External QA resources aren’t meant to replace internal QAs, but rather serve as a way to expand a team’s capabilities. Last week, Kristi Kaljurand, Testlio’s Senior QA Team Lead, and I dove deep into when it makes sense to hire more internal QAs versus when it makes sense to bring in outside help.

Today, I’m serving up insights as to how to get these two forces working together smoothly (and smartly). How can external resources stay up-to-date on product changes? How can internal QAs delegate efficiently? This post covers strategic tips for internal teams and external resources, as well as more holistic insights.

Assign point people

Rather than bring on an external resource that features no management (and forces you to vet, assign, and manage testers), you will want to choose a service that provides a point person, such as a test lead or QA manager. That way, you will have a single point of contact for the large strategy decisions.

As for the internal team, you’ll also want to identify one or two people who will be working the most hands on with the external testers. “Knowing what is happening requires someone from the client side to help us get more in depth,” says Kaljurand.

For any investment in an external resource to pay off, there needs to be an internal person in charge of onboarding. The more in depth the information that the point person is able to provide, the more valuable the test cycles will be.

Clear task differentiation

As was mentioned in the previous post, it makes sense to search for external resources when there is a clear need that can’t be handled internally for whatever reason (staffing costs, not enough workload, etc.).

There needs to be a clear understanding of who is doing what. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • Internal team is handling QA automation and bringing in predictive analytics while external team handles majority of manual mobile testing
  • Internal team covers scripted and exploratory testing while external team handles automation
  • Internal team strategizes and handles web app coverage and external resources strategize and cover all mobile testing

Because external resources can expand in-house team capabilities, it’s important to note what exactly the internal team is wanting to improve upon when bringing on outside help. This can help the team achieve those high level goals while maintaining clarity with daily and weekly tasks.

Gaining perspective

One key way for these different teams to work well together is to have mutual respect for the difference in viewpoint. As the client, internal QAs are knowledgeable about the product’s past and also where it’s headed, and can give the most accurate information about the intention for the product, and of course clear direction.

At the same time, external QAs have a more objective view in the app’s current iteration. They see it as it is, and can provide more of a user’s opinion in terms of suggestions for usability and design. “Testers can be like regular users as well,” says Kaljurand. “They are two-in-one.”

You have to listen to you users, otherwise who else should you listen to?
Kirsti Kaljurand quote

Participation in scrum meetings

Internal QAs should be well accustomed to participating in scrum meetings. During these daily or weekly standups, QAs can help identify, prevent, and remove project blocks while easily pivoting and re-prioritizing to make sure that the lowest amount of testing is left until the end.

But what about external QAs? Most QA managers would probably not consider having external resources participate in scrums, but in fact it can help with test cycle prioritization and risk assessments.

Certainly, we’re not talking about attending every day, but perhaps weekly or every other week, the external point person can learn what blocks and issues are part of the current sprint, to aid in decision making. Attendance can take place via video conferencing or in person where possible.

Being a part of team demos

Sprint demo meetings can be really helpful for all who attend. They are a way to share project value with stakeholders and verify that acceptance criteria have been met during the sprint.

Because team demos are so hyper-focused on sharing what has recently been done (typically one completed story), they are a fantastic way for testers to understand the key value of each feature and the most important acceptance criteria. This information can easily help with the creation of test cases, in addition to cycle prioritization.

Internal QAs are likely accustomed to attending team demos, and the external point person should be included every so often as well. Video conferencing can be an easy solution.

Knowing what is happening requires someone from the client side to help us get more in depth
Kristi Kaljurand quote

Attending retrospectives

A retrospective is a meeting that happens at the end of an Agile iteration to help uncover what worked, what didn’t and how to improve processes going forward.

Particularly when an external team is first being onboarded (or when changes are being made), it’s wise for the external point person to attend the retrospective to find out how the solution impacted everyone on the product team. Rather than only hear from the internal point person (the QA manager or product manager), they can get more feedback from other QAs and developers and make changes accordingly. That way they can provide more value, help the company to continually improve, and lessen some of the burden on the internal point person in terms of having to transfer all of the team feedback.

Daily communication (via Slack)

While attending daily team meetings is probably overkill, daily communication via an app like Slack is certainly not.

There are a whole host of updates that will be flying back and forth:

  • Risk assessments
  • Change in cycle focus
  • Cause of known issues
  • Relatedness of various bugs
  • Any need to pause testing of certain features
  • Questions and other basic communications

For internal and external QAs to successfully work together, there needs to be no barrier to communication.

Also, it will help internal QAs for external resources to have some access to developers, that way the feedback loop is as short as possible. There should be integration with the issue tracker used by developers to lessen the strain of any timezone or location differences.

As always, communication is key.

To learn how Testlio can work with your team, contact us for a demo

Dayana is a QA engineer turned technology writer living in Milan, Italy. She's always down for a smoothie.