The Tester’s Commodisation Trap

Working with large services providers, where just about every type of IT service is offered, an unfortunate fallout was the tough time we used to have differentiating our services from others in the eyes of the customer. Every call used to end with a “so can you tell me how are you different from company x, that does just about everything that you do?” Or a “company x is offering the same services you are proposing at price $y – it is yours if you match that price”.

 

Since starting up five years back, as a company, we have been constantly challenged with the positioning statement we make. What are the services we do vs. (more importantly) what we don’t? Who do we target as a market, and what do we sell within that market? What price do we sell at, and when do we walk away from it? And how do we differentiate ourselves from the others. There are no right answers and the choices one makes drives how the market sees you or you see the market.

 

I think a lot of this applies to us as individuals, as testers, as practitioners of our craft. When we deliver our role based transformation training (see People Enablement), we pose questions similar to this to individuals. My belief, based on my experience of having gone through the grind, is that to a large extent, the experiences that we can gain as a part of our job can be driven by the skills we gain or strive to gain as an individual. These skills need not necessarily be gained on the job, but outside of it too, and then the opportunities to use them begin to convert.

 

One should always be able to

  • define the skills one possesses or needs to possess,
  • how to position oneself within ones organisation, and amongst one’s peers
  • what levels of specialisation one needs to achieve and constantly strive for,
  • what is the demand in the market for one’s skills (how current are your skills)?

 

I see a lot of testers falling into the “commoditisation” trap. As with what drives corporates, within individuals too, there should be a constant fear of irrelevance that should keep one on ones toes.