Why QA Offshoring Pays Off with the Right Strategy

Here’s a heads up on outsourcing testing in a DevOps world.

Digitization has disrupted existing business models, processes, and strategies, but some factors continue to remain constant, i.e. cost, time-to-market, and experience. Of the three, customer experience has taken precedence, making quality assurance a non-negotiable constant.

Over the years, quality assurance has been associated with different implications including certifications and functionalities. Today, quality assurance is all about people or customers and their personal experience with a product or solution. This makes sense when we view the world from the perspective of the Internet of Things and digital transformation, where personal experiences define a brand’s efficacy. QA organizations, therefore, are evolving to include social and psychological impacts to value delivery. Value delivery includes cost, and time saved where QA plays a pivotal role in a project from its requirement stage to ensure that non-productive time spent in the last phase for testing is eliminated.

In its new avatar, QA is instrumental in developing and launching a successful project. QA is built into all aspects of a project and instrumental in process improvement as well as defect management in agile testing, security testing, accessibility testing, performance testing, and user acceptance testing. In an agile environment, the mantra is “test early and test often”.

Related: Improved time to market and maximized business impact with minimal schedule variance and business risk.

QA is an integral part of a project, from reviewing user stories with business analysts, as they are created to ensuring that they meet the ‘testable’ criteria. They create test cases well before the start of a sprint to facilitate a test-driven development (TDD). They will work side-by-side with developers and will be responsible for the entire deployment of the quality assurance environment.

With QA playing such a pivotal role in a project, the question which often arises is, ‘How would offshoring QA work? Will it be beneficial? And, what does it actually involve?’

Most companies that have their in-house or software development arms, will have a testing team in place. QA cannot be confused with this team. In the new world, quality assurance requires skills and experience which can only be met by seasoned QA professionals whose job is to focus on delivering best-in-class solutions.

Secondly, the cost and quality of software testing programming language can affect the overall cost of a project. In some cases, it is estimated that testing can cost up to 40% of a project’s overall cost. Intangible costs can include poor test execution, lowered customer satisfaction, higher operating costs, and increased business risk. CIO’s, therefore, at least in the last decade or so, have opted to offshore their testing work to save on both tangible and intangible costs.

Offshoring QA especially makes a lot of sense for SMBs with tight budgets. These companies normally defer QA to the end which results in a less stable product. Having a team that works within the budget makes more sense. In this model, the core team will be retained on a long-term basis and a flexible team can be added/reduced based on the ebb and flow of the project. This option provides faster ramp-up and flexible ramp-down of testing resources.

Also, the follow-the-sun model makes great sense for offshore testing. Imagine a team working on functionality in the day and another team across the world testing it the same day. The hours saved add up to make complete business sense.

When considering strategic business management off-shored quality assurance in software testing can result in better quality applications, reduce business risks, and improve existing critical testing processes. Having said that, the key to success is in finding the right offshoring partner. Companies that are considering offshoring their QA, along with looking at cost savings must look at the competencies and capabilities of the partner company.

Some critical factors to be kept in mind when considering offshoring are:

  • Cost-Efficiency

More often than not, the word offshoring is considered synonymous with cost savings but to actually reap the benefits of saved budget and time with exemplary results requires rock-star testers and not a pool of untrained workers offering cheaper rates.

  • Industry Experience

As we already know each industry is different and has its own unique business processes.  Having a team of great testers with no clue about a business will only end up slowing down the testing efforts. One must choose a team of QA professionals with strong industry knowledge to ensure that the areas with the highest level of business impact get the highest testing priority.

  • Technology Frameworks and Best Practices

QA professionals should ideally have some unique intellectual property and best practices that they bring with them. A team that has successfully completed multiple projects will have a set of best practices, accelerators, methodologies, and tool kits to accelerate the testing efforts and reduce time to market.

  • Cultural Fit

When considering offshoring, especially of testing services, cultural fit becomes paramount to the project’s success. Cultural fit is acquired only by working with partners who have managed projects in the geographies under consideration. It is only with experience that an offshore team can communicate, work at the required pace, and deal with issues as and when they arise. In addition, if you need a large managed service, it is also important to have an on-site lead to ensure accountability.

  • Agile is important

The role of testing in agile practices is already recognized and yet several organizations struggle to integrate testing and quality into their agile delivery methods. A partner who understands how testing ‘fits’ into the development effort will work to resolve problems on the go to ensure that the product is not delayed.

To summarize, when identifying a partner, a company must trust the partner’s suggestion on the engagement model. The QA partner should be able to mobilize people, knowledge acquisition, infrastructure, and processes. The next step would be for the independent QA and testing team to integrate seamlessly with the project team. The QA team should have the strong industry knowledge and translate this into the user experience. This knowledge will define the project’s overall flow.

