A dedicated QA team: how to choose it, manage it, and make sure it delivers results

In this article, Nadya Knysh, Managing Director at software testing company a1qa, headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado, sheds light on the value a dedicated QA team can bring to a project, and how to choose, manage, and control such a team.

Nadya Knysh, Managing Director at a1qa

What value will a dedicated QA team bring to a project or business in general?

I’ve met three types of customers who are considering hiring a dedicated team.

The first type is the doubting Thomas: these people never believe in having a dedicated team. They think that a dedicated team is a waste of money; they believe those no-name people sitting far away, literally do nothing for 7.5 hours a day and spend the other 0.5 hours making up fake reports.

Normally, such managers have been through a really bad experience with dedicated teams, and obviously, do not want to go through it again.

They generally take one of two paths:

Path 1: they will never hire a dedicated team again. They’d rather sign SOWs, Change Requests, Amendments, and other paperwork three times a week than trust a dedicated team. That’s how they become a headache for the procurement and legal departments, as well as vendors.

Path 2: they become control freaks. I’ve seen a client who asked all of the remote engineers (not only vendors but also company employees) to work in “online mode,” — they used MS Teams as far as I remember, and while working should have been online with their screen shared.

I’ve also seen an organization in which every computer had pre-installed software that took a screenshot of the employees’ desktop every three minutes. Believe me — a good engineer will always find a way to work around software like that. A good engineer doesn’t want to be watched.

The second type is the shopaholic: these managers want to have 1,000,000 engineers onboard starting tomorrow. Oh, and they normally have no idea what to do with all that manpower. Well, I’ll be honest, I have 1,000,000 pairs of shoes, and I don’t know what to do with them. But I only paid for them once, and I’m not charged for every day I don’t wear all of them!

The third type is my favorite: smart buyers. These guys have some plan in place. They understand the roadmap, are willing to share their expectations and needs, and are open to your recommendations.

When clients ask me about the difference between a good and a bad vendor, I have a simple answer/test — a good vendor wants to be your partner. A bad vendor wants all of your money right away. And that’s something you can understand from the very beginning of an engagement.

If a vendor is asking how much money you have for a dedicated team so that it can come back with the maximum team size they can fit into your budget, that’s a bad vendor. If they ask you ‘Why you need better/more QA, and what problems you are trying to solve, that’s a partner. And that’s the difference between ‘body’ shopping and “brain” or “smart” shopping.

How to choose a decent dedicated team

Step 1: Check credentials

First and foremost, check the company’s credentials — company size, references, and even website.

One of my favorite examples was when we joined an international team as a QA team with a development team from Canada. Our customer hired five dedicated developers from them.

At some point, the project required additional resources to speed up the development. We easily managed to expand the team with people who had the required qualifications and expertise.

But the development team did not. Why? Because they only had nine people in total , including the CEO, who was managing the project while the manager initially assigned to run the project was doing development. Shall I say that people get sick and take time off?

Another good example was when one of the development companies reached out to a1qa with a request to become their QA partner. During the initial conversation, we asked our typical questions to find out their pain points to allow us to come back with how we could help.

Their explanation was very high-level, with all the buzzwords like crypto, blockchain, ML, AI, and so on. But when we checked their website, it wasn’t working very well, even though it was built on a third-party platform. As we dug deeper, we couldn’t find any track record of the company — past projects, clients, or news. We decided not to work with that company.

Step 2: Check past projects and clients

Case studies, live websites and mobile applications, references, or whatever information is available. If you can request an example of the company’s artifacts (e.g. test cases or codebase for test automation), that’d be helpful too.

Step 3: Ask for a trial period

I recommend a month or two and very limited scope — one module or one feature. This will help you understand how the team communicates, how quick the members are, and what quality you get for the money you pay.

Step 4: Marry them!

If you like your team, if you feel good about working with them, do not wait too long. Hiring a dedicated team is the same as hiring internally; if you don’t have a job offer for a good candidate, he or she will be gone soon.

P.S. I know some will also recommend an interview between steps two and three. I believe that’s an important step in case you have someone who is knowledgeable about QA and can validate the answers from the interview. If not, just let them show their best!

How to make sure that selecting the dedicated team will bring the expected results

Well, we’ve already discussed what to pay attention to when selecting a team. Any dedicated team is a set of people who are not isolated. I’d definitely recommend three things:

1. 360-degree feedback — ask your developers, product managers, and product owners how they feel about the team and its work. Do the team members ask valid questions? Is communication smooth? Are those defects relevant and well described? Do they actually find defects?

2. Management — select the team that has management on its end. I understand that you feel like you’ll be able to manage the team, but a manager who is sitting next to the team will remove all your headaches. They manager will take care of the team performance; handle things when team members are sick or on vacation; and monitor status and progress, assignments, and many other things. Believe me, that’s worth it!

3. Metrics — is the team delivering on time? How many defects can end users find after the QA team reviews the product? How good is the test coverage? How many test cases can they (or each particular team member) test each day? Most of these and other metrics can be easily calculated using a project management tool.

And a good vendor will actually set all of these calculations for you.

What are the mechanisms of managing and controlling an offshore testing team?

The first rule of success here is not to consider an offshore testing team an offshore testing team. These team members are now a part of your team, so treat them the same way you treat your team. How do you control your internal team — daily stand-ups, worklogs, 360-degree feedback, status reports, KPI, communication quality? All of that is applicable to the offshore team! And do not hesitate to automate.

A side note: don’t forget to assess the results.

Very often, when customers switch to the dedicated team model, they only think about whether they like the team.

But there is always a goal — at the team level or company level — that you decided to achieve when you onboarded these people. Are you moving in the right direction? Is this team helping? Do the members understand your business goals and accommodate them to help you? Are they your team’s brain and partner or bodies?

Summing up

A dedicated QA team can help accomplish set goals, speed up testing and time to market, and contribute to business success. To ensure this, it’s crucial to make a smart choice and find the team that will be fully dedicated to your vision and needs.

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