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As a term, Managed Services is often used, but rarely implemented, and even less understood in our industry. We also routinely hear this referenced as “Testing as a Service”.
To QA Consultants, Managed Services is simply the concept of an engagement to deliver QA services at a fixed and predictable outcome.
When implementing a managed service, the programs are often rooted in initial engagements that are usually traditional hourly rate, time and materials projects. Ideal programs for managed services are those that require a large volume of testing on a recurring basis where there are advantages to the customer to reduce monthly spend on QA or cost of quality overall.
It would be expected that a managed services program can operate at a fixed monthly spend on QA with minimal fluctuations. In order to achieve that fixed rate, QA Consultants works with customers to define the core services and reasonable boundaries. So long as the amount of effort required stays within those boundaries, the service can continue.
One major advantage of a managed service is that it takes the pain out of managing a QA vendor and still provides an expected, shared outcome, and objective. Under a managed services engagement, the vendor is encouraged to use the best resources and most efficient team to solve a problem within the given parameters. The customer does not have to do resume selection and candidate interviews. This “just solved my problem” approach allows for a true partnership to develop. The vendor can include fractional hours of expensive and senior resources and add additional team members when needed.
An excellent case for managed services is our continuous vulnerability assessment. Security vulnerabilities and the way to exploit them change frequently. Based on changing attach surfaces, we must constantly review change our models for a given client application. Therefore, as each vulnerability exploit requires a different set of skills, this can be tedious for customers to manage the constant onboarding and offboarding of resources. Under a managed service, there is just a fixed monthly spend for an ongoing test.
A secondary advantage of the managed services accroach is the “get it done” approach that is enabled, especially as it relates to vendor software and tools. One of the biggest keys that a customer may be an ideal situation for a managed service is when they are asking vendors to provide expertise in a certain tool, looking for help with choosing a tool, etc. Often, QA Consultants will advise customers to ask different questions of their vendors. QA Consultants believes customers should be working with vendors to solve business problems.
A typical case for managed services starts with test automation. Traditionally, automation projects are a few months with a few resources to select a tool, build a framework, and implement the first “automated test suite”. However, if a customer desires to have a fully tested application, then that is the request that can be made, and a managed service might be the answer. Instead of a T&M project that will require a payoff and ROI down the road, a managed service can be built for daily regression against a product. Then, the staffing, tooling, and approach are all controlled by the vendor, but at a fixed and consistent monthly rate. This further eliminates any OpEx spend by the customer.
There are many other advantages to utilizing a managed service approach when engaging a partner for QA services, but it does require organizational maturity on both sides and a significant degree of trust between the parties. This is why we typically see customer relationships evolve and mature in these programs.
Primary managed services advantages:
- Reduced overhead/management by the customer
- Fixed and predictable QA spend
- Opportunities to reduce OpEx
- Higher vendor accountability
When to use a managed service:
- Application support and maintenance of legacy systems
- Continuous security assessments
- Test data management
- Test automation
- Performance engineering and testing