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How can QA best work with contract software developers?

At some point, software testers are going to end up working with remote or contract developers. Expert Amy Reichert explains how to make the arrangement work for you.

How can I make the most of a temporary working relationship? I need to know how to work effectively with contract...

software developers.

As a QA tester, at one time or another, you'll be assigned to work with remote or contract software developers. Your team may be distributed across the U.S. or across the world. The team will only be together for a limited time.

Most temporary contract teams come onboard to help create features that are behind schedule, fix a growing backlog of defects or start an automated testing effort.

It's frequently the above average QA tester with exceptional communication and leadership skills that's assigned to the contract development team. Why? It's essential as a QA resource to increase communication and leadership skills because it makes you a flexible resource that can be fitted into a variety of team situations.

However, how do you work with contract software developers you don't literally see, harass or talk to everyday? How do you ask questions and get information or help?

The best way is to become familiar with online meeting software, like GoToMeeting, Skype or FaceTime, or even social media outlets, like Google or Facebook.

Good old-fashioned IM works for important items that cannot wait for a meeting or email. I know it's hard to imagine, but these days, email is too slow. IM is most developers' best friend, and the tool of choice, especially with improvements in video sharing.

As the QA tester, you also need to establish a working relationship and define expectations. You have to train your development team. You must be able to stand your QA ground, when necessary, to explore and test efficiently. Develop a give and take with the contract software developers like you would in any personal or professional relationship. You'll be more effective if you spend time creating a working relationship.

Maintain a healthy, professional sense of humor. Demand, but also listen, and respect others' time.

Speaking of time, if your contract software developers are in different time zones, negotiate the best meeting time to accommodate all team members and be flexible. As a QA, you don't have to break, but you can bend in order to foster working relationships. Practice flexibility when you can to form a stronger team bond.

Finally, do what you say, and do your job well. Don't skimp on testing and expect developers to pick up the slack. Do your best work and you'll build a team that works well.

Even short-term contacts can turn into valuable assets down the road. Remember to build your professional network one developer at a time, no matter the duration of the working relationship. 

Next Steps

In the future, testers will work even more closely with devs

Will artificial intelligence play a role in future software testing and development?

What's next in test? DevOps 2.0 and data science for starters

This was last published in April 2017

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What strategies do you use when working with remote colleagues?
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The article seems somewhat mis-titled, since the focus is on working with remote folks rather than on issues created by contractual working arrangements. The suggestions are all valuable regardless whether the remote worker is a fellow employee or not. Most contractors are merely paid via accounts payable instead of payroll, in which case they are directed by the buyer and working with them is indistinguishable from working with fellow employees. Differences do arise when the outsider in fact is an independent contractor with control over their own work, which typically is thought of as consulting as opposed to contracting. In my experience, the biggest issues working with consultants stem from inadequate contracting that seldom address working together and in fact often can create issues unnecessarily.
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There are many techniques work effective relationships with "short term" interactions. As someone who has run a consulting firm for over 30 years, these are the norm for most client relationships even when we establish a multi-decade relationship with the organization.

The most common issue is expectations of all of the parties. IF these differ then problems are likely.

In this particular case the term "QA Tester" is a red flag [in the sense of alleged reactions of a bull].  Testing is a Quality Control aspect, and not one of Assurance. The developer (individually and as a team) should  have their own quality gates which are coordinated with the assurance team to examine the overall effort across the different controls.


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