Once considered primarily as a cost-cutting practice, QA outsourcing has evolved over time into a much more strategic measure. Now it is commonly adopted by enterprises to improve quality and cost of marketable software products, as well as applications developed for internal use.
If your company is considering the possibilities of QA outsourcing but has not yet acted, you might want to take a few moments to read and digest this in-depth introduction. It touches on the reasons why more enterprises are turning to QA outsourcing and presents some things to consider as you prepare to enter the swelling ranks.
Why QA Outsourcing Is on the Rise
The growth in QA outsourcing has contributed to the centers of IT excellence emerging in countries such as Belarus. Minsk, the Belarusian capital, has risen in stature as an outsourcing destination, being dubbed the “Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe” by The Wall Street Journal.
Compared with Western European countries and the United States, countries like Belarus, Ukraine, and Poland certainly offer software testing at a lower price. That’s a compelling incentive when QA cost becomes an executive concern, which it surely does among the forecasts that testing spend will consume 40% of total IT budget allocation by 2019.
However, cost is not the only issue driving enterprises to outsource quality assurance. Of the companies inquiring about QA outsourcing with A1QA for example, many highlight the following factors as instrumental in their decision to seek external help.
The Need for Objectivity
When internal specialists perform testing, perhaps with development teams also involved (as is common among smaller organizations), there is always the risk of losing objectivity, which in turn can cause bugs and defects to slip past the testing regimen. Given that software quality improvement is the top concern of 41% of enterprise executives according to the 2017-2018 Word Quality Report findings, it’s easy to see why external testers’ impartiality can make enterprises consider QA outsourcing.
The Desire to Cut Development Time
Another priority for IT executives is the time to market (or the time it takes to implement a system for internal use). For many companies, the time to market is currently unsatisfactory, with development productivity seeming to wane more with each release.
According to the 2017 State of Application Development Report, more than 50% of IT managers and 57% of solution architects are dissatisfied with the speed of their organizations’ dev teams and, as the graph below indicates, are keen to decrease development time by cutting off waste.
Faster and more efficient testing is an important step toward waste reduction and contributes directly to shortening cycles. For enterprises that recognize this, outsourced augmentation of limited internal resources has become a key component of their QA strategy.
More Reasons Why Enterprises Outsource QA
While cost, objectivity, and speed are often-quoted reasons for QA outsourcing, they are not the only motivating factors. Other reasons why companies look to external partners are:
- To access a wide range of test devices and platforms
- To cover the lack of internal test specialists and thus lift up the testing burden off developers’ shoulders, which is often the case
- To improve scalability of QA resources
- To benefit from the efficiencies and technology available to specialized QA companies
- To access specialized QA competencies that are lacking internally
Clearly, there is no shortage of good reasons to outsource QA, but that doesn’t make it right for every enterprise, and in all cases, it’s not something to enter into blindly. As with any strategic decision, some important considerations should be taken into account first.
Before You Outsource: A Few Things to Know
Outsourcing decisions, in general, are best taken with a degree of prior insight into the landscape, and QA outsourcing is no exception. As this is merely an introduction to the topic, a full walkthrough of the preliminary research and provider selection process is best saved for a future post on this blog. For now, here are the four key points to consider when thinking about how and where to search for a QA outsourcing partner.
1) Choose Your Way to Outsource
QA outsourcing comes in many flavors. When you start to look at the options available, you will probably encounter the following three types of service providers:
- Specialist QA providers: these may be based in your country or overseas. What they have in common is that they specialize purely in testing and other forms of QA service, which often includes consulting, should you need it.
- Crowdsourcing providers: these enterprises farm out your testing activity to individual freelancers. You may have many different people conducting your tests, but you also have the advantage that your software is tested under real-world conditions.
- IT generalists: these companies offer QA in combination with other outsourced IT services. In many cases, they will only offer testing services if you also contract them with development. However, this can be useful if you need developers to fix the defects identified by testers.
Each of these models has its own advantages, so it’s important to consider which type of a QA solution will fit best with your project.
2) Decide on Outsourcing, Offshoring, or Both
Bear in mind that as well as choosing from different types of provider, you will also need to decide on your preferred testing team location. For example, QA outsourcing doesn’t have to mean offshoring. Instead, you can choose to engage a provider that will place their resources on your premises. This is the model chosen by enterprises requiring direct control and tight integration.
Alternatively, you can choose to have a mixed team, with a proportion of external QA staff based on your business premises and the remainder working remotely.
Lastly, you can opt to engage a company that provides only offshore test resources, which typically tends to be the least expensive arrangement. If possible, try to determine your favored model before short-listing QA providers, since many of them don’t offer all three options at once.
3) Avoid the Race to the Bottom
Reducing price is not the same thing as reducing cost. It’s important to remember that QA outsourcing can deliver value in numerous ways, but the less you are prepared to pay for an outsourced service, the fewer the benefits you can achieve with it—and you may not save as much as you think.
So chasing the lowest price is not a good idea, but perhaps you’re wondering what your selection objectives should be. The answer will depend on your project specifics, but in almost every case you should make sure your chosen provider can:
- Integrate into your project without adding inefficiency or complexity
- Carry out testing tasks quicker than you could with internal resources alone
- Find more defects, quicker than your internally available resources
- Make your entire QA process more efficient
In case you’re thinking that some of the points above are obvious, you should be aware that at the lower price points there are providers out there that won’t be able to meet all, or indeed any, of them.
4) Balance Price and Value
If you really have to prioritize on the basis of price, try to do so within a framework. In other words, look for the lowest-priced provider that can tick all the boxes in the graphic below. That at least should help you retain value and avoid the hidden costs that can accompany bargain-based prices.
Test the Benefits of Outsourced QA
If your enterprise is challenged by the cost, speed, or effectiveness of software QA testing, there’s little to be lost by adding outsourcing to your strategy. After all, you don’t have to dive in headlong. You can initially try outsourcing on an incremental basis, increasing the use of external resources at a pace that feels comfortable.
The most important thing is to have clear goals for QA outsourcing and to select a partner that will help you develop a plan to meet them, rather than trying to sell you on attractive pricing. For this, conduct sufficient research to understand the landscape, and if possible talk to IT leaders in other organizations who have experience in working with outsourced QA teams.