How to choose a good QA consultant?

2017 Pulse of Profession reports that in software development industry, $97 million out of each $1 billion invested are wasted due to poor project performance. To avoid these painful losses, PMs and CIOs are willing to go an extra mile from a vague idea to a clear understanding of the project problems. This is where QA consultants offer a hand. But how to choose a good consultant whose work really pays off? We look into the matter.

how to choose a good QA consultant

No-regret choice: How to make it?

Choosing QA consultants wisely helps to prevent a range of project quality issues that result from multiple reasons, from incomplete testing to a lame overall project process. Making a considered choice requires diligent work from the CIO’s or PM’s part. A crucial point here is to sort out the confusion between QA and QC, or testing. The thing is that many testing vendors refer to testing as QA, and in case you don’t know the difference, you may pay a hefty sum for incomplete QA.

Preparatory work done, CIOs or PMs can confidently proceed with choosing a software QA consultant for their product.

Choosing a QA consultant: The interview

Just like when hiring new testing team members, software QA consultants are selected on the basis of an interview. Important reference points here are:

  • Typical duration of cooperation. Some QA consultants hop from project to project and don’t really care about the project afterlife. Others tend to support long-term relationships with their customers.
  • Flexibility. First of all, it’s the diversity of services and pricing models for various customer needs. The most popular types of services include external process audit, compliance with industry guides and standards (like HIPAA, GAMP or PCI DSS), setting up in-house testing and more. Secondly, the flexibility presupposes QA consultants’ swift adaptation to the style of work accepted in a given company. For good results, the two work styles should be compatible.
  • Security. How do they approach security in their work? It’s important to find out how they plan to keep the customer’s data safe and what measures they can offer in case of a security breach.
  • Domain knowledge. To provide valuable consulting, the specialists need to take a deep dive into the project and its peculiarities. Here competence in the project domain and the knowledge of industry-specific challenges are of great help.

Having shortlisted some candidates, you might face a tougher choice. The shortlisted candidates are almost equal in terms of duration of cooperation, flexibility, domain knowledge and security. So how to choose The One? Talking business is the key. We recommend discussing the consulting strategy and steps with each shortlisted candidate. Even if the company has never recurred to QA consulting before, CIOs or PMs shouldn’t hesitate to ask all sorts of questions to understand if a candidate pays due attention to every step or just acts pro forma. In case the candidate’s explanations sound unclear or unreasonable, it’s better to skip them, as during real consulting, it will only become worse. But how this “real consulting” is done? Below we describe the model QA process.

QA consulting: Model QA process

Quality QA consulting falls into several stages:

  1. Get in. QA consultants study the available project documentation. They proceed with interviewing the project stakeholders to gather their ideas about the achieved interim results and project problems. Then the consultants revise the project once again to match the stakeholders’ ideas and their perspective with the project situation and find the actual causes of the project troubles.
  2. Uncovering the project problems. It’s no surprise that the stakeholders’ ideas may differ from the opinions reigning in the rest of the project team. So, QA consultants study these views to get a closer-to-life idea about the causes for the project troubles. Then they prioritize the risks the identified project problems involve. Some problems may be annoying, but not critical for the project implementation, while others may be stably paving the project’s death road. These are to be fixed as soon as possible.
  3. Working out possible solutions. Key problems identified, QA consultants work on possible solutions. These usually include measures to address the reported problems, choosing the necessary metrics to evaluate the process of resolving the issue, introducing changes to the project management or planning. At the same time, consultants look at the risks that fixing the issue may bring.
  4. Putting the measures forward. QA consultants discuss the solutions and risks with the PM or CIO and the project team. The team accepts (fully or partially) the proposed measures, and QA consultants draft a roadmap and a detailed action plan that covers the 3 Wh’s (Who? What? When?) for implementing the roadmap.
  5. Implementing the solutions. QA consultants implement the accepted measures and transfer knowledge to the project team members. The consultants also keep an eye on the risks and product quality problems that may appear as a result of changes and fix the related issues (if any).
  6. Project afterlife. QA consultants pass the work and the developed practices for managing the risks of low quality to the project team and supervise their performance for some time, ready to step in at any tricky moment.

The outline we propose is not universal. Actually, every single project requires a tailored approach that suits it best. We tried to present the example of an efficient QA process for you to know what to expect from your potential QA consultant.

An afterword

When it comes to saving a project from failure, QA consulting seems the most reasonable effort to choose. However, software QA consultants who really help to set the project process right aren’t easy to come by. To choose wisely, a PM or a CIO can proceed as follows:

  • Starting with preparatory work. Prior to meeting with the candidate, make sure they fully understand the nature of QA and study the candidates’ portfolios and customer reviews.
  • Interviewing the candidates. This standard practice helps to draft an overall candidate’s profile focused on the features important for and shortlist the suitable candidates.
  • Choosing The One. To curb the list to just one name, PMs/CIOs should ask the candidates about their established QA practices to see if the two parties are on the same page.

With this three-step approach, the process of choosing QA consultants is far more structured and efficient.

About the Author: Boris Shiklo

Boris Shiklo, CTO at ScienceSoft, is responsible for the company’s long-term technological vision and innovation strategies. Under his supervision, the company’s development team has successfully fulfilled complex projects of over 80,000 man-hours in Healthcare, Banking & Finance, Retail, Telecommunications, Public Sector and other domains. Boris Shiklo has a solid background in IT consulting, software development, project management and strategic planning.