The relationship between Testing and Digital Agencies is a somewhat complex one. QA Mentor has a strong relationship with a number of digital agencies, and we’ve recently been taking the time to understand what QA means to them. The first biggest lesson we’ve discovered is that QA doesn’t necessarily hold an elevated position within the Industry. For smaller to mid-sized agencies, the reason for this is fairly simple. At the beginning of startup agencies’ journeys, landing a new client is the life source of all they do, and being aggressive in the amount of output they create to land those all-important first clients means a lot of hard work for smaller fees and smaller profits compared to the fee charged. In this time, clients will rarely factor in QA into the budget, as it should “come with the service” and “the quality of the work is expected to be of a high level.”
As part of a recent campaign, I have spoken to over a hundred high level execs within digital agencies. Digital agencies are very broad in the nature of the work they do, but their response to the above challenge is often the same. “We check it ourselves” has become somewhat of a catchphrase. “Checking” is a word that helps me identify when a company has never had the chance to understand just what a valuable service testing is. Validating what “checking” actually means often garners a response along the lines of ‘we get a few devices between us as a team and look for any defects across a few different combinations’. Often, especially with the smaller agencies, it means passing the delivery around to friends as well, to see what they can find. It’s a process that appears to have some success and allowed those agencies to grow to a size that enables them to get consistent work. I totally understand why this is the case, Digital Agencies, much like tech startups, bring together creatives whose first objective is to create, not destroy.
This approach has some unspoken, subconscious thoughts included, and it’s why I chose my wording carefully when I said some companies haven’t had the chance to learn what a valuable service testing is. Firstly, testing is not checking and this is an important distinction. Testing is a methodical approach to ensuring that software/websites/applications are suitable for the purpose they are created for. Finding that links aren’t working, or that there are some grammatical errors in what has been created, doesn’t necessarily ensure quality and suitability of purpose. That isn’t to say that the work done isn’t of a good standard, but an untested product may not match a client brief or, more importantly, may have hidden issues with it that affect its sustainability or performance in future.
Secondly, it brings to light an idea that Testing is an expenditure-only service,i.e. you never see a return on it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I liken the use of a dedicated QA resource to using an accountant. I can file my own tax return each year, I can check it. However, an expert accountant can evaluate the relevant material, find “bugs” in the way I am handling my taxes, and can ensure compliance whilst saving me money. Part of this passage of thought is something that I highlighted earlier, and that is the contrast between creation and destruction. My response to this is to use another metaphor, think of what happens when an area of woodland burns, it comes back stronger. (Your agency won’t take years though!) We can’t be experts in everything, my language used in describing what an accountant does probably highlights that. So if there is an opportunity to use a service which saves you time, money, effort and offers expertise otherwise unavailable, it’s always a good idea to explore whether or not it’s right for you.
Other companies have had the chance to learn the value testing brings and have started to bring in QA services, whether it is in house or through other means. It’s music to my ears when I hear any company say that, as it shows they have been able to progress to a point where they feel strong enough to objectively put their work through its paces before delivery. Now that you’ve gotten to the stage to fully engage with your QA team, it’s important to allow them to work to the highest standards. QA Audit and Process Improvement services is perfect for this. It allows independent thought to actively ascertain where your teams can be made stronger and therefore make your company processes better.
After contemplating these, I decided a small checklist that took on the challenges I’ve heard on the campaign would be most appropriate:
- Show clients an ability to perform QA as part of the service, whilst maintaining a profit
If you can show that you value the output delivered to your clients through independent evaluation of your work, it breeds confidence. If you can convey to a client that you have the utmost confidence in your ability to deliver to them and that you’re prepared to verify your website/application as part of that confidence, you put yourself in an elevated position to sell to them over your competitors.
- Set aside money to be able to innovate for future and current clients
Similarly, whilst maintaining a profit line, agencies need to innovate to stay ahead. This can cost money too. Any testing professional will be able to tell you that bringing in testing early in a project will save you money that could have been spent fixing errors later on down the line. That’s money that could have been set aside to work on your next big idea. QA Mentor provides a flexible and low cost service that can be turned on and off whenever you need it. Some digital agencies factor in our services into their cost, or simply build it in because we offer such affordable rates. Check out www.qatesting247.com if you are interested to find out our prices.
- Perform effective testing against their content. Which is a) cost effective and b) doesn’t hinder (or stifle) the creative development process
Testing can be a time consuming process. During my time as an onsite consultant, I’ve seen the effects when testing is held up and the frustration that causes. For Digital Agencies, being late on deployments can hurt your brand image. There are a number of reasons why delivery might go over a deadline but testing needn’t be one of them. A provider that can enable agile and shift left testing can actually increase the amount of energy that can be spent innovating and creating. When testing is brought into the process early, effective static testing will highlight what is developable and testable and stop time being wasted before an idea has gone past an embryonic stage. This is a much less inhibitive process than waiting until a project is about to go live before allowing testers to do their job. Working with testers when you are creating can be very rewarding.
- Be able to effectively maintain regression testing for previous content created and not use up what valuable time in-house resource has
Regression testing falls under the previous statement of when testing can be a time consuming process. Despite being incredibly important, regression testing is often victim to knowledge-based shortcuts. That’s a term I personally use to explain when the application under test becomes known to the tester and they begin to pick and choose what is important to test based on the timescales that are given to them by management. By using an independent testing team who have the ability to refresh resources placed on your projects, you can ensure high level of regression testing integrity whilst at the same time, allowing in-house resource to be more involved with your development process, increasing your agility.
- Have a system to cover the matrix of devices to ensure product quality across as many supported systems as are needed
Browser testing and Mobile Device compatibility is increasing in importance and shows no sign of slowing down. Until a point comes where all code, app and browser usage is delivered in one unified way as some believe will happen, it’s unlikely to change. For all companies, not just Digital Agencies, being able to cross the matrix is a very real challenge. QA Mentor provides 300+ different combinations to assist with this challenge which can be used easily and affordably. Building an in-house lab is an option available to all, and has advantages such as ease of access but with the cost and storage space for achieving this, you have to question the practicality of doing so.
- Investigate (not buy) test automation to see whether it can help drive business goals.
Our CEO Ruslan Desyatnikov, wrote an excellent piece on this. Instead of paraphrasing him, you can find out his thoughts here: To Automate or Not to Automate. There’s a reason we advise investigation of Test Automation, not purchasing.
- Engage in periodic QA Audit and Process Improvement services
In a world where ever more intensive pressure is put on companies to innovate and improve efficiency of time and cost, understanding how to improve your testing procedures can help you understand how to maximize time throughout the entire company.
I hope this blog has been useful to you. If you’d like to discuss any of the points above, or skip to number 7 straight away, QA Mentor offers a free hour consultation with CEO Ruslan Desyatnikov. Ruslan has 20 years of experience in Software Testing and has just been nominated for best Test Manager at this year’s European Software Testing Awards.
Written by David Cox, Director of Sales at QA Mentor, who has 6 years QA industry experience, as a Sales Director, Testing Delivery Manager and onsite consultant.
Should you wish to discuss anything you’ve read here, please feel free to reach out to the author David Cox at [email protected]