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The CTO’s Guide to Software Testing Outsourcing

Determining if software testing outsourcing is best for your needs and how to find the right provider in a sea of options.

Testers working

To meet project deadlines with minimal defects, managers consider options like outsourcing software testing, using an in-house team, crowdsourcing, or avoiding testers (not advisable). Outsourced software testing saves time on HR, training, and tools but finding the right partner for testing services can be challenging.

If you’re still unsure whether outsourcing software testing is the right decision for your business, you’ve come to the right place! In this guide, we’ll help you select the best software testing outsourcing model, explore the pros and cons, and provide criteria for choosing a quality testing provider.

The Importance of Software Testing

Let’s define software testing as a technical investigation of software to assess its quality for those involved in its construction.

Typically, Software testing is handled by QA specialists, with a solid test strategy, not the code’s original developer. These testers play a critical role in identifying code errors and usability issues for companies and reaching quality testing.

Software testing is essential in any development process. While a development team runs unit tests in CI/CD, dedicated testers and qa engineers remain vital for high-quality software through test planning, including functional testing (sometimes known as manual testing), exploratory testing, test automation (also called automated testing), mobile app testing, test documentation, and so on.

Testing is essential throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC), extending beyond the testing phase to cover the entire customer journey and vital product aspects.

While a development team can handle unit tests, QA and testing experts manage test automation (and test automation tools), security, performance testing, and complex cases. Effective development teams merge developers and testers in the software development process, to ensure high-quality software.

In-House vs. Crowdsourced vs. Outsourced Software Testing

Before deciding which approach to software testing from a human resources perspective is the most beneficial for testing processes within your business, you certainly need to know the basic principles of each alternative. Here are the benefits and disadvantages that each one has to offer.

In-House Testing

Having an in-house testing team will provide you with complete control over your testing processes. You’ll have the freedom to hire the talent that you want to be part of your company and train it to your specific needs. 

However, creating an effective in-house team isn’t an easy task. Supporting your team and its testing processes with specialized training and acquiring and maintaining numerous tools and licenses are just some of the aspects that will depend completely on you should you choose to develop an in-house team. Not only for functional testing and automation testing but also for performance testing, test documentation, and all the testing.

Outsourced Software Testing

Software testing companies outsourcing services can help you accomplish specialized tasks that would otherwise be too difficult or expensive to complete in-house. These testing services encompass a wide range of advantages within their distinct outsourcing modalities. In order to pick the right option, it’s key to understand what the differences are.

Among outsourcing options, you’ll find classic software testing outsourcing companies and also crowdsourcing. The former, whether onshore, nearshore, or offshore, can provide you with an exclusive team that’ll work from a set remote location and adjust to fit your particular needs at any time.

While crowdsourcing provides you with a much larger network of testing experts, that are globally dispersed, consisting of one-off testing efforts, and working with different platforms and devices independent of each other.

Classic Outsourced Testing

If you want to keep track of your team’s performance and maintain direct communication with managers and testers, an outsourced testing provider is the way to go. Outsourcing your testing needs to a reliable partner will result in a professional and structured testing process and allow you to use your saved internal resources on other aspects of the development process.

Working with a single QA outsourcing vendor will also provide you with ways to keep sensitive information safe through either confidentiality contracts or NDAs.

Crowdsourced Testing

Crowdsourced testing is a novel approach in software testing, involving globally distributed testers who can be quickly adjusted based on requirements. However, this method presents intricate challenges.

While the diverse tester pool brings valuable perspectives, global dispersion poses hurdles in management and communication due to varying time zones, languages, and cultures. Ensuring data security becomes problematic, as confidentiality lacks assurance. Uncertainty about the testers’ identities complicates the non-disclosure agreements establishment.

Moreover, working with multiple vendors or from a general marketplace can lead to high tester turnover. Inadequate oversight may result in a constantly changing team for each release. 

So, Should You Outsource Testing?

Here are some common myths about outsourcing debunked to help you make that decision.  

“We need to safeguard IP and maintain internal knowledge.”

Experienced outsourcing providers prioritize NDAs for trade secret protection, like in-house team members. They help retain internal knowledge, providing stability during employee turnover or role changes. Robust internal safeguards, like cross-training and dedicated managers, ensure smooth transitions without disrupting your development process.

Outsourced QA testing services? “We’ll lose control over the process.”

Sometimes there’s a misconception about the role of the outsourced party and QA outsourcing services in relation to the client (i.e., your company). When partnering with one of the available software testing companies for outsourcing testing, you jointly create a Service Level Agreement, clarifying responsibilities for X, Y, and Z. That way you retain decision-making power on crucial matters for software development.

As part of this software development, a thoughtful tester will speak up when they find ways to eliminate inefficiencies or suggest feature improvements, but they’ll make sure to discuss them with you first before taking action.

