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3 cornerstones of QA outsourcing

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Andrei Mikhailau, Software Testing Director, ScienceSoft

All companies—not just tech firms—have software to test. But many enterprises consider the costs of employing an appropriate in-house QA and testing team to be extravagant.

If that's the situation you face, you might want to consider QA outsourcing opportunities instead. 

There are peculiarities that can greatly influence your software testing strategy, however. Here's how to make the most of outsourced testing.

1. Mind the specifics

Being mindful of these key details will help you choose the correct outsourcing testing vendor.

Software diversity

A bare minimum of software used in the enterprise usually includes ERP and CRM systems, an intranet, a document management system, supplier and customer portals, and a data warehouse. This list might be longer, depending on your company's needs.

The software your users interact with daily varies in more than its purpose and function. Some of the software is platform-based (SAP, Salesforce, etc.) and heavily customized, and other applications are custom-developed to embrace a company's distinct demands.

Consequently, effective testing requires deep knowledge of varied technologies and platforms. So you should choose a vendor experienced with the software types and platforms in question.

Legacy software

Some of your solutions were probably developed quite a while ago. In that case, your software requirements may be outdated or missing. You have to update or fully re-create them, because these are crucial for efficient testing procedures.

The relevant QA vendor should be ready to help you re-create the lost or outdated multilevel software requirements, and provide thorough regression testing as your apps' code may be prone to unpredictable and severe regression errors.

Industry details

Each industry has its own testing approach and expertise. For example, financial and banking software needs to comply with international standards and regulations including Basel III or BCBS 239, FATCA, AML, and PCI DSS. Medical software needs to comply with HITSP and IHE standards, along with HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules.

Your QA vendor should be prepared to comply with these.

To make sure a potential vendor has the relevant expertise to successfully deal with your compliance requirements, check out its references, success stories, test artifacts, templates, and software testing certificates.

[ Learn how to apply DevOps principles to succeed with your SAP modernization in TechBeacon's new guide. Plus: Get the SAP HANA migration white paper. ]

2. How many vendors to work with?

Deciding on your general outsourcing strategy, sooner or later you will face a common dilemma: What number of vendors you should involve in your software testing provision—one, two or more? Here are some factors to help you with this choice.

Single vendor

Though outsourcing from one vendor is an easily manageable strategy, it is bound to encounter some complications.

In practice, even if a vendor can render all the services you need now, you can't know which other services may be required in the future and whether the vendor will be able to deliver them. For example, when you introduce an IoT or big data application, you will need a vendor with QA competences in these technologies.

Besides, by working with one vendor for a long time, you can become locked into its testing documents (which are often insufficient or unclear) and frameworks and tools that may be out of date. In that case, replacing the vendor may disrupt your business and be quite expensive.

Bi-vendor

This model presupposes working with two vendors with overlapping competences. It allows more flexibility to choose a vendor specializing in a specific software platform.

The bi-vendor strategy may be beneficial, if you initiate a tendering process for a new project. The two vendors will compete with each other to get your business. In this way, you can get the same set and quality of QA and testing services but at a lower price or in a shorter time.

Still another scenario may take place. Your two software testing vendors may agree on a common cost and service balance with no cost or time benefits for you. 

Multivendor

With this strategy you engage numerous vendors, each of which is responsible for a specific project. Unlike with a bi-vendor strategy, multiple vendors are less likely to agree on a common cost for and terms of QA services. But this strategy has a serious drawback: A multi-vendor outsourcing model is the most complex to manage.

Normally, one in-house QA professional can manage a team of 20 to 50 testers, but one QA manager won’t likely be able to handle multiple vendors. You need to assign several QA managers and a head of the internal QA team to ensure that all the testing teams work in coordination.

There is no silver-bullet strategy for every enterprise, so estimate your demands, understand each strategy's drawbacks, and add them to your risk mitigation plan.

[ Is it time to rethink your release management strategy? Learn why Adaptive Release Governance is essential to DevOps success (Gartner). ]

3. Manage your vendors

Vendor performance management should be seen as your tangible contribution to ensure successful outsourcing. No matter what strategy you decide on, you need to manage your outsourced testing providers to:

  • Know (not guess) how effective your vendor performance and the whole cooperation is
  • Detect process impediments (over-long problem-solving processes, negotiation of issues that were already foreseen in the agreement, etc.)
  • Uncover the root causes of software testing complications
  • Find ways to improve vendor performance
  • Replace an inefficient vendor

The more software testing vendors you work with, the more in-house QA managers you will need to perform the following tasks. Basically, you need a QA professional to review and analyze testing documentation (test strategy, test plans, test cases, bugs, and reports) at least once a month, and verify test reports and the actual number of found bugs.

QA managers also should provide the external testing team with regular feedback. They should ensure a steady flow of communication between the outsourced testing team and in-house employees such as software maintenance engineers, and look for ways to enhance the relationship with the vendor.

To manage your vendors efficiently, QA managers should regularly evaluate vendor performance. Create a list of assessment criteria (the number of missed bugs, the coherence of defects' description, cost and outcome balance, testing documents' quality, etc.) The idea is to cover all the important aspects of your relationship with a QA outsourcing vendor. 

You can make it work

Outsourcing QA and testing services for most enterprises brings challenges such as industry-specific requirements, software with diverse functionality, and outdated code and requirements. Keep these challenges in mind when choosing a suitable vendor, and ask your vendors to take them into account as they create their testing strategy for your company.

Simply choosing the correct vendors and relevant number is not enough. You must evaluate and manage your vendors continuously to track their performance, and to ensure they continue to render the services you need.

For a more detailed look at QA outsourcing, read Andrei's blog post, "Your itinerary to software testing outsourcing."

[ Get Report: Buyer’s Guide to Software Test Automation Tools ]