Quality Testing & Trust Building

Testing for Medical Device Manufacturer Means High Compliance & High Complexity

Everyone wants the same from their outsourced vendor: controlled results and the same level of quality you expect from your own team. Some vendors try to assuage your fears by making tactical guarantees like on-time delivery, on-budget delivery, zero defects, etc. But when you’re building mission critical products used to save lives, refunds or contract penalties are too little too late. When a day missed on the production line equates to millions lost in revenue, there isn’t much a vendor can do to make up for broken promises.

The truth is that mistakes happen whether you point the finger and place blame on your internal teams or your outsourced team. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. When a mistake occurs everyone’s focus should be on arriving at a fast solution and this can only occur when you have a “one team” approach. You need a committed team that is invested in your project at every level—technical outcome, business outcome, and team outcome.

Our work is not about tactical guarantees; it is about commitment to quality at every level including resolution of potential problems as they arise, because frankly even the best teams in the world reach roadblocks. The true test of a team is its ability and agility in overcoming these challenges. We are as vested in the outcome as our client, and not because of an SLA-related “penalty” but because of our “one team” culture that ties our success directly to the trust our client places in us. If our client’s technical team can take a real vacation once we’re on board, we’re doing our job.

This is not about deadlines or budget—it’s about taking responsibility and sharing risk. The “spirit of partnership” we coach our staff to adopt is not altruistic. We understand that supporting our clients to realize growth and success equates to a deeper and longer partner engagement for us. As the client grows, we grow too.

THE SITUATION

Our ability to work successfully as a unified team to deliver high quality in a stressful, scrutinized environment is demonstrated by our testing team. This team was engaged by a worldwide medical device manufacturer with a reputation for outstanding quality. For this client, the processes were detailed, domain knowledge was deep, and minor mistakes could result in major impact to clinics and hospitals around the world. We’ve successfully worked with this client for many years and the first step to building a strong partnership was to earn their trust.

Building Trust: First Layer Is Tech Lead to Tech Lead Connection

Everyone claims to build high quality software with a team of great engineers. We needed to prove to a demanding client that we could deliver. The first step was connecting the client’s technical leaders to ours.

We identified and placed really strong technical leaders with expertise in complex analysis and testing best practices. Our Quality Technical Project Leads and Quality Engineering Leads have a deep understanding of test strategy, test planning, test preparation, and business analysis. They are creative problem solvers and respected leaders. Connecting them with the head of Quality Engineering was the first step in building trust.

Building Trust: Second Layer Is Transparency

Companies often complain that offshore software development and testing is a “black box” and it’s hard to know who is doing the actual work. From the beginning of our relationship, we pulled back the curtain and offered full screening and the option to hand pick every member of the team. To build the ideal team, our leads asked the client for job profiles. We also learned a bit about the business, domain, processes, and the first project. We pooled candidates and in addition to our own staff evaluation process, we ran our people through the client’s rigorous interview and technical exam process.

Together we looked for key soft skills: creative problem solving, dogged determination to find the right answer, discipline in running repetitive tests, eagerness to adopt new skills, openness to cross training colleagues, and a true understanding of team work and ownership.

We also looked for technical skills in test automation, hardware testing, firmware testing, technical documentation, etc.
It wasn’t a simple process. We only accepted half of the candidates we originally pooled and went through two rounds of interviews and tests. It was tough. Many of our engineers were disappointed that they didn’t make the cut, but it was a great learning process for them. In the end, we built a solid team with the right mix of experience, personality, and skills. Providing full transparency and truly sharing the same goal to build a good team was how we built the second layer of trust.

The Final Layer of Trust Is a Continuous Investment

Over the years and across many projects, we’ve built hundreds of layers of trust with the client. With this client, building “one team” meant more than simply putting the right team in place. It meant going the extra mile to understand and adopt the client’s culture, pressures, and goals.

Building a good team is just the first mile marker on the road to success. Retention of the team is arguably an even more important and challenging goal to reach. Retention of people and knowledge for a client where the domain and processes are complex is critical. The client’s processes and protocols were so different from what our people were used to.

Driven by fast paced market changes and shifting client needs, quality projects started, stopped, and rebooted often. The processes and protocols required running and re-running dry runs and formal tests multiple times. This can be very frustrating for engineers when they don’t understand the reason for repetition, changes, delays, and even project cancellations. Our people don’t just come in to punch a clock. They wanted to both understand the reasons for their work and see the results of it.

We invested a lot in bridging the divide created with distributed teams. We brought key, influential members of our team to the client to work side-by-side. We increased communication and asked the client to include us in important meetings where decisions were made on project strategy. The client was surprised by the requests, but pleased with the results.

Today, we have a large team of people who understand the business goals, daily challenges, and even the inter-departmental divide that is common with this client and indeed with many companies. By helping our people understand the “why” we now smile as we watch seasoned team members coach new additions to the team when they experience the same frustrations. When we have a “one team” approach and share the same goals as our client, we are motivated to overcome the same obstacles.

CONSULTATIVE APPROACH TO PROBLEM SOLVING

Another way we invested in building trust with this medical device manufacturer was the introduction of crash testing or out of box testing. At the end of a project, and without prompting from the client, we invested time to re-test everything. The difference was that we enabled our teams to test whatever and however they wanted. The results were exciting.

In one project we identified a list of 12 potential issues or areas for improvement. Of the 12, seven were approved, developed, and released to the market. Sure, it was a big advantage for the client, but we see it as highly beneficial for us too. By giving our teams autonomy, releasing the boundaries of process, and asking them to think creatively we were able to motivate and ultimately retain really talented engineers.

Working as one team is a much larger effort than learning the processes and domain. Working as one team runs deeper than understanding the business goals. It is shouldering the same burdens, supporting one another through crisis, advising with no agenda, and continuously investing with an expectation to grow together. Learning the domain, training and cross training engineers, adhering to and making recommendations to improve process, checking and rechecking the work (and rechecking again), motivating people toward reaching daunting goals, and ensuring we are in lock step at every stage – this is what we mean by working as one team.

This is what it takes to build quality software.

As partners, we understand that it’s an investment to build a trusted relationship. The client invests in us, we invest in them, and everybody wins.

With this client, we earned and continue to earn their trust and respect, and they reward us with challenging projects. We have worked with them since 2011 and are honored to partner with them in solving problems that ultimately save lives.