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Is offshoring testing services a good idea?

Author: Elliott Caldwell

 

When we hear the words ‘offshoring testing services’ mentioned in conversation it’s often met with a recoil of slight horror. A depiction of cost savings at the expense of quality, a trend which began in the 90’s when companies began migrating call centres and back office services to the likes of India and later the Philippines. At some point, most of us will have encountered so called ‘customer service’ from early offshore operators.

Cheaper, faster methods of communicating with the world, coupled with increasing pressure on businesses to “tighten belts” and save money, continue to drive this popular movement. Offshore testing and quality assurance is now offered as ‘a no brainer’ solution. Indeed, when premium options are out of reach, sending testing and quality services overseas is practical and tempting. However, even after many years there are still conflicting opinion as to whether offshoring truly provides clients with value for money.

Many claims have been made that a cheap hourly rate doesn’t always equate to a cost effective project with quality and delivery timeliness often the biggest bugbears. Furthermore, not having your team in-house or even in the same country can become very problematic if and when issues arise. It’s safe to say that having a person physically located at your office means they will know what’s going on and be able to change direction easily as they have often already had buy-in to company culture and ideas

So, is offshoring the bad idea?

There is no straight forward answer here, each business has a different set of requirements and principles. However, it’s safe to say that like its development counterparts, offshore testing teams have come a long way in recent years and continue to be a viable option. If everyone had the option of premium, I have no doubt that there would be a lot of Rolls Royce drivers. Similarly, in the car industry many manufacturers that were known for developing inferior products, have listened, learned, and grown from their mistakes to become household brands. Offshore testing teams have also learned from past experiences and continue to rapidly improve their offerings. Perhaps any lingering stigmas are associated with poor previous experience?

My name is Elliott Caldwell and I am a Test Manager with over 15 years’ experience in many leading organisations. Working with Integral, I am now part of a dedicated and highly skilled team who focus on developing high-value products for our clients. We understand that clients want to receive great service at a competitive price. Having worked in teams onshore and offshore, here are a few ‘words of wisdom’ before making your choice.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How do you define ‘success’ from the offshore testing?
  2. What skill sets will be needed in the offshore team?
  3. How efficient are our onshore processes and how transferable are they?
  4. How important are collaboration and feedback to the success of my project?
  5. Where does cost fit into the equation?

Reducing any risks?

If you do choose to offshore your T&Q there are ways to mitigate risks:

  1. Ensure that the relationship is partnership driven between both parties. By ensuring that the offshore team is empowered to bring fresh ideas and alternative strategies to the table will result in a closer working relationship end help to ensure that the testing is as effective as possible.
  2. Ensure that there is adequate leadership from both parties. Having the testing effort managed completely by the onshore team, or vice versa will result in communication issues and testing that does not meet the business requirements. If possible is it best if the leaders can spend some time with each other in person to improve communication
  3. Good communication techniques. It’s always harder to have open discussions on the phone but this can be alleviated by video conferencing if possible. An effective phone manner and an understanding of the culture of the offshore team is also essential. Many offshore teams are reluctant to volunteer their own ideas and thoughts at times, as a leader you need to give them the opportunity and encouragement to do so.
  4. Make the most of the parallel hours. the golden hours where both the onshore and offshore teams are working are the best time to work through questions and issues that have arisen over the previous evening. Ensure that you have regular meetings during this time to discuss any issues and question and confirm that both teams are working together.
  5. Ensure enough resources have domain knowledge as well as testing knowledge. It is a lot harder to teach new technology to a team when they are not being trained in person, it is even harder if they do not have an understanding of the domain that you are testing. While it may not be possible to have all team members experienced, by ensuring that there is a core group that do will allow the transition of knowledge to progress quickly.
  6. Expect some backward steps at times. I have never yet worked on a program where all testing goes to plan. This will also apply to testing that is being completed offshore. By recognising that strategies are sometime not as effective as we would like, or that mistakes do happen, will allow for faster resolution to issues and a closer more trusting relationship.
  7. Conduct regular joint reviews. Note these are not ‘witch hunts’! It is important to review the testing on a regular basis to assist in improving efficiency and effectiveness of the process. This should be conducted by both onshore and offshore however to ensure that both teams have the opportunity to share their thoughts.

Needless to say, with the right approach, collaborative effort and good communication, offshoring your testing can have results that surpass your expectations and totally change you preconceived perceptions.

 

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