Increasingly vast numbers of non-IT businesses worldwide prefer to outsource their software development needs completely.
Others, while not being experts in custom software development, are still tinkering with makeshift in-house options, no matter how inefficient, costly, or cumbersome. Many of these in-house buffs tend to believe that while software development activities as such should definitely be kept in-house, things like QA and testing can, certainly, be outsourced.
There are also numerous non-IT companies that, while being, overall, capable of developing good software apps in-house, simply realize full well the scale of the effort, required to launch a full-blown and reliable QA and testing process of their own.
Simultaneously, many of those non-IT outfits that are willing to outsource their QA needs are at sea about how to approach QA outsourcing and not put the quality and time-to-market of their product at a risk.
Indeed, if you feel safer keeping your app development in-house, but would still prefer to outsource your Quality Assurance, there are several things for you to know.
Here is our QA experts’ take on how one should go about the whole thing.
Choosing a Company for QA Outsourcing Purposes
It all kicks off with choosing a QA provider. While there are a number of specialized QA testing companies, devoted wholly to the provision of QA and testing services, it doesn’t really matter whether you choose such a provider, or just go for a conventional software development company with a good QA and testing team.
However, there are two other criteria, which, as we believe, should be factored in without fail. The first of these criteria is that your external QA and testing team must necessarily include (depending on the scale and degree of complexity of the project at hand) at least one QA engineer with no less than 3-4 years of QA experience. This would be especially essential if you want your QA outsourcing process to be transparent and predictable due to the use of test plans and test reports (which would, by the way, also be highly recommended).
The second criterion, which is, perhaps, not so important in the case of simpler apps, but gains in importance immeasurably when it comes to more complex applications, is business domain expertise.
If you want to develop a sophisticated, user-intensive system that is supposed to provide excellent customer experience, and, correspondingly, requires advanced usability testing, you should favor a QA provider that has the right kind of business domain expertise. The same would be the case for science-intensive applications and industrial automation systems.
And, of course, one of the more powerful determining factors would, probably, be the price. However, in a sense, this is the simplest task of all to solve: if Quality Assurance costs a mint in your location, find a convenient nearshore location and choose an IT company that offers QA and testing services at an affordable, but not the lowest local rate.
Identifying Your Software QA Outsourcing Needs and Priorities
The vast majority of non-IT businesses that want to outsource their QA don’t have the slightest idea about their actual QA needs.
The types of testing, testing tools, and software testing artifacts that need to be present are all Greek to the IT departments of these companies, let alone their business stakeholders.
If all you know about QA & testing is that you don’t want your product to be off-putting to users, or to hamper, or, even, derail your or your clients’ operation, discuss your project more closely with your QA provider before you get the show on the road.
You can ask them several questions, similar to the following ones:
What types of testing are likely to be required in your case and why?
What is your QA providers’ engineers’ experience with the required types of testing? What testing tools, used to perform the required types of testing, are they familiar with? What is their experience with those tools?
Is it possible to bring Component Testing into play, and, thus reduce the product’s time-to-market?
Is it possible to use mock-ups for any of the testing process, and, thus, reduce the product’s time-to-market?
Is it necessary to perform Usability and Performance testing, or can these types of testing be dispensed with for cost-saving purposes?
If Performance Testing is required, what tools, suitable for this type of testing, do your QA company’s engineers have a good grasp of?
We recommend that your QA contractor allocate an expert with no less than 1 year of experience for each of the types of testing that need to be performed.
The knowledge of which types of testing would be indispensable or recommended in your case, and which of them would be excessive can either improve your product’s quality very significantly, or save you a fortune in both time and money.
Establishing a Productive Relationship with Your QA Outsourcing Provider
Making the relationship with your provider of software testing services work is not only about allocating a contact person, or reviewing whatever testing result reports you agree upon with them. There are several things you should take into account:
As a rule, the Contact Person, appointed on the client’s side, is their Technical Lead. However, this kind of a contact person may not be enough if you want to test a complex, business-intensive software application.
In this case, you need to also be in touch with your clients’ Business Analysis team (or their business stakeholders) for them to:
Better explain the business goals the client wants to achieve by implementing the software.
Prioritize the existing defects in accordance with their negative business impact. This can help you launch your application sooner and prevent some of the critical bugs from appearing in the final release.
Ask your Technical Team to create a separate testing environment for the testing of your software product. Alternatively, this can also be done by your QA provider.
For Component Testing, one simple server, on which your DBs can run, can be sufficient. However, when it deals with Performance Testing, you will, mostly likely, need a more close-to-production environment. In addition, you will have to be able to provide some actual data for the tests in order to ensure their good quality.
Lastly but importantly, the underpinnings of any testing process are formed by technical documents that describe how the system being tested is supposed to function and perform. They describe the business processes, supported by the application, and the result that is to be achieved in each specific case. This is something the quality of the testing process, and, correspondingly, that of the resulting software product, is directly impacted by. You must, thus, provide your QA contractor with such documentation, for no QA outsourcing company can do this for you.
Generally, the form, contents and degree of detail of such technical documents depend on the type of the application you want tested and the result that you want to achieve. For example, an enterprise-grade system with high safety requirements would, most probably, require a detailed technical specification in order to be tested properly, while for the MVP of a smaller startup app a set of use cases should, most of the time, be enough.
It is also important to understand that when detailed formal requirements exist, they themselves can be tested for faults and discrepancies. This can nip some of your quality problems in the bud.
Therefore, ideally, if the system to be tested is a complex application, your external QA team should receive a detailed and comprehensive functional specification that covers the whole of your software and was composed by qualified Business Analysts. In the absence of such a document, try to provide as many use cases, diagrams, and other documents that describe your product’s desired performance, as possible.