What could a downturn mean for my QA strategy?

“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” – Larry Page

The coming economic outlook is one that will put businesses and QA teams to the test. Software businesses are more vulnerable than most to a critical consumer or the dreaded red pen of a financial director. At the time of writing, when this author googled “are we in a recession” the top answer which returned was ominous. “Not yet”, it said.  

But what does that mean for QA? We’ve been talking about battleplans with our clients over the last few months as they’ve asked us what the changes they’re making in line with this reality might mean for their QA strategy. Our advice has depended on their business, their outlook, and their strategic play – but there’s key decisions to be made. 

Here’s some of the advice we’re offering. As ever, if you’re thinking about how you should be running your QA during a recession we’re available to talk to you whenever you like. 

1 Boost Core Services

+ Your action: double down on core services 
+ Our QA advice: quality audit your most profitable services 

In a riskier environment, many businesses hunker down to their core services with the greatest margins and the most appeal to their client base.

Focusing on core services may feel like a safe approach, but it consolidates risk in another way. If you’re considering putting more of your eggs into your favourite basket, you need to be certain the basket works perfectly. We’d recommend a quality audit of all the software touchpoints which refer to your core services and core user flows. Critical and severe bugs can spend a surprising amount of time unnoticed – especially if it’s not in the kind of device used by your product or developer team, but an older OS and device. 

This is particularly true of services which require an “opt-out” for a user to churn, such as a software-as-a-service or a bill provider. (These tend to get purchased during the good times and reviewed in a recession.) Lots of users consider changing their provider periodically, but it requires a sudden negative experience like a frustrating functional bug to prompt the final decision to leave. It’s a good time to ensure that your product is squeaky clean where it counts.

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2 Love Existing Clients

+ Your action: show love to existing clients 
+ Our QA advice: exploratory test your user experiences to encourage complex product use

It’s easy for a business to panic about the state of new business; but from a topline strategic view the most important thing is to keep your existing clients or customers coming back. Depending on your business, the cost of acquiring a new customer is five times more than retaining an existing one. So while your marketing department might panic about earning their keep, budgets are better invested in remarketing and ensuring your product is working as well as it can for them. 

When it comes to QA, we’d argue you should focus on the value you’re delivering to clients and you should be trying to increase their stickiness by driving their use of your software product across all its features. What is the level of feature use? How engaged are users with your product? And once you know this, how can we improve it? 

To examine actions you might take to improve engagement, we’d recommend looking at software usability and reviewing your core user flows with our crowdtesters. Exploratory testing can be one way to find issues and risks not accounted for in built test cases, and it can be useful to get an outside perspective on why the adoption of “feature X” is lower than you would like.  

3 Rethink International

+ Your action: examine your international rollout 
+ Our QA advice: simplify your localization testing via crowdtesting 

Can you name the fastest growing economy in 2022? It was Guyana in South America, which grew by a whopping 25.8% this year. Today would be a good day to sell software in Guyana – but most of our clients are more plugged in to western markets. 

There’s a paradox around internationalization in recessions. International products are better hedged against recessions than single-market products. Despite this, reverting back to core markets is a well-worn downturn strategy, depending on the way that market share objectives and operating costs are structured across your products and services. 

We’re not going to recommend that you launch internationally during a downturn. But if you’re looking at rolling back, consider that some of the costs of localization can be more simply managed via international crowdtesting than with local offices. It’s possible to access local experts in any one of 190 countries via Global App Testing, changing the balance of how you validate your product. If you’re curious what we mean by this, you can read our localization testing page. 

4 Keep Building

+ Your action: innovate through the crisis 
+ Our QA advice: build, test, release! 

The above suggestions are all conservative strategic approaches to a downturn. But some leaders regard downturns as a great moment to focus on building. “It’s time to build” – announced Mark Andreessen in one post during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic when sales-as-usual looked unlikely. 

A downturn changes the market: it will change buying behavior and it will change the kinds of products which are successful. Therefore, it might be more sensible to continue releasing and focus on shipping that great product or feature suite even faster than before.

For our approach in QA, this is business-as-usual, which means that your top strategic objective for QA should be thorough testing which fits in-sprint and enables your developers to continue to release to their own cadence. You can read all about how we make our testers available 24/7 so that our clients are able to shift left on the main website.

5 Hire Redundant Talent

+ Your action: take advantage of a favourable developer labour market 
+ Our QA advice: do it! Worry about QAs later 

Some businesses we’ve spoken to are in the fortunate position to be able to take advantage of the talent currently becoming available via redundancies. With major software businesses announcing layoffs, their loss can be your gain. We’re hoping that some of the talent locked up in Silicon Valley could make its way to more traditional industries, and that non-SV businesses can expect a badly-needed improvement in software quality and design. 

Of all the kinds of technology talent, this is particularly exciting with regards to the developer market – one of the most expensive kinds of labour in the economy.

If you can afford this, great! Global App Testing is here to scale your QA resource to match your development capabilities without any fuss, so we can eliminate any concerns around QA becoming a bottleneck with poorly matched build and test internal functions.

6 Use Shorter Contracts 

+ Your action: procure with flexibility
+ Our QA advice: try our flexible credit model 

When it comes to labour, whatever solution you choose for your QA, your financial director is likely to thank you just as much for flexibility as they are for reducing cost. Flexibility empowers leadership; and the “uncertainty” of a recession is likely to be just as important as the reduced spending it may bring. 

Where hiring and long-term contracts are more difficult, it’s possible to invest in QA via Global App Testing using a flexible credit model designed to mitigate risk and ensure that you’re using all of the resources you buy. Even before you choose Global App Testing we think crowdtesting is the more secure choice for businesses – it comes without the risks that taking on an employee can.

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7 Cut Spending 

+ Your action: cut product and developer teams 
+ Our QA advice: don’t skimp on quality

Whatever you do in a downturn, lots of the core behaviours of businesses listed above are different ways of cutting costs. You’ll have to make some tough decisions here. Everybody will be looking to justify why you shouldn’t cut the department they represent.

But when it comes to QA, we really believe that it’s crucial not to let quality drop for a couple of key reasons. First, that bugs deployed into a product are significantly more costly to fix than those caught in pre-production. That means that in its best version, QA is an investment which saves you money, and that cutting it will cost you money. Cutting your QA function to increase risk: like removing the locks from your doors.

Second, in a recession, customers become more critical and hold your product to a higher standard than ever before. Today, you need your existing customers to value your product, continue to make the choice to use it. Tomorrow, you need a product advantage which delivers a market edge and allows your businesses to get the market share it wants. 

Perhaps the best recession playbook would be to strip back to your most lucrative products and services and invest ruthlessly in delivering your core product advantages for tomorrow.

8 Use a complementary Global App Testing benchmarking report

+ Your action: sign up to a demo with Global App Testing before the end of the year
+ And in return: we'll furnish you with a competitor benchmarking report when you start working with us

To show you how serious we are about driving value in your business, if you book a demo with Global App Testing before Christmas and you go on to start working with us,* we'll send you a courtesy benchmarking report  in your first quarter. That will include:

  • Qualitative insights into a selection of your key competitors 
  • Rates on performance and playability across your industry
  • Everything you need to finish out 2023 with full confidence in your product quality against your opponents

These reports will give you complete visibility on everything needed to beat your competitors on quality, whatever the economic environment.

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*Subject to minimum annual spend and other terms & conditions