Dear all,
I am a 29 year old ISEB certified test engineer and I have been given the chance to make a proposal to streamline the quality assurance department. To explain a bit more, I work in a company that deals with making navigational products. We have navigational solutions for Palm, PPC, mobile phones and also our own in-house hardware product.

What we have to keep in mind is that we sell our applications on SD cards (secure digital cards). I am the contact person in the organization for our card vendors. We have reached a stage wherein bundling our application on any SD card just won't do. Till now we were not looking at performance issues in that much of a detail. But now we are an touted as a company with hot prospects, we need to stabilize ourselves in the market and you will agree, a good performance is a key criteria for that.

Just to give you an idea about the figures that we are looking into, we buy around 60,000 cards a month from the vendors and we are the biggest buyers from both the manufacturers of SD cards. So the figure easily runs into millions of euros. But of late we have noticed that there are a lot of cards that are sent back to us by the customers because of poor performance issues. We have also noticed that some cards from a particular batch doesn't perform well, and since we didn't have ample performance checks and acceptance criteria in place, we ended up paying for those batches and then later being stuck cards that perform poorly. So this is one of the reasons that we decided to have acceptance criteria in place so that it reduces the wastage of time money and energy.

This is the process flow that I have in my mind -

Before we need cards for our applications, that is, before we decide which card we need to buy and the quantity, we need to get some sample cards from the suppliers and we need to run some tests on those, just to see how well it performs. By saying tests, I'll put the card through some basic read and write tests using external software, and I have also struck a deal with our developers to produce their own benchmarking tools so that I can test the cards for each product line. For example, I have asked the developer of Palm applications to make a small program, that takes the basic readings of the card when used with the application. Similarly, I have taken this issue up with the other developers who make the software for different product line.

If we find the cards are fit enough to be sold with our products, then I need to inform the product management and the logistics team about the same. But if I find during my tests that the cards are not as good as what they should be, then I will inform the card manufacturers about the same and will send the cards back along with our application, so that they can reproduce the error and get back to us after they make the changes to their cards. This information will be passed on to the product management and the logistics team. In the meanwhile, I need to run the tests on other brands of SD cards and see if those cards are performing better than the ones rejected. If yes, I will inform the respective teams.

If the cards are found fit, then the control is handed over to the product management and the logistics team. But I would also like to be a part of the complete flow, and is it common that performance engineer takes part in such a process till the sign-off?

This is my idea, and as mentioned earlier, this is the first time I am planning something in such a scale. I don't want to start off in the wrong way, so could you tell me how you would approach the problem?

What would those acceptance criteria with the card manufacturers be? We should also know that both the card manufacturers are ready to bend over backwards to be in our good books and so I think any of they will accept our reasonable suggestions.

As mentioned before, I'd also like to be a part of the whole process and not just fulfill the role of performance tester. So what is the approach I should take?

Though I have been in the testing field, I have not had such an opportunity before and would like to hear your advises and suggestions.

Any inputs will be welcome.

Thanks for your time