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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Working with vendors: Ensuring that tools are synchronized ..

This is part of a series of discussions on how to work with people outside the software development core team, which in most cases are typically vendors. You would be working with vendors for a variety of reasons:
- Part of the testing needed is done by the vendors
- There is a sudden work to be done besides the core work, and the additional work testing is needed to be done by vendors
- The product is being localized into many languages and the testing in various languages is being done by vendors
- Multiple other reasons such as these, all of which raise the need for vendors to take part for testing.

Now, when you have vendors working with the core team for testing purposes, you will be lucky if there is a continuity in terms of the personnel from the vendor side over the years. Our experience has been that unless we are able to provide business to the vendors the year round, people on the vendor side move onto different projects and would not be so easily available the next time when there is a need for the vendor. In addition, there are times when there is a sudden need for testing, and at that time, testers from the vendor side who have experience in the product would not be available.
In previous posts (Process setting, Kickoff and knowledge transfer), I have already been talking about some processes involved in working with vendors who assist in testing, and how to ensure that getting them trained is done as easily as possible. However, there is another area where there is a need for ensuring that knowledge transition happens efficiently, and that is in the area of tools that are used for the process of preparing the data as well as doing the testing.
Applications such as Defect Management systems and source repository systems are easy for vendors to understand, given that even if the vendors have been using a different tool for these functions, the basic concept of using these tools does not change too much, and hence it should be fairly easy for them to pick up a new tool.
However, it gets problematic when the team is using specialized tools, and there is a high chance that the personnel from the vendor site would not have the experience in using such tools. We had this in a previous project, where we were using specific tools such as 'Fiddler' for testing out the flow between the desktop application and an online application. When we spoke to the vendor team around the start of the project, they had no experience in a similar tool, and yet it was necessary for them to do the testing (we could not do the testing of this tool in all the areas where it was the vendor responsibility, and hence it was important for the vendor to learn this tool). So, finally we had to run a project whereby we did a few rounds of web conferencing with the vendor and explained how to use this and other such tools. However, it would have been more efficient to have already prepared such a document for the various tools that the teams use, along with something like a self-learning document.

Read more about working with vendors in the next post (Processes when dealing with vendors)

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