing the resolution of blockers
  • Report the deliverables you actually created and why each one is valuable – a list of defects or test cases is important but the “why” behind them is ultimately more valuable
  • Meet to adjust the test plan weekly so that it is in sync with your product release date and quality goals – not all weeks need adjustment but most do

Here’s good reading if you’re interested in learning
how scorecards keep your software testing services company in line.

A Dedicated QA Manager Makes Magic Happen

You just can’t test every thing every time. And, you need to release quality software on time. This is where a dedicated QA Manager makes magic happen. In order to release software on time with the highest quality possible, a huge number of trade-offs need to be made to meet all of the constraints. This is part of release planning and a dedicated and experienced QA Manager can make your life easier and products better. Here’s how a dedicated QA Manager can help you get all the value you expect.

  • A Playbook of Software Quality and Release Strategies – A QA Manager has seen more software releases than you will ever probably see yourself. Learning all the little tips and tricks to plan and navigate a software package into a stable release is only one part. The real learning comes from experience – seeing and doing it many, many times. Every software package and business situation is different and requires a slightly different strategy to be successful.  Do you know which strategy will work best for your situation?
  • Test Planning – there is always more to do than can be done. How and when you select and run tests can have a huge impact on your developer’s productivity and quality.  Learning Test Planning is straight forward.  Actually building and running a successful Test Plan requires experience.
  • Software Quality Process Improvement – One definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.” Process evaluation and improvement allows your development team to build better products faster. Only an experienced QA Managers have seen enough software processes to help your team make the changes they need to make to get better.

Hidden Benefits Behind the Scenes

There are three big benefits going on behind the scenes that may not be immediately obvious.

  1. The process of planning and discussing the “why” of the goals is much more valuable than the actual plan. Every Test Engineer should be taking a few minutes at the start of each day to plan their day – and insure they are working on the highest value items in the right order. Planning requires thinking to make sure that each person is making the most of each day in support of the product release date and quality goals.
  2. Blockers are nasty and get in everyone’s way. Get someone outside of the daily software production process to resolve them and your plans will run much more smoothly.
  3. Reporting value is subjective but immensely valuable. Why? Without a clear idea of value, work is just work – activities to accomplish an outcome. Value implies that the outcomes are worth more than the cost of the effort. In today’s fast moving world, it is almost impossible to complete all the tasks needed. Forced triage becomes the norm and value judgments become requirements. Don’t you want everyone on your team working on the most valuable outcomes? Wouldn’t you want to know if one of your team members thought something was valuable but you didn’t? Report value every day and you’ll quickly find your team is one the same page and in sync with each other.

What You Should Expect from a Software Testing Services Company

At TESTCo, we believe in honoring promises. You make promises to your customers about the quality and reliability of your software.  We can help you honor your promise to your customers.

At a minimum, you should expect that your software testing company is exclusively focused on software testing and software quality. It’s just that simple. You just can’t get the same level of software testing service and experience from a software testing company that does not specialize in software testing. If you’re doing this to save money, you probably won’t.

Your second indicator about the quality and capability of a software testing company can be seen in their Test Case Management System.  Just ask, “How do you keep track of your test cases and test plans?” If your software testing company (or even your software development company) doesn’t use a Test Case Management tool then they aren’t well equipped to provide you the service and software testing outcomes that you need to honor your promises to your customers.

A Software Testing Services Company Should Deliver Value Every Day

At TESTCo, we know that simple processes that produce real value every day result in software products that meet their release date and quality goals. If you are having trouble meeting your software product goals, we’d enjoy the opportunity to share what we’ve learned and implement for our clients every day.

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QA Outsourcing Scorecards

QA Outsourcing is usually an expense – and that’s wasteful. But, it could be a valuable investment with a substantial return if you do a couple simple things.

Every software project needs to be tested. You know that already. How you handle the outcomes and outputs from QA Outsourcing will determine if you get the most for your time, money and effort.

The Value you Receive from QA Outsourcing Starts at the Beginning – Your Expectations

Start with these questions to help you uncover and capture every ounce of value that you can from your QA Outsourcing partners.

–         Is your QA outsourcing partner helping you track software defects?

–         Do you know the status of your test plan on a daily basis?

–         By track I mean are they providing a concise scorecard that is meaningful to you and the development team?

