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Engineers are not testers. Here’s how to build a QA team.

Great software engineers are expensive, in-demand, and incredibly hard to find. Building an engineering team is a heroic feat – but stop asking them to moonlight as testers and build a QA team instead.

Trying to offload QA duties onto your engineers is not as effective as you might hope. Unhappy developers lead to high turnover, slower release time, and an expensive talent search.

Take it from the experts; build a QA team if you want high-quality products and releases. Here are some tips to make the process seamless whether you outsource, crowdsource, find a testing partner, or create a unique strategy.

Well, WHY can’t my engineers be my QA team?

Engineer-led testing hurts satisfaction. Engineers who test take time away from what they love – writing code. With elite developer talent getting more challenging to recruit and retain, an engineer-led approach can lead to major costs in the form of developer turnover and recruiting costs. 

Here are three more concrete reasons:

1. Your engineers don’t match end-user profiles

An engineer is likely to test the product, how it’s supposed to work and how they built it, the happy path. But users don’t use the product that way. A tester’s job is to emulate the user and often finds bugs off the beaten path that devs take, leading to more bugs and, in the end, a better product. The more perspectives you can get on your product, the better. 

If your engineers work remotely, they don’t have access to the robust device lab needed to test end-user device/OS combinations. If they work in the office, they aren’t covering the locations where end-users log on. 

Covering devices and locations that match a globalized user base with fragmented devices means getting creative – whether staffing a robust in-house team and lab or working with vendors who can accommodate the needs of your users.

2. Engineer-led testing wastes valuable time

When Chad Pavilska, a Senior Director and Mobile Architect at Bright Health, was employing engineering-led testing, the effects on speed and focus were damning.

“With sprint planning, demo, grooming, and retro, our developers are already losing one day. That’s 10% of a typical two-week sprint. Adding a day of regressions across many different devices and another full day to fix bugs and prepare the release means we lose 30% of a sprint to this type of overhead,” Pavilska said.

3. Engineer-led testing isn’t cost-effective

This one’s pretty simple – the unit cost of an engineer testing for an hour is higher than a QA professional testing. Don’t add unnecessary QA costs… that AWS budget is hitting hard enough. 

Here’s how to develop your own QA team

Crowdsource an all-star cast

With help, you can combine full-time employees with part-time testers to enable a QA push when you need it most. 

Here’s what an excellent crowdsourced vendor can offer you: 

  • Burstable testing. Leverage quality assurance, localization, quality engineering, payments, and other forms of software testing, exactly when and how often you need it.
  • Coverage. Set your specifications from specific device/OS combinations, location, or languages 
  • Expert testers. You can flex testers in different quantities that fit other end-user profiles to ensure that you’re testing for your ideal audience. 

Both crowdsourced and outsourced testing strategies come with their advantages and are viable options depending on your testing needs. For dedicated expert resources, outsourcing might be the right choice. For scalable execution across multiple locations, languages, and devices, crowdsourced testing might be for you.

Outsource QA + QE pros

Outsourced testing offers higher cost savings, consistent testing teams, and quicker dev time without the initial cost of heading an internal QA team. Historically, many outsourcing initiatives failed because of communication, methodology, and tester problems. 

If you’re planning to build a QA team via outsourcing, here’s what to look out for: 

  • Partnership and integrations. You need a platform with public API, integrations, and partnerships that streamline your testing processes by enabling CI/CD builds, DevOps workflows, issue tracking, project management, and test automation.
  • Quality Engineers + testers. If your outsourcing team is going to succeed, they need to be high quality. The best outsourcing team uses consistent, high-quality, knowledgeable testers and QEs.
  • Platform. Take a deep dive into the platform, as it will be your primary source of visibility into the QA process. Does the team use a single platform? What are the cost per user, device slot, and license?
  • Communication. Evaluate your testing team’s management, insights, and other forms of communication. What client services do they offer? The most effective outsourced testing teams provide real-time visibility into everything that happens, including entire testing sessions, artifacts, issues, tests, etc.
  • Coverage. The ability to scale up and down to test as needed with infrastructure across countries, languages, and device types. To customize your QA strategy, offer multiple solution areas (QA, QE, and DX) with various testing techniques. 

Final tip: Hire testers that are as rigorously vetted as developers

An offshore quality team, legacy crowd testing vendor, or junior QA hire looks great in that budget meeting, but the cost-effective option doesn’t help you retain engineers. Unskilled testers often need spoonfeeding and developers’ time and energy to explain testing assignments. Their repro instructions are unclear, and they overreport issues. They feel like an extra chore within development cycles instead of an extension (and value add) to your internal team.

Your developers are A-players. Your testing team should be, too. When you build a QA team, consider testers as rigorously as your engineers. If you don’t take our word for it, listen to Remya Ravindran, a QA engineer at Quizlet. When she switched from an unskilled crowd testing vendor to Testlio, she regained focus on her core work.

“The quality of testers is great. They’re not changing all the time, so they get to know the product. I don’t have to spend energy explaining things to them or spoonfeeding them,” Ravindran said.