All posts by kevindunne

When to hire software testers in your organisation

Software testers are often viewed as the “last mile” investment in a tech startup. A young, early-stage software company is undeniably focused on feature development that will drive sales. There is real pressure to develop the product quickly and spin out new features to beat the competition, especially if you have outside investors tapping their fingers.

Before long, things can take off and you’ve got a couple dozen developers churning out code. Suddenly, you aren’t prepared when quality issues creep into the equation, and it becomes a process just to find out who may have written the suspect code. Existing customers start to ramp up their complaints and calls into the help desk due to bugs and application errors: that’s not a trend you want to continue. You may find your business is losing customers as fast as it’s acquiring new ones, bringing growth to a standstill.

When over-investment in development is the root of the problem, the answer is not to hire more or better developers. It’s time to start adding testers. If you have waited too long, as many well-meaning companies have, you are now stuck playing a game of catch-up. It’s difficult to integrate these testers into your company: developers may think they can do it all and senior management sees these new testers as a bottleneck generating unnecessary costs. The testers are already behind on their work from day one. So, what to do if your lean startup wants to succeed in the market yet also values high-quality products?

The first piece of advice is to be more proactive about QA. Don’t wait until you have 30 or more developers to hire dedicated testers. In fact, a company that doesn’t see the need to scale up to that many developers might hire testers soon after the core development team is in place.

There’s no right answer, but here are some factors to consider when determining the optimal timing for hiring testers:

  • An established or regulated business typically hires one tester for every two to three developers when at full scale (more than 500 developers)
  • For a startup with 20 developers, it’s time to get in place at least one person dedicated primarily to testing/quality
  • Consider the risk of revenue without quality checks. A startup can often grow a $6-$10 million-dollar revenue stream in 3-4 years, but with no testers, it can all be lost with one major bug or outage. Savvy investors have little tolerance for poor customer retention and unhappy customers
  • How many testers you will need depends upon the development culture in place. If developers are testing savvy and located in near proximity to the business staff, they will be in a better position to take on some of the testing load
  • Conversely, a company with a large, outsourced development team which has little interaction with business staff at headquarters won’t have adequate institutional knowledge to test the application adequately for end user needs. There is clearly a need in these cases to hire some dedicated testers early and ensure they have a good line of communication with the business