On the outside, One Sparks Avenue looks much like any other Toronto office building. But working inside the massive two-story space is a group of professionals that are revolutionizing the quality assurance industry.
“We are being called category killers,” said Alex Rodov, managing partner of QA Consultants (QAC) and the man at the forefront of the software testing revolution.
The company is the largest software quality assurance and testing consultancy in North America. Simply put, it specializes in making sure developed software is working as it should. But what makes QAC so unorthodox is that it is doing it all from here – on-shore that is, rather than off-shore in labour-cheap places as has become the norm.
“The off-shore concept was not working for anyone,” Rodov said, pointing out cultural differences, staff retention and language barriers as some of the issues facing those companies who outsourced their IT needs overseas.
Companies lured by those low costs were soon finding themselves frustrated, he added. QAC is endeavoring to change that, offering a high-quality testing service locally at prices that are competitive with those offered by off-shore firms.
Rodov isn’t giving away the magic formula – “It’s a bit of a secret sauce” – to how QAC is able to compete financially, but the key seems to be the company’s narrow scope. By keeping its sole focus on testing, rather than going after the software development dollars, QAC is able to target all its research, development and innovation on improving the software testing process.
“Software testing hadn’t been innovated since the ’90s,” Rodov said. “We are now able to deliver a lot quicker and a lot cheaper.”
It is a story of good old Canadian innovation, he added. When the company saw that the IT landscape was changing in the last decade, it put together a think tank to come up with a way it could compete with its lower-priced competition.
“We did what we do best as Canadians – we used our brains and came up with a solution,” Rodov said.
The answer was a 60,000-square-foot facility called the Test Factory, a highly specialized building designed to take on projects of any size and scope.
“We keep the needs of clients top-of-mind,” Rodov said.
The company now counts 25 per cent of North America’s Fortune 500 companies amongst its clients, including those from the insurance, banking, manufacturing, retail and telecommunications sectors.
Their success has not gone unnoticed. In 2011, they placed third on the Branham 300 Top 20 Canadian Movers and Shakers list. In November, they won the Business Excellence award for Local Economic Impact from the Toronto Board of Trade.
With each successive year, the company is expanding, hiring 20 employees in the last month alone.
Rodov doesn’t call these jobs new, though. “They are jobs that are being repatriated,” he said. “We lost them to India and China and now they are coming back.”
With the jobs comes also a return in dollars that are being put back into the local economy, he said.
Rodov hopes the company can be an inspiration to other entrepreneurs, giving hope that business can be done locally, even if the competition spans borders.
“Being able to do interesting work makes us happy,” he said. “It gives us great pleasure to create jobs.”
New employees are put through months of vigorous training in the QAC model and given the chance to work with leading edge technology. Being located in Toronto gives the company access to top talent from some of the country’s leading schools and helps keep this talent at home, Rodov said.
“We are showing that there is a great future here in IT.”