How do you go about finding a committed team to continually test, develop and release new builds for a robust database application?  Many corporate teams in the U.S. hire local, full-time employees to sit in the office for 40 hours each week to be available for testing new code once released.  Some more progressive companies are treading the new frontier and gathering their QA staff through freelance job boards to accommodate software testing efforts in a more efficient way.

“Aimee has worked with us on a regular basis as a software tester (about 10 hours per week Since January 2012). She is an excellent tester, a great communicator, very smart, and very reliable. We are happy to have such a talented contractor on our team. Highly recommended. “

Each week, this a new build prepared for release to their users and QA staff go through and retest all major functionality to ensure that users get the best experience.  In this case, the application is database heavy and there are thousands of data points to consider.  The QA contractors create maps and export reports manually to make sure that all major functionality is still intact prior to release to the live environment.

The greatest realized business value for hiring part-time contractors is in giving a wider berth of flexibility to scheduling around other clients and commitments.  There is risk in hiring only a single QA contractor and putting all the eggs in one basket.   Freelance schedules and commitments are fluid and constant change is expected with other clients, so it’s best to diversify the team with multiple contractors.  For over a year now, Company A  has worked with three QA contractors, each only working 5 – 10 hours each week.

With constantly changing schedules and project dates, the QA Manager has to touch base frequently to adjust availability each week and plan for special projects if needed.  In addition to email, the team uses collaborative online tools by Atlassian, such as Jira, Bamboo and Confluence.  These tools allow the development team and Manager to communicate issues and assign tasks by streamlining conversations online.  The QA Manager and team can filter all assigned issues and tasks day by day. With three contractors to choose from, there are sufficient resources to push forward the weekly QA tasks and tickets can be reassigned to those with more availability as needed.  By diversifying the contractor pool, Company A increases the odds of having available resources at hand during important releases.

Now more than ever, businesses like Company A are thriving by using a business model that pays contractors on a part-time, even on-call basis.  By diversifying their workforce to include multiple testers in various U.S. timezones, owners of Company A are realizing a more effective workflow and test effort.  Each week, developers release the latest build and the QA team is expected to review and confirm documented issues prior to release by staying in close contact with the Atlassian tools.  This collaborative effort helps the freelance contractors set expectations with other clients so they can assist the testing effort for Company A when it’s most critical to the team.

By using these online tools and constantly pushing forward the weekly tasks, the current team of managers at Company A have proven (to me) that it is possible to build not only a dedicated, but truly progressive team through an simple internet connection.  The team is motivated, proactive and even overly kind and forgiving (gasp!) when communicating through the online tools.  A drastic difference to the cubicle life and politics I’ve experienced elsewhere – with this winning team, there is no need for a water cooler.