Should your organisation consider outsourcing or off-shoring software testing?

The outsourcing – and typically off-shoring – of software testing is big business as the globalisation of services continues to grow. According to Deloitte, the industry is worth in excess of US$10 billion.

Most businesses are looking to offshore solutions as a means to reduce the often significant costs of testing in-house as much as they are looking to reduce the costs associated with business-critical software failure.

The typical levers of cost reduction, higher throughput or volume, improved speed and standardised quality are cited among the many reasons more organisations are choosing to test this way.

The digitisation of business has spurred an increasing reliance on software for internal processes and customer-facing activities, which in turn has focused the need for effective software testing to ensure that users are able to access and use new technology effectively in their day-to-day roles.

One of the key questions many organisations ask is what kinds of testing should we outsource versus what should we keep in-house?

The Ever-Increasing Cost of Human Input

Testing software and applications is a human-intensive activity. In spite of automation, testing requires people.

The best time to test software is within the development process, however, this has led to a rise in costs, time, money and human resources at the same time as businesses seek to drive down the costs of running their business.

Outsourcing or offshoring testing can save both money and dollars and free up internal teams to focus on quality control.

An investment in offshore testing can provide one of the key outcomes that CFOs like to hear: a reduction in cost without a reduction in quality. It is important to note here that this is a buyer-beware situation.

There are more than a few war stories from businesses that have experienced offshore testing disasters, with anecdotes about the lack of or poor quality of communication, misunderstanding of requirements and needs, not to mention cultural mismatches.

What Should and Should not be Tested Offshore?

There are, however, means of mitigating these issues and not all testing needs to be sent offshore. The points of demarcation lie in understanding which types of testing require a higher level of understanding of the business, which projects require extensive testing and which parts of the testing cycle are worth offshoring to get the greatest benefit.

Whilst offshoring can be cheaper on a per-day basis or task basis, setting up a successful offshore test model is not cheap nor is it simple. This means that projects with small budgets and low-cost implementations should be ruled out unless there is already an established model in the business.

Sending testing offshore naturally lends itself to large commercial projects with sufficient volume to deliver savings to the business. The majority of testing tasks can be part of this process such as software testing, SIT, non-functional and performance testing because they are functional in nature.

Project fundamentals such as strategy, planning, user acceptance testing (UAT) and quality control are best managed and tested by the team closest to understanding its benefits to the business, which is typically the in house resources who understand the key drivers within it.

Whilst outsourcing testing tasks makes sense from a cost basis, an in-house quality assurance team with intimate knowledge of the business will be far better placed to:

  • Ensure testing is uncovering critical issues;
  • Identifying which tasks should be sent offshore
  • Establishing standardised communication and processes with the offshore team
  • Understanding the cycles of testing – time zones will matter throughout the duration of any offshore testing.
  • Establish clear expectations in scope, deliverables and timeframes.
  • Establishing clear terms of engagement with offshore teams, including contract terms, start-up meetings and the opportunity to meet the team in person several times for the life of the project.

The specifics of what should be included in an outsourcing engagement comes down to ease of communication, available skills and the quality required for deliverables.

Eyes and Ears Wide Open

Dealing with offshore testing companies requires a constant level of leadership and careful oversight from the internal test team to ensure testing doesn’t move off scope or veer from the goals of testing. In house testing teams are usually the best resources for ensuring the offshore test team understands the parameters of the project, that clear expectations are set and communicated (in writing and verbally) effectively, and that UAT testing involves the right people at the right time.

Offshore testing can provide significant benefits to time, cost and quality of a business’s software solutions. But it can be extremely challenging and difficult to deliver if it has not been set up properly and the wrong types of testing are sent offshore.

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