Keeping these critical factors in mind, and with a well-defined strategy in hand, a successful QA offshore engagement is possible. Add one more ingredient, i.e. trust, and the project is set up for success.

The Role of QA in an Agile Model

Quality Assurance & Software testing over the years has mostly been treated as an isolated function in project development. However, in agile methodology, testing is an integral part of the software or system development lifecycle.

Agile methodology involves continuous iterations of both the development and software testing activities for a project. It requires the involvement of all the developers working on a project to work in parallel with the testing team, to ensure that the business requirements of the customer are met on schedule.

Among teams that do not adhere to the agile manifesto, the role of the tester is limited to writing test cases, executing them, logging the defects, and verifying them. But in agile methodology, the tester works as a part of the development team and ensures that software quality assurance is built into the end product by working closely with the development team.

With the agile methodology gaining popularity, system testing, or application testing as a process, has transformed and testers today play a key role in the overall project development process. This requires testers to not only have strong testing skills but also good domain knowledge. Testing engineers, therefore, need to get adjusted to this new test strategy of rapidly changing requirements.

Key attributes of testers working on an Agile model are as follows:

Testers need to do a lot more than just building test cases:

The testers in the traditional waterfall model are involved at the end of the project when the coding is complete when the QA is expected to execute the test cases to verify if the built features match the requirements or not.

But in the Agile model, the QA adds more value to the project. Her role is not just restricted to the building and execution of the test cases but works closely with the developers, BA, Product Owner, and so forth. In this scenario, the QA can write acceptance test cases for the Product Owner and work and interact with the Product Owner in order to ask questions and clarifications regarding the business requirements.

Testers need to collaborate and coordinate with the developers and the end customer:

In an Agile model the QA tester needs to continuously provide the testing feedback to the customer and in turn collect feedback from them after each sprint. Agile testers need to look from different perspectives i.e. end-user, business, developer, support and in order to achieve this, the quality assurance needs to coordinate with all of them. In some cases, the QA tester works as the Proxy Product Owner too to help them to develop the acceptance criteria for their user stories.

In the Agile model, developers and testers at times collaborate to write test cases as the acceptance criteria. The coordination among the team especially quality assurance and developers reduces doubts and ensures that all are on the same page. Also it saves the coding time of developers.

Testers need to have automation testing skills:

It is always an add-on if a tester knows about automation testing tools. Testers with automation skills can help prepare the test scripts and test plans for better coverage which helps in an agile project with a sprint of 2-4 weeks. Automation also helps during the regression testing of the project by providing quick feedback.

Every time a new build is given for testing the QA can run the automation scripts and provide rapid feedback on whether the new features, as well as the old features, are working correctly or not.

Testers help in estimation:

The QA always writes the test cases/scenarios for an application which covers both the happy path and unhappy paths. This helps for accurate estimation of user stories based on the clarity they have after identifying the positive and negative flows.

Testers needs to participate in demos:

After the completion of each sprint, a demo is given to the customer and other stakeholders of all the features completed in that sprint. As we know, a typical sprint lasts for 2-4 weeks and in such a short span all the people involved are busy in completing their own things; the developers are busy in developing the assigned user stories and the QA is busy testing the released items, clarifying the questions from Product Owners and automating the same. In such a short span the developers sometimes find it difficult to finish the complete functionality of the assigned user stories. So the developers sometimes consult the QA as they have a better understanding of the application. Hence it would be a good practice if the demo to the client is carried out by the QA and thereafter quality assurance can answer all the business related questions coming from the client. This way the developers can take care of technical queries from the customer.

Testers need to analyze the requirements:

The QA in the Agile model, is in a good position, after the BA to analyze requirements because the application is always used by the QA from the end user’s point of view. Hence the QA helps the customer by providing them timely feedback based on their testing experiences.

The QA should be a part of all the retrospectives and review meetings to contribute to overall process improvement and requirement understanding.

To summarize, the QA is an important and integral part of the team who is involved in all phases of the software development cycle. To put it in the right perspective, testers do more than “Just Testing”!

Embed Software Product Testing in your DNA

As software product development is getting complex with the demand for breakthrough features and functionalities, software testing techniques are getting even more complex. The introduction of new features opens the door for many test case scenarios. Besides, there are various combinations of platforms, browsers, and devices that need to be tested for each scenario.

We know software product testing is not a new fad; it has seen its fair share of transition from manual testing to test automation and likewise testing tools have also evolved. However, as the market is abuzz with innovative products and platforms, businesses are constantly slogging to be front runners in efficiency and customer experience. Testing is no longer a ritual but a market readiness strategy for any respectable product or application.

