A Challenge of Consultancy

Larry O’Brien makes light of consultants who milk assignments in his latest column for SD Times:

Dear Bob:

I have reviewed your outrageously padded consulting bill to Client X for last month. Well done! In these tough economic times, we here at Lucifer Consulting have to go that extra mile to make sure that our interests—not those of our customers—remain first and foremost in our minds.

As a consultant, I’m always a little concerned that any freelance QA effort will seem to be milking an assignment since any testing effort can expand to fill any and all available time offered for testing.

For example, if all planned test cases pass and you’ve got extra time, you can always come up with additional, more elaborate test cases based on knowledge you’ve gleaned learning the system under test. Or you can test with an additional browser. Or you can do some load testing. Or regression testing on new builds/deployments. Based on the number of defects found (a bunch, no doubt), even retesting issues can take hours, particularly if they require particular setup preparations (see more elaborate test cases above).

Ergo, I have to make sure clients understand how these things take the time and to make sure we’re clear on the priorities of billed time whenever we get into an engagement. You’ve got budget for 20 hours or 40 hours of testing, so here’s how I’ll attack it, and we’ll check in frequently to coordinate on what time we’ve got left and where to focus.

Consultants, or maybe only those with integrity, have to fight against this popular, and sometimes deserved, conception of consultants. But it’s a challenge of perception in a field where performance metrics and the quality of quality assurance can be fluid and hard to measure across projects.

Some days, I wonder why I left the print shop. You could count impressions of the rollers on paper, and you could see flaws in the printing rather easily.

No Responses to “A Challenge of Consultancy”

  1. blrincker Says:

    There’s that “ergo” word again. Why can’t we just say “therefore” rather than reverting to Latin? I think it is so that us pheasants think you’re smarter than us. (that was a purposeful mispelling)

    OK – to you point, I have NEVER seen a QA Freelancer with an unlimited budget on their testing. There is always a bucket’ed number of hours. He must be talking more about those Dev guys.

  2. The Director Says:

    I use ergo because that sets up the joke that the opposite is ogre where a conclusion does not follow the premise.

    As for O’Brien, he is a developer or one of those higher-order manager types, so he’s satirizing higher-order consultants.

    QA budgets don’t tend to have enough budget for testing, much less unlimited. I spend a lot of time trying to choose which things to leave out rather than thinking up ways to pad hours. In most cases, I’m painfully conscious of the potential risks left unexamined and the tests and scenarios not explored.

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