I sometimes hear opinions like: “Test consultants are hired to just click on some links/buttons and they don’t have advanced technical skills”.
The main source for this misconception is the general opinion regarding testers – employees or consultants – generated by software companies that don’t really focus on quality and prefer to hire unskilled/low qualified testers with no knowledge of test planning, design and execution.
The latest experience I had was with a UK company that hired a team of test consultants for their final acceptance testing. At the end of the test round, they were puzzled by the fact that the test consultants were more efficient than the offshore test employees and found a lot of new defects on a product version that was considered stable and ready for release. Most probably, they shared the same misconception, as they were not expecting the test consultants to perform better than their own employees, but to be less efficient and to simply execute some tests.
Another misconception is that test consultants don’t really belong to test team and they tend to be marginalized – they are not invited to all meetings, they don’t have the same working environment, etc. Companies should pay a lot more attention to this and stop calling them “externals”. Consultants are more expensive and they are supposed to perform better than the employees, so companies should not restrain them from doing their job by differentiating them form their own employees in terms of access to all needed information, desks, computers and so on.
The third misconception is that they are too expensive. However, if the quality of the product is too low and the client is not satisfied they may sue you or refuse to pay and find another provider. This will most probably be more costly than hiring a team of test consultants to measure the quality and take the right actions to correct any issues. Test consultants are too expensive only when they are not used properly.