The North American Software Testing Awards celebrate companies and individuals who have accomplished significant achievements in the software testing and quality assurance market. The following is the winning entry of the 2021 Testing Management Team of the Year” Award.
QA Consultants’ Testing Management team executed a deep transformation, developing a new identity, culture, and corporate mindset by investing in technical and soft skills of their testing team. By doing so, this action paved the way for the future of software testing where cybersecurity, safety, high quality, and rapidness of non-deterministic systems will be key focus areas.
Overview of the project/initiative/challenge
DevOps, agile, quality engineering and continuous testing are essential pillars for the modern software development process. True SDETs – Software Develop Engineers in Test – are key to supporting the development team to achieve the maturity required that enables continuous testing, fast time to market and high software quality.
However, the biggest challenge for any testing management team is to find the people with those skills or figure out an efficient way to educate and train analysts and consultants with no software development skills to become an SDET.
Most developers’ mindset is focused on building and transforming requirements into applications. They are usually not trained to think as a QA usually does – negative scenarios, components and systems integrations, regression testing, non-functional aspects, UX, etc. On the other hand, QAs are usually not trained to deeply understand source code, programming, technologies from a white-box perspective or tools that are not directly related to performing tests or enabling tests (test data or environment readiness).
In the last few years, test automation became a must to enable continuous deployment and it is impossible to consider that a company will be able to go to market fast with agility and minimum quality having most of their tests executed manually.
In addition to that challenge, the pandemic situation that the world has been in since the beginning of 2020 forced all companies to heavily depend on technology to allow remote work for their employees and becoming online to continue making business through digital channels once the physical world became – and still is – restricted. It means that the demand for more reliable software and applications with high quality and quick releases has been growing exponentially in the last several months and the need for SDETs is bigger than ever. And, to make it even more challenging, emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, IoT, hardware and software more and more integrated, autonomous vehicles and robots, blockchain, cybersecurity, non-deterministic software, have been more and more applied to applications and testing now has become a complete process, still unexplored and undeveloped.
Due to this big challenge, QA Consultants’ test management team realized that the only way to have a strong team of SDETs, with the right balance between technical and soft skills, including tactical and strategic aspects of quality engineering necessary to understand our customer’s needs and capable to elaborate and design right test solutions, was to make heavy changes to their management, culture, career path, title, salary, training and also have its own research and development team to explore technologies and process to address the new testing demand, still uncovered.
QA Consultants’ management team was totally restructured, focused on elaborating, and performing a big transformation, not for specific projects, but for the entire organization.
The new structure basically focused on four main pillars: delivery, quality engineering transformation, technology and test automation, and research and development division, called the EmTech (Emerging Technologies) team.
Experts with 20+ years of experience in consulting and software quality and testing were assigned to lead each of those pillars, focusing on building the 4-key skills essential for our test management team’s transformation. Those leaders were committed and fully dedicated to transforming QA Consultants into a new software quality provider company, targeting to become the top leader in the new era of software testing in the next 3 years.
The new test management team’s skills include several years of experience in QA transformation, agile, DevOps, emerging technologies, consultancy, personal skills, and customer management.
Our test management team’s transformation strategy essentially was to build a fresh high-performance, motivated, happy, high-engaged, the team with balanced 4-key skills:
- Work Experience: How many years and in which industries acted as an IT consultant, accumulating experience in several different projects and learnings from different technologies, situations, and types of engagements
- Quality Engineering Tactical Aspects: Knowledge and experience in QE and test automation, including Web development languages, programming languages, automation frameworks, integrations, DevOps, tools, and technologies that you know and are comfortable applying in new engagements
- Quality Engineering Strategic Aspects: Knowledge and experience in QE from a strategic perspective, which includes assessments, decisions regarding technologies, tools, frameworks, leadership, agile, continuous testing (DevOps, CI/CD), QE transformation, test data and environment strategies, Regression and Smoke testing strategies, and knowledge in emerging technologies and their applicability in QE
- Soft and Leadership Skills: Experience as a leader and how to be a great mentor and servant to your team, setting them to be successful in any engagements, as well your skills and experience dealing with customers and their team members, solving conflicts, providing solutions, managing project risks, proposing improvements in processes, technologies, and helping the company to sell more and keep current customers
Consultants can always play different roles, depending on their skills and specific engagements, such as:
For training purposes, we have created specific training for our employees and consultants, supported by a mentee-mentor program where the ones who are a mentee and learn something and/or a mentor, to help and teach someone new skills during the fiscal year, focusing on developing the 4-key skills. A mentee and mentor always accumulate extra points to be eligible for bigger bonuses and salary increases, based on an objective and unified performance recognition program. Furthermore, we have a monthly Lunch and Learn session where the EmTech team shares what has been developed with the entire company. All the new technologies, processes, tools, and materials developed are available for our consultants to acquire even more knowledge and utilize them in their engagements.
Performance Recognition Program – PRP: In order to have a unified and transparent performance recognition system that allowed our management team to recognize top-performers and consultants that exceed most of the expectations, the PRP was created. The idea essentially was that everyone should understand their goals, expectations and how to meet and exceed them, having clear activities that each consultant should develop during the year and what to do (and not to do) to meet or exceed expectations. This program was structured with goals across 4 groups:
- Operation goals, which includes admin tasks such as hours and reimbursement claims, vacation planning, organization mandatory training, utilization targets, etc.
- Technical goals, which includes the mentee-mentor program, training, technical material creation, etc.
- Engagement goals, which includes the performance and customer’s feedback for each engagement that occurred during the fiscal year
- Soft skills goals focused on leadership, communication, and soft skills that each consultant wants to develop and improve
For each goal, meeting, or exceeding expectations give specific scores and, a general grand score.
We also have implemented:
- Rotation Plan: our management team should assign consultants to different projects, so they can acquire different experiences and develop all 4-key skills
- QAC Star Program: based on the PRP score, consultants are eligible to get salary increases every year, accumulated over the years, as a recognition and a way to keep our salaries competitive with the market
Although our test management transformation programs were developed and implemented recently, we have achieved great results that we are heading in the right direction:
- The management team has a unified and transparent performance recognition program for all consultants
- Our consultants are constantly growing, being offered training, mentorship, materials and are motivated to focus on their development
- We now have a clear career path within positions, roles, and responsibilities, based on a 4-key skills SDET foundation
- Our consultants understand expectations for promotions, salary increases, and bonuses
- We are invested in addressing one of our test management’s biggest challenges which was (and still is) to have SDETs with the right skills on our team, by training and forming them instead of depending on the market
- Developing our own IPs, patents, tools, and accelerators to address the future of QA and offer new solutions to high-technology clients such as testing services for AI systems, autonomous vehicles and robots, cybersecurity, blockchain, high configurable and variant systems, IoT, etc., and not depending on vendorsGreater commitment to the testing and QA Community
QA Consultants has not only developed a strong program to develop their consultant team but also has contributed to developing modern technologies and IPs to the software testing community. In 2021, QAC was recognized by Forrester as one of the top five testing solutions for non-deterministic (AI) applications and often shares blogs, materials, and thoughts through its communication channels. We also have a strong relationship with universities and are a part of international projects to develop new QA solutions.