Assuring Quality: Crunch in Outsourcing

Don’t bother them they,re under crunch
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The world of Quality Assurance can be a potentially thankless job and to be fair... that’s correct! You get to work through the night to ensure that the last build given to you can handle literally everything your team throws at it, and you’re never thanked for it.

(I have 5 years of experience working for an outsourcing QA company (Full disclosure: I got fired months ago for something that was totally my fault). More importantly, I’m not American - Thus there’s caveats everywhere as my experience won’t be the same as what you’ll find in the good ol’ US of A (Mainly, we have some sort of worker protection here) and it won’t be the same as someone who worked directly for a developer or a publisher. Practically every former QA employee has a different story and opinion on the business.)

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“Look, I know everything about crunch, ok? This topic’s been covered enough by every gaming website ever. You don’t need to talk about this.”

Oh, but I do. Do you even know that most outsourcers I’ve worked with will never encounter crunch to the same level as the rest of the industry?

“What?”

Yes - Here’s the deal with outsourcing companies. Every time they’re called in to help with a project, someone has to get paid. Crunch is counted as overtime, and thus carries extra fees that are billable to the developer or publisher that calls for it. As such, asking your outsourced QA to crunch as much as your team is very, very problematic. Of course, outsourcing has different ways to mitigate this.

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The first way is simple: Offer two shifts. One shift begins in the morning, the second in the evening picking up where the morning shift left off. That makes a total of 16 hours of work per station, and does not cost overtime money.

The second is to actually pay the overtime fee. Which means that the same people get to work overtime.

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Where I worked, overtime was not considered mandatory - It was voluntary and generally if not enough people could do it, they’d ask people from other projects to help out. Many took the opportunity to make some extra dosh at the expense of their quality of life. Of course, that’s where I worked - Laws here can have forced overtime up to 10 hours extra over the regular work week, but that was always considered the nuclear option and you did not want to be the one that does that.

“Wait, no crunch? That seems like a dream!”

Hold your horses, fictional straw man I invented for the purposes of article formatting - All good things come with their caveats. First, if you always skip out on Overtime, it doesn’t look good on your evaluation. They can’t fire you for never doing it, but it also means that you’re considered “unreliable” and “not a team player” so opportunities to be placed on good projects or advancement within the company becomes that much harder. It’s all about peer pressure. Sometimes, people would complain about certain other workers not doing overtime ever and they’d end up getting pulled from projects that had stable work because it called for overtime ever so often and they needed bodies for OT rather than knowledgeable people. It’s just the reality of the job.

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It’s also a bad look if the lead himself does not do overtime. That means another lead who may not be familiar with the project, or a sufficiently trained tester, has to take over for that role within the team.

Plus, for clients where money is no object, well, you can end up working two doubles in a row, or a month without weekends with an extra 3 hours on weekdays. That does not lead to a productive workforce, as you all know. Much more when the task is rote, which it usually is at the stage where these things are necessary. Consider the rising costs of game development and the budgets behind the bigger games that release, and you see that sometimes, money is indeed no object if you need to keep the outsourcing QA working way past what would be healthy.

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“So is there, or isn’t there a difference? I’m confused.”

It’s easy to remember - Crunch is for insourced or people working directly with the developers and they have no real choice but to participate. Overtime is for outsourcers as they are beheld to their employer and not the developer or publisher. They can say no to overtime, but it comes with a social cost in the workplace and may lead to problems further down the line.

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I have personally done all of the examples on this list - From the month long working at stupid hours without any days off, to the staying at work until 8-9 AM the next day to ensure everything was fine, enough that people were genuinely shocked that I was still at work when they came in for the morning shift. Worst part is, unlike crunch, I only have myself to blame for this.

I’m not going to say I wouldn’t do it again were I in this situation once more, but I would definitely think twice about it and if you find yourself in this situation, I urge you to take care of yourself first regardless of what you decide.

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I don’t think I have anything left to talk about, unless you have something you need more clarification about. Hit me up in the comments if you do.

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