IT's continuing push towards cost reduction has led to the burgeoning of the outsourcing industry. Implementing an outsourcing strategy is quickly becoming the competitive advantage for companies that need to test software and related components. Outsourcing firms offer other advantages and benefits that may have been previously overlooked, including cost savings. Jose Fajardo examines these benefits and other competitive advantages associated with outsourcing testing tasks for companies interested in transitioning to an outsourced testing strategy.
Trends in the IT industry for the past few years demonstrate that companies are seeking to reap the benefits of outsourcing IT application development. Countless examples exist of corporations outsourcing their software development needs, call centers, data centers, hardware purchases, system support, help desks, etc. Testing is another area of IT that is rapidly being outsourced.
Companies are outsourcing test case executions, test script automation, and test case development tasks to offshore based companies, independent contractors, niche QA companies, and system integrators. Outsourcing approaches vary widely. Some companies outsource manual testing needs, while other companies outsource testing tasks.
Regardless of the approach, outsourcing a company's testing needs can militate strongly in a company's favor by lowering costs while delivering reliable testing results. The following sections explore the benefits of outsourcing testing.
Plug-In for Temporary Assignments
Some companies experience demand for testing services that exceeds the capability of the existing testing team. Even when the company has a large testing team, it may not have the bandwidth or expertise to take on ad hoc testing tasks (i.e. a capacity test for measuring the response times for a new GUI, hardware component, or LAN). Employing an outsourcing firm to handle surges or increases in demand for ad-hoc testing tasks provides a practical solution for test teams that cannot support such efforts.
Many companies regard test tools, or test automation, as a foreign and esoteric subject. Even companies that have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in test tools struggle because they don't have the properly trained in-house resources to implement these test tools. Sometimes the test tools are not even suitable for their intended environment (i.e. a test tool for a CRM web based system may not support a Mainframe environment). Another common problem with purchasing test tools is resistance to change that compels many companies to conduct their regression and functional tests by hand because the testing team is resistant to the tools.
In contrast to these problems with test tools, outsourcing firms own licenses to a variety of test tools from different vendors and have testers who are savvy in test automation. Outsourcing firms understand what can be automated and how it should be automated. Automation of business processes and test cases is critical to providing consistent and repeatable test results; many outsourcing firms are capable of providing this service.
Hiring full-time testers involves providing them with company benefits and training which is a costly and time-consuming venture. Furthermore, recruiting costs for qualified full-time testers are additional. Companies looking to cut costs should seriously look into outsourcing as a cheaper alternative. The cost of employing a tester from an outsourcing firm with specific testing experience in a given industry or with a particular test tool is far cheaper than the cost of hiring in-house testers.
Outsourcing firms lower testing costs by offering testers and testing solutions at a percentage of the cost of hiring full-time testers. Furthermore, outsourcing firms have libraries and repositories of automated tests that can be leveraged or recycled for other testing needs, which also lowers the costs of various test automation tasks.
Special Testing Requirements
Sometimes companies have testing needs that exceed the capabilities of the existing testing team members. A company should seek help from an outsourcing firm if it's facing testing requirements that its existing test team does not have the knowledge to provide test coverage or traceability for. Some areas that may require the service of an outsourcing firm include:
- Foreign language requirements
- Usability testing requirements for individuals with disabilities (i.e. Section 508)
- Compliance with industry specific requirements (i.e. FERC)