From big service giants to startups, many organizations have set up successful Performance Assurance Services, but unfortunately some firms couldn’t manage to succeed due to some loopholes they have in orchestrating testing and engineering requirements rightly, client acquisition strategies, team setup, operational challenges, hiring right talent with right skill set, incomplete service offerings, etc.
In this article, I will use the word assurance to represent the team who is responsible for performing testing followed by engineering analysis to assure application performance.
Performance Testing + Performance Engineering = Performance Assurance
There seem to be recurring challenges and issues that can be easily taken care if realized and planned at the initial stage itself. I would like to share some of the top, key takeaways that I have learned and realized from my experience working for Performance Testing and Performance Engineering delivery teams / COEs for services firms and directly for clients.
I am sure many pioneers in this field who have created exponential increase in revenue targets, brought a large number of client acquisitions, and built innovative IPs would have more success secrets in addition to the below ones. Am excited to know and learn from your experience.
Keep your unique differentiator solution stories ready. Specialize yourself with USP (Unique Selling Point) in few major focus areas apart from usual performance testing/engineering services, for example, say performance prediction and analytics and have your story line elaborated and take it to your prospective clients with the help of marketing / sales teams. Plan to position yourself as a unique differentiated player and develop innovative accelerators / tools and/or methodologies on that selected focus area(s) though you might have other services under your portfolio. We can see many organizations that provide mere performance testing services only with the help lateral hires or internally groomed resources who know how to use tools like HP LoadRunner or Apache JMeter with the support of people managers who don’t carry technical knowledge. Have subject matter experts who are conceptually strong and capable of understanding and solving real performance problems.
Strong client acquisition strategy becomes the foremost key important factor for your success. Perform periodic market study/surveys to understand the state of other service providers and also on the new technology trends where bringing a performance angle will be most valued and appreciated. Have a strategic plan about how you want to take your solutions to market and set your revenue targets created in Q4 of the previous year. This planning varies based on your organizations but generally, the plan should include campaigns, road shows, publishing articles and ebooks, workshops, etc., depending upon several other factors to take the solutions and services to clients. These activities need to be planned more vigorously for small/startups compared to established players. Usually established players will end up focusing more on project delivery related challenges whereas startups/small scale players will focus on differentiator ideas to establish themselves as matured player with qualified SMEs.
Prioritize and value your proposals as they are the major gateways for projects. Demand for differentiator solutions and aggressive timelines are always key attributes of large proposals, but believe me, it’s worth the efforts. At this stage, don’t think about how to deliver or who will deliver, etc. Your only focus should be on proposing the right technical solution with smart pricing strategy. The strategic learning’s and key take away from a proposal experience is far higher than project execution experience. Every proposal needs to be dealt with utmost care to bring in your differentiator pitch remembering your competitors and their strengths. Apart from technical solutioning, look at several other factors like their existing vendors, competitors, historical challenges if already handled proposals/projects for the client in past, tool preferences, commercial expectations, etc. Impressive technical solutions with acceptable pricing will have better chances of winning.
Setting up competency framework and career path is important to retain the talents within the team. Create a competency framework for Performance Tester and Performance Engineer separately with systematic levels (4 levels would be ideal). Though the words tester and engineer are used interchangeably in IT firms, every organization should define what is expected from a tester and how a tester should have a career path as they move up in the ladder in the organization. A Performance tester at the expert level might have the skill set of a performance engineer. The competency framework should be decided considering several factors primarily based on the vision and mission of the organization’s key focus areas and how they want to project their story line to customers. Bring in multiple levels of learning courses and certification programs for beginners and practitioners to train them internally.
Dedicated Center of Excellence (COE) team should be made available apart from project delivery specialists/managers , at least a small / thin dedicated team considering the organizational constraints(SGA cost and others) with highly qualified experts is highly required. The COE should be solely responsible for handling proposals, tool evaluations, bringing in initiatives on innovative tool developments, periodic project audits, process setup and improvements, exploring new revenue pipelines, bringing in new service offerings, creating differentiator accelerators / solution presentation decks, publishing articles and Point Of View (POV) recommendations, organizing technical events like road shows, etc. Also, the COE should act as primary point of contact for the project delivery teams for any technical support and taking up other service offerings to existing clients. At any cost, do not include revenue targets or billing related KRAs (Key Result Area) for the core COE team.
Stay tuned for Part II!