When I took over product management at my small software start up, we had never employed anyone as a dedicated product manager. We had no QA process to speak of, and the company nearly went of business due to the costs of supporting a very low quality product release. QA was all ad-hoc and fell primarily to the engineers writing the code for bug fixes and new features. As part of establishing product management best practices, I started looking for a way to build out standard QA processes. Needless to say I was worried about the company as a going concern, and improving the quality of our products was key to righting the ship.We nearly went out of business due to the costs of a low quality release. First and foremost, I needed to make sure that future releases achieved some minimum viable level of quality. I also needed a process that was repeatable and that I could afford to carry out for each new release. So while quality was our biggest pain point, standardization and budget/affordability were also concerns.
We started out by hiring a QA resource in-house. Given our budget, we opted for someone without a lot of experience. This tester did a good job of getting us started on standardization of process, but we didn’t have enough capacity to get scalable standard tools and coverage to meet our minimum quality level. More importantly, training and replacement were huge obstacles, both in terms of time and money. When our tester moved on to another job, we had to practically start over when hiring a new tester to take the position, and we were essentially without QA throughout the new hire training period.
After having difficulty finding a good option for an in-house tester later, we did try to outsource QA with an offshore firm. While the offshore firm was affordable, we ended up getting nothing of value after working with them for about a year. The testers were not managed well, no one was expert enough to offer us best practices advice, AND the testers were not good at letting us know when they did not understand instructions.
In the end, we continued to limp along with Excel-based test cases that our in-house testers had developed. As product manager, I was spending over 50% of my time covering QA on my own. So it’s not a surprise that the rest of our product management efforts suffered. Then, we found TestCo. TestCo offered extensive QA process and management expertise, along with a flexible pool of testing resources, that allowed us to achieve our product quality goals within our budget constraints. I have more confidence in TestCo than any other partner I have ever worked with. I know that when I get too busy to monitor our QA activities, they can be trusted to keep QA running smoothly and make sure I’m aware of what needs my attention. I no longer have to worry about maintaining QA at some minimum acceptable level. I can look to the future and aim for top quality products, and TestCo will advise me on how to do just that.
TestCo, first and foremost, is my primary resource for QA best practices. They advise me on how to improve what we are currently doing, and they look for opportunities to expand our efforts to make the process more efficient and comprehensive. As part of the advising, they also do the hard work of finding the right resources for my projects and ensuring that they are fully trained to do the work. After the testers have been engaged for a project, they offer the additional benefit of experienced QA professionals who manage the team of testers.
All of these benefits allow me to focus on critical product management like building products that my customers want to buy! In addition to reducing our historical support costs by improving the quality of our product releases, they are also helping us to make our goal of continuous delivery happen. By shortening our test cycles with automation and plugging testers into the development process while new feature code is being written, we are expanding our ability to deliver value to the market faster and increase our revenue velocity as a result.