Tracking your software defects is important and valuable, but just tracking the features and defects (you are using your defect tracking for new features, aren’t you?) is not enough to improve how you build software.

Is your QA outsourcing partner providing you with a clear way to understand your software quality so you can make a good decision about when to release your software?

Releasing your software too soon with too many defects can backfire on you!

Is your QA Outsourcing partner helping you build better software and a stronger business that attracts and retains valuable customers?

When Scorecards Help Development and Testing

Here are some potential problems that you might be struggling with that can be solved with a software quality scorecard.

The QA Outsourcing Team Doesn’t Know Your Software Quality or Production Goals

A lack of focus and clarity is the #1 reason most goals are not achieved. A scorecard can quickly uncover who doesn’t know or understand your most critical criteria – your goals! This same scorecard can also show you, every day, exactly who is focusing their effort to achieve your goal. The goals should be clear and concise and re-written in the scorecard every day. Each person’s plan should show you the steps and outcomes that will be accomplished each day in pursuit of achieving your goal. You should be able to read and understand each step towards the achievement of your goals. If it doesn’t make sense, a scorecard makes it easy to see and make adjustments that day so you can get the project or person back on track to achieve your software quality and production goals.

Your Team Doesn’t Have a Daily Plan

A scorecard can record each person’s daily plan. A daily scrum or stand-up meeting is not a plan. The true value in a plan lies in the work and thinking that created the plan. A plan is simply a measure of the amount and quality of thinking that produced the plan. Without a daily plan, you are relying on luck and fleeting good intentions to accomplish your goals.

Your Team Doesn’t Have a Daily Summary

A scorecard can record each person’s daily summary. A daily summary can provide every person on the team with an insight into coordinating their work with everyone else on the team. Without a daily summary, the rest of the team is left to guess (or infer from the daily standup the next morning) exactly what was accomplished and if their dependent work can proceed.

Your Team Finds Blocking Issues

Your QA outsourcing partner’s work can’t continue until someone else clears some sort of blockage. Blockers occur every day – it is the nature of fast paced software development. But, without score carding blockers, their frequency, resolution and cost can’t be determined – and you’re doomed to continue facing them at inconvenient moments!

Your Team “Pushes” to Meet the Goal

This frequently occurs in the world of software development and is probably the biggest reason software teams make mistakes! A simple scorecard from every member of the team could have alerted everyone else to the time crunch issue way before it occurred. A little forward notice could have prevented the “push” and the corresponding wasted energy by the rest of the team.

The solution is simple – use a daily scorecard from each member of your software development team – at a minimum from your software QA team since they are the prime “measures” of your software quality and production capacity.

The Problem with Scorecards and QA Outsourcing

Most people do not want to be measured or judged.  And yet, measurement, analysis and correction is the cornerstone of ANY production process or quality assurance method. Think about it – if you can’t (or won’t) measure it, how can you ever be sure – of anything?  Would you want to drive a car, bake a cake or raise your family in a home that wasn’t inspected and measured/scored for quality while it was being built?  Yeah, not really, so why would you tolerate that in your software project?

Most software QA outsourcing companies and their testers do not want to be measured.  The perception is that bad things will happen so ignoring measurement extends the work for another day – in the shadows…

Ask your software QA Outsourcing vendor for their scorecards.  If you’re talking with TESTCo, we’ll happily share our scorecards with you.  If you’re talking to someone else – expect crickets….

The QA Outsourcing Team Should be Providing the Scorecard

At TESTCo, we issue report/scorecards twice daily. The morning report/scorecard reports the daily plan and establishes the most important metrics and outcomes for the day. It also has target values for each metric or outcome.  The evening report/scorecard reports the daily actual production metrics, plan completions and adjustments, any blockers waiting resolution and statistics on the most important daily metrics and outcomes. These twice-daily reports are distributed to the QA Manager and anyone else that may be interested or connected to the workflow.

The true value of a plan is the planning. Planning is the process of moving from your current state to a desired state – a goal. Moving from one state to another requires measurement. Daily measurement of critical outcomes is required to achieve your goal as efficiently as possible.

