Performance Lab: Moving from Quality Control to Quality Assurance
Max Kutuzov, CEO
Would you trust your life to an autopilot system that had not passed testing?
What would happen if the software used in the financial industry malfunctioned and caused a huge loss for brokers and traders?
Will patients put their trust in a drug that has not been tested?
Above mentioned scenarios go to prove one fact, that QA/Testing has become an integral part of modern day business world. Be it pharmaceuticals, aviation, auto-motives, BFSI, telecom or any other sector, Quality Assurance creates a major impact on every industry. “To date the automation of processes supporting business has reached enormous proportions. It is now impossible to imagine business without information systems. The complexity and size of systems is growing with each year, and the importance of QA is growing along with it,” says Max Kutuzov, CEO, Managing Partner & Co-Founder of Performance Lab, a renowned QA organization. Founded in 2008, Performance Lab was founded to address a growing void in the area of independent software testing and quality assurance for enterprise customers. The dynamic organization today offers an entire range of quality assurance services and has exceptional expertise in performance testing, automation testing and mobile application QA.
Headquartered in Santa Clara, Performance Lab has grown immensely in the past couple of years owing to rendering exceptional services across industries such as finance, insurance, telecom, retail, e-commerce and software engineering, including companies listed on NYSE, LSE and MOEX.The organization today commands a great deal of power in the industry of automated testing as well as unique competence in performance testing using industry-wide best practices. Performance Lab’s engineers have performed more than 500 projects on functional, automated, and load testing, testing all classes of business-to-business (B2B) systems.
The organization that is 500 people strong today had quiet an interesting start. On September 26, 2008, at a bit past 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, Yuri Kovalev and Maxim Kutuzov left the building of the Bank of Moscow in the center of the Russian capital. They had just finished a presentation for performance testing of one of the bank’s information systems before a commission of 20 people, including the senior VP of Information Technology.
One could see the exhaustion on their faces. Even though the country’s economy had been gaining momentum during the financial crisis, their employer was under the pressure of hard times. And because of layoffs around them, their own jobs were uncertain.
A stop at the nearest pub marked the completion of the project. Yuri, head of the department for load and performance testing, shared that soon he would have to lay off half his team due to an order from his manager. These people had worked for the company for many years and had unique expertise in testing the performance of a variety of systems. The sorrow of it weighed on him heavily.
Maxim, who worked in sales and was responsible for relations with key customers, said that he was preparing to do some business of his own. The colleagues looked at each other, and Yuri announced his long-cherished dream to start a company that would do the load testing and performance optimization of information systems. After more collaboration, the future partners shook hands. They each wasted no time in leaving the company where they worked, and two months later, their QA company - Performance Lab - was born.
Adding More QA Services to the Arsenal
During the first two years, the company focused solely on performance testing and optimizing the performance of computer systems. The team soon realized that customers not only wanted services to optimize the performance of their systems, but also services for functional testing as well. So, in 2010, Performance Lab expanded to providing all kinds of functional testing, including regression testing, integration testing, migration testing, and installation testing. Furthermore, as the needs of customers increased, so did the range of their QA as a service.
“We started the practice of Test Automation to satisfy one of our customer - Czech Home Credit and Finance Bank, who asked us to support the test automation of its banking system. In 2011 we created a department for usability testing and security testing. Then, in 2011, we won a bid at MTS - one of the world’s largest mobile operators (which provides services to over 200 million subscribers), and were compelled to start up a quality assurance (QA) consulting department to meet the needs of the most demanding customers and provide services in accordance with the world’s best business practices and standards in the QA field,” explains Max.
Quality Gates: A Path Breaking Concept
In recent years, several IT organizations have said that the quality assurance process allows them to achieve high output quality of the product. But is this true? For this to happen, you must decouple quality assurance and quality control.
Quality control is the process of finding defects in products, with the aim of finding their subsequent corrections. Quality control is a means of maintaining the quality of a product at the current time. Meanwhile, quality assurance is a proactive process whose task is to ensure product quality in the future, thus ensuring the quality achieved by quality control at all stages of the software development lifecycle.
Quality assurance is a proactive process whose task is to ensure product quality in the future, thus ensuring the quality achieved by quality control at all stages of the software development lifecycle.
“From our experience, we can say that organizations often confuse quality control and quality assurance, and often believe that testing at the implementation stage will ensure the quality of the software. However, the process of quality assurance is much more complex than quality control,” expounds Max.
To illustrate the quality assurance process and how a company moves from quality control to quality assurance, Performance Lab proposes a methodology for a Quality Gate process, which more clearly allows the company to understand where and how quality needs to be controlled in a company, so a single overall quality assurance process is developed. Quality Gate refers to certain milestones in the lifecycle of software development, which allows companies to carry out pro-active steps, starting with the requirements analysis phase to obtain product quality at each stage of software testing. This saves effort and resources in the final stages of software implementation.
Quality gate is a set of initiatives aimed at ensuring the quality of the software to be implemented after each stage of the software development lifecycle. The Quality Gate philosophy states that without successfully completing one stage, one cannot move to the next stage, and the QA process will not provide effective results. This methodology is defined by eight Quality Gates: one gate for the requirements analysis phase, three gates in the development phase, three gates at the implementation stage and one gate during the operation. The correct and consistent alignment of Quality Gates in the lifecycle of software development will ensure that your organization is built and maintained by a consistent quality assurance process.
Countering Challenges &Enriching the QA Industry
Given, the path breaking concepts that Performance Lab is introducing to the market, it is safe to say that they have truly felt the nerve of the industry. The organization has not only identified the glaring gaps in the industry but has also built apt solutions to overcome the challenges. “Today’s QA industry lacks qualified specialists. The number of universities that coach QA experts is low, and quite often the qualifications of these engineers are poor,” explains Max. To counter this, Performance Lab founded a school of testing methodology in 2010. The institution has graduated 1000+ testing engineers that are currently employed by Fortune-500 companies and bringing value to the world QA practice.
In addition to creating qualified testing engineers Performance Lab also pays special attention to the professional growth of its own employees. “Our development program is based on the catalog of competencies and describes development from beginner to professional,” Max adds. The catalog of competencies includes the actual competence in QA, technical competence, and expertise by industry (banking, telecommunications, and retail, among others). The company has also organized the Assessment Center, which assesses the professional level of employees and builds individual development plans, taking into account both the wishes of the employees and the needs of the industry.
Another thing the QA industry lacks is uniform QA testing methods. To solve this problem, the organization has developed internal standards which are their own assessments of the level of maturity of the QA process that the organization promotes through targeted conferences and directly when dealing with customers.
The lack of a Testing Center of Excellence (TCOE) in large organizations leads to the inefficient use of tools and resources. This means that every project has to begin from scratch. So, without the use of existing achievements different departments would perform the same jobs using a plethora of different approaches rather than uniform QA testing methods. In their projects, the company implements both TCOEs and an ever-growing knowledge base so outcomes can be consistent.
A business that started in Moscow has today grown into an industry leading organization with clients across various sectors. The company’s aggressive plans have brought them to the shores of Australia as well, with plans to start operations there. The company was also adjudged as the largest QA company in the Russian market. With a great team at the helm and expertise in the providing QA services, Performance Lab is on an upward growth trajectory.