Selling QA

It’s a tricky business, selling QA. Testing doesn’t actually add anything to your product. It subtracts from it. It takes time and resources (read $$$), and what does it give you?

I was going to say testing doesn’t add anything, it takes away something: bugs. But that’s not completely accurate either. It identifies potential bugs. Fixing them is left as an exercise. I always hated getting my homework back with the red check marks, but not knowing why I got it wrong.

Everyone knows what testing does, they know the benefits, but they don’t always see that it outweighs the cost.

Take the term Quality Assurance. It’s selling you peace of mind, “assuring quality”, but it doesn’t really do that. It can only demonstrate the lack of quality, and you can’t prove a negative. Or something like that.

Sounds like you’re buying a warranty. But how can someone guarantee something they didn’t build? It makes a bit more sense if the same entity developing the product is also testing it. Then, they are “guaranteeing” their own product.

But what if you’re external? You can’t answer for the product. But you can let the developers know they did a bad job, and how. But nobody likes to be told their work isn’t good enough. Nobody thinks they make mistakes. And those that do are probably wise enough to think that by knowing they’re fallible that they don’t need someone else to tell it to them.

But separating testing from development makes sense. Everyone realizes that. Any developer can tell you how they overlooked obvious flaws that the first 2 year old who uses their product can point out. (I think it helps to have testers who have an inner 2 year old.)

Does separating the testing organization from the developing organization make sense? I don’t know. There is the aspect of dispassionate analysis, which may more than likely lead to impassioned defense. But is there the sense of owership?

I guess it’s the same problem with consultants of any kind. They want to protect their reputation and get continued business. So do I.

But I think the most value in external QA comes not from the testing, but from the analysis. It’s got to be a partnership. Tools and training are the bread and butter of consulting, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Reports and opinions are the jelly, and I don’t think that’s bad either.

Organizations just need to remember what they’re buying. If you don’t want a Power Point slide showing the synergies of transitional analysis, you just want someone to improve your bottom line, don’t hire a consultant. He doesn’t care about your bottom line. But he might be able to tell you what he thinks might improve your bottom line, if you do it yourself.

And QA is just trying to improve your bottom line. Or rather, your top line. Because it makes the bottom line move up, no doubt. But quality is a differentiator that should be able to translate into higher prices, more customers, or better brand loyalty.

In a commodity, quality is perhaps the only differentiator, besides price. It’s better to compete on quality.


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