Quality assurance is required for every software project undertaken. With growing number of projects, organizations may not have enough staff to handle them all. At these times, it may be relevant to consider outsourced quality assurance consultants. They can offer a more documented and structed approach to managing the high quantity of projects an organization may be undertaking. Similar requirements present themselves when a software development firm sees rapid growth or an internal reorganization, where old process become outdated. External QA consultants would be updated with the latest QA methodologies and practices and will help prevent bottlenecks within the QA function and, most probably, allow software development firms to allocate internal resources elsewhere.
Results of QA consulting
QA consultant brings a lot of benefits to the table for a software project including transparent processes with measurable metrics. Project costs can be understood more clearly with better budgeting and optimization of infrastructure. It improves upon the efficiency of the development with less chances of error on the user's end.
Things to consider
Time & Cost: The most important things to consider when choosing a QA consultant is time and money. As each project has timelines to follow, if the QA consultant takes too long to provide his observations, the project team may have too little time to fix any issues identified by project close date. Even if major observations aren't identified, a time-consuming QA would drain project's resources, which have to be reassigned from other tasks. Therefore, it is important to ascertain how much time does the consultant require to complete the QA and how much time of the project team will he require.
Budgetary Concerns: Budgetary concerns are always an issue and would play a major role in deciding on the QA consultant. However, the lowest bidder may not always bethebest option. One should look for a decent mix of price, overall experience, specific experience and reputation.
Qualification and experience: Overall experience relates to all projects that the consultant has done, whether or not related to our project's specific field. Thisisimportant to bring in new ideas derived from other businesses. On the other hand, specific experience is also important to know about industry specific issues and howto solvethem. Even with past experience, it isn't necessary that a consultant is able to deliver in the current position.
Market Reputation: Market reputation is an indicator of the consultant's performance in the current context. Furthermore, since QA is about certification fromtheconsultant, it the consultant's reputation is of being too lenient, his certification won't mean much; on the other side, if he is known to be too strict, it mightbetroublesome to comply with each and every requirement put forth by him for a good quality rating.
Testing Methodology: The same is relevant for the methodology adopted by the QA consultant. If their methodology is too stringent, it will cause problems for theprojectteam to satisfy the consultant. Whereas if their methodology does not cover all required aspects, the objective of hiring the consultant, i.e. ensuring softwarequality, may becompromised. It is, therefore, important to understand the methodology and approach the consultant will use and the ability of the project team (in termsof time, documentationand staff) to get along with it.
Testing templates: Another thing to look for in the methodology is whether the consultant will be using a pre-built template or will he start his testing fromscratch.There are advantages to the use of a template such as compliance with industry standards and regulations. However, not all aspects of the template may be relevantto yourspecific project. If so, the consultant must be willing to make amendments to his templates, rather than having your project to be modified in line with histemplate.
Terms of Engagement: The terms of engagement would be a final consideration. The terms will define what inputs will be required from the project team, at what time;basedon these inputs, what outputs will the QA consultant deliver and what the duration of the total engagement be. Will the engagement be a fixed term project for theconsultant orwill he be engaged on a perpetual basis for constant monitoring of activities throughout the project lifecycle, including maintenance.
To summarize, when selecting a QA consultant, one should identify how it is relevant and how important it is for the project. Objectives and results of the QA assignment should be kept in mind at all times of the engagement. The pricing, methodology, experience, reputation and terms of engagement should all be considered. Procurement policies may dictate asking for bids or an open tender. These project/organization specific guidelines should also be adhered to, ensuring properly documented and transparent QA consultant appointment.