A final thought on twice-daily reports. I always get pushback from my Test Engineers when I initially ask them for twice-daily reports. It looks like a big hassle! But, being perfectly clear on goals and status, twice each day, quickly turns them into big fans of daily scorecards because they know they are highly valuable and efficient engineers – the twice daily scorecard give them the opportunity to demonstrate their talent and drive to their customers and managers. TESTCo Test Engineers very quickly become fans of scorecards because it gives them the feedback they seek to become even better at delivering the value they are committed to. Just ask one if you don’t believe me! For other client comments, check out our testimonials page.

What sort of project should you assign to a new outsourced software QA company? I invite you to read my post on this topic; the recommendation may surprise you.

What to Look for in a QA Outsourcing Software Quality Scorecard

A Software Quality Scorecard should be customized so that it meets the following criteria

  • Takes less than 5 minutes to create.
  • Contains your software production and quality goals (these don’t change) for the current period.
  • Contains brief On-Plan, Ahead-of-Plan or Behind-Plan indicator and short explanation of why.
  • Contains 3-5 quality metrics related to your production and quality goals that clearly tell you where you stand relative to your goals.
  • Contains any other information you need to make decisions on releasing your software project and achieving your goals.
  • Contains 1-2 recommendations for improvement from the person creating the scorecard.
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Software QA Outsourcing

When You Stop Loving Your Software QA Outsourcing Company

B.B. King’s signature song, “The Thrill is Gone,” sums up the feeling many engineering managers have about their software QA outsourcing company after having worked together for a period of time. The software testing company has been doing the job, meeting deadlines, but it’s just not the same. Something is missing, or is it you? It’s not you.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt or Why I Stopped Loving What You Do for Me

We have all experienced the situation where you just wake up one day and decide that what you’ve been doing in the recent past just isn’t cutting it anymore. What used to be new, shiny and valuable has slowly turned into old, tarnished and low value. Why?

In the world of software testing, we believe this happens because “value” is not specifically pursued as a prime goal. The need for software testing services seldom just goes away or becomes radically simpler such that fewer people are required. The software testing and development workload is relatively constant and slowly increasing over time with almost any growing software product company.

What does change with time are the environment and goals. The environment (or economy or marketplace) changes and that usually forces a change in a software company’s goals. The changed goals are usually communicated to the software development team but not always – and even then, seldom communicated to the outsourced software testing team. So, the development team changes focus and direction and the outsourced software testing team just tried to understand as best as they can and keep up running more tests.

We see this happen all the time!

Considering your first partnership with a software QA outsourcing company?
Here’s a post that will be helpful.

 

What is Value for Software QA Outsourcing?

Value can be thought of as the benefits received divided by the cost paid. This isn’t exact math but you clearly know when you’ve received much more than you’ve paid and you definitely know when you’ve paid too much for what you’ve received. Yes, it’s a perception but it is a very important one to establish and then maintain.

The Cost of this Sneaky Problem

Here’s what happens when your value ratio begins to decline.

  • You get fewer references and referrals because your clients are not impressed enough to say how much they like what you do
  • Your customer satisfaction scores decline but the feedback on why is very sparse.
  • It becomes very hard to figure out how to make your clients truly happy with your services.
  • Your employees become frustrated and unappreciated – causing more problems with hiring a retaining great talent.
  • Your revenue begins to decline and you can’t figure out why.

How We Build Value at TESTCo

At TESTCo, we are constantly pursuing value with every customer. We conduct an ongoing Value Proposition System that insures that our clients are always receiving the benefits that are most important to them at that time. We also acknowledge that goals and value change over time so we regularly update each client’s Value Proposition.

We start by working with our clients to understand the following:

  • Jobs & Tasks you want us to perform
  • Pains you want to avoid
  • Gains you want to achieve

We take that information and build goals, strategies and plans that spell out the tactical work we need to do to keep your software moving forward and achieve your strategic goals. We also build a Value Proposition Strategy and Plan so that our “normal” Jobs & Tasks work also accommodates the Pains and Gains you’ve told us are important so that we can help you achieve your goals.

We measure our Value Proposition Plan weekly and adjust it monthly based on feedback from our clients.  When we have achieved your goals, we start the process again looking for more value that we can create for you.

At TESTCo, we believe in honoring promises and one of those promises is to deliver Real Value Every Day. The TESTCo difference is that we know the value you want because we took the time to ask and then do something about it.

If you aren’t happy with the value you currently receive from your  partner for outsource software testing, then contact us and speak with our client who have trusted us for years.

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