New age start-ups have taken the market by storm, as the demand to release quality products faster has become increasingly important. Delay in launch of a product and you succumb to laggard status, while a minor defect and you invite customers and social media scalpel.

Given the demand and shift towards high-quality standards, a large number of software testing companies in India are investing time and money to improve customer experience and satisfaction. Be it a cloud platform or on-premise platform, Software product testing companies make use of the latest technologies and tools to get insights and feedback about the quality of their product. You can embed product testing either as an extension to your internal team or engage an independent validator whose approach would be structured and unbiased.

Outsourcing software product testing

The best strategy to address software product testing is to engage an offshore independent testing vendor. It would not only provide an independent eye but also reduce investments in terms of resource utilization. Other benefits would include greater return on quality assurance, augmented efficiency, flexibility, and minimized revenue cycle.

Before outsourcing your projects to software performance testing companies, do thorough research to see if the company has the required skills, experience, and expertise. It is important to find the right vendor with the right profiling in the performance testing strategy, as it would help your company optimize products and meet the high-quality standards of today’s demanding customers.

Ensuring maximum test coverage and managing timeline – Software Quality Assurance

What is Software Quality Assurance?

“Quality Assurance” is the calling card for a software testing services provider. No matter how robust a software application is, its failure to perform at a critical instance can prove fatal to clients. Through the lens of history, it has been observed that enterprises spend more on bug fixes as compared to developing software applications.

Though an in-depth analysis of quality is outside the scope of this post, I will give a round-up on “Quality Assurance” by ensuring maximum test coverage as a means of achieving sustained client relationships.

One of the common challenges for a software testing team is to deliver projects within the time-frame yet ensure maximum test coverage. Software testing is not a one size fits all solution for problems as testers have to drill deeper to explore bug fixes that can damage the quality of an application. Though a solution to this is not readily available, however, we may need to arrive at one, based on the project circumstances/needs.

Before I set out for a solution, let us explore some of the possible risks/outcomes of not meeting the time-frame/maximum coverage:

a) Time Frame Overshoot: Time Consuming Delivery, Client Dissatisfaction, Extra Cost, Extended Time to market

b) No Coverage: No confidence in product quality, buggy product, user dissatisfaction, extra cost in fixing issues and re-releasing the product, etc.

“Time Limit” is a management activity, but from a tester’s perspective, we run on a pretty tight schedule and have to focus primarily on ensuring maximum coverage within the prescribed time limit. We have to ensure the application performs its function time after time. And to achieve this, we can develop a few handy utilities/tools like the one I have described below:

1) Develop a complete test suite, which includes:

  1. Test case for all functionality of the application
  2. Critical Functionality of the application being identified and filterable
  3. Prioritize test case as high/medium/low

[Benefits]: Allows to “Pick & Choose” test cases for execution based on:

  1. Critical module/function
  2. High Priority test cases
  3. Regression testing cases based on Change/Bug Fix in the current build

2) Optimize test scenarios:

  1. Eliminate repetitive and non-valuable tests that may yield the same results as other tests in the suite.
  2. Effective Coverage: Focus on combination testing using orthogonal array-based mathematical model tools like All Pairs, PICT, etc., and Decision Tables.

[Benefits]: Provides minimum scenarios covering all possible combinations which are non-repetitive and valuable in predicting the result.

3) Automated  Regression Suite – Automate all possible regression test cases

[Benefits]: Ensures execution and coverage of all mandatory flows without much manual intervention, even during crunch situations

4) Focused Testing: Apart from the above in case we have a very tight deadline, it is always preferable to focus the testing efforts on some critical areas like:

  1. Areas that may be vulnerable to changes and yield more bug fixes
  2. Areas that have yielded more bugs in the past
  3. Areas which are exposed to the End User or User Critical

Summary:

All the above utilities applied together will provide a cohesive framework to guide a tester or a development team to maximize test coverage and achieve greater quality within the stipulated time limit. However, it also depends on the tester’s knack for choosing the “Minimum most test cases” to draw upon insights that can help solve similar issues.

In the process, if the user over emphasizes minimizing the test cases to meet the time limit or if the area of focus is incorrect, he may miss out in terms of coverage and may lead to under testing. Hence the tester should wisely balance in choosing the right focus area and the right test cases for the build and plan to execute them within the given time frame. If the tester feels that the selected/shortlisted test cases cannot be run in the given time frame, it is always advisable to buy more time. And in case that is not possible, it’s prudent to alert the stakeholders about what test cases have been ignored and which modules are under-tested.

Ignore “Quality Assurance” in your services road-map and you do so at your own peril.

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