Software testing outsourcing models? “The outsourced QA team won’t understand our business”

A key skill for software testers is asking the right questions about the product, users, business, and industry to craft an effective test plan and identify critical risk areas. A new tester can swiftly grasp your context and your testing methodologies while devising a strong test strategy.

It can be especially advantageous to have an “outsider” test your product. After months of developing your new app, you may stop perceiving it with “fresh” eyes. A software testing company may even rotate testers over time, which helps to gain that invaluable “fresh look” more often.

Lastly, there are many software testing providers that may have experience in your particular industry. It’s probable you’ll find a provider that is already familiar with your area of business, goals, challenges, limitations, etc. 

“Outsourcing is only useful for large enterprises.”

While global enterprises are known to leverage outsourcing to cut costs, there’s no reason why small to medium-sized organizations can’t reap the same benefits. If your budget allows for just one tester, outsourcing can provide access to a diverse team of experts in test automation, performance testing, mobile testing, and more.

As your customer base and product expand, it’s quicker to scale by adding testers to your external team, who are already familiar with your product, its test planning and test execution, rather than hiring and onboarding new employees individually.

Outsourcing Destinations: Offshore vs. Nearshore

Once you decide to outsource software testing, the next question is where should you outsource?

Offshore and nearshore are distinctions in outsourcing used to describe the destination. Offshore means to another side of the world and often across several time zones. Nearshore means to a country nearby that shares a similar time zone.

Pros and Cons

Offshore Pros 

Companies opt for offshoring when cost is the primary concern. The main advantage of offshoring is the cost savings. Rates for software testers are much lower in Asia and Eastern Europe than in the Americas or Western Europe. 

Offshore Cons

While cost savings are beneficial, there can be some downsides that many teams don’t want to deal with. For example, language and communication barriers, cultural differences, a lack of transparency, or time differences can be major blockers for fluid communication.

Nearshore Pros

Compared to offshore outsourcing, you’re more likely to have greater ease of communication, cultural understanding, and real-time collaboration when you choose nearshore locations like Central or South America. Nearshoring is often touted as a best-of-both-worlds solution because it offers all the benefits of outsourcing minus the headache of working with a team half a world away.

Nearshore Cons

Hiring nearshore software testers will likely cost more than hiring offshore. But we think the tradeoffs are worth the extra cost.  

How to Choose the Right Company

Team work

Once you’ve decided to outsource, it’s time to get some clarity about your requirements before you contact software testing companies. Consider all of the options outlined below as you research different companies.  

What Kind of Services Are You Looking For?

Software testing services providers are useful for short, one-off projects, internal team augmentation, or as an entirely outsourced team for the right company. Your business needs will ultimately determine the duration and engagement level of your relationship with a software testing provider. You’ll want to find a provider whose delivery model fits with the best option for you. 

Ask yourself: What kind of role do you want the testing provider to take on? Do you want them to consult you and advise you on your test strategy? Are you looking for more candidates to join the team to carry out your own strategy?

Make sure to have a good idea about:

  • The duration of the relationship (short vs. long term)
  • What engagement model you’re looking for (staff augmentation vs. managed testing)
  • Which type of services you need

What to Look for in a Software Testing Provider?

Now that you have an idea about the relationship you want to have with the provider, it’s important to consider some of the basic qualities of your ideal software testing partner.

Size of Firm

Small-to-medium-sized independent providers offer pure-play boutique services, focusing primarily on software testing expertise. Their compact size ensures direct involvement of high-level executives in client projects and daily operations, emphasizing deep testing knowledge.

You can also choose from outsourcing behemoths. They can have anywhere from 500 to tens of thousands of employees. Not only do these large organizations offer QA and software testing, but they also offer software development, business process outsourcing, IT management, etc.

Location

You may already be set on either nearshore or offshore, but do you have a preference for a city or country? Do you want to work in the same time zone or does having the tester’s workday overlap with at least half of yours provide enough coverage? Each of these options carries its own quality and price benefits. 

Hourly Rates

The location will greatly influence the rate. For example, a testing company that operates purely in the US will have much higher rates than a testing team with the same qualifications in South America, Europe, or Asia. Additionally, the skill level of the tester(s) you’re looking for will affect rates. If you want an expert in their field of testing, they’ll command higher rates, of course, than a junior or manual tester.

Cultural Compatibility

Do you know the values that you want a provider to have in common with you? You can learn more about the values of a testing company by checking their social media, website, or reviews. How do they treat their employees? What about their preferred communication style and collaborative efforts? 

Communication

Is it important to you that the testers speak your language clearly and fluently? What about real-time correspondence? How much of a lag in communication would you feel comfortable with?

Evaluating Amongst Different Vendors

Once you’ve given the previous questions some consideration, and you’ve found a few companies that meet your basic criteria, it’s time to narrow down the list by investigating the following.

Software testers

Reputation

It’s always important to look for evidence of their ability to make their clients happy and, therefore, make you happy. It should be relatively easy to find testimonials and reviews on each company’s website.

Don’t forget to then move onto third-party review sites like Clutch.co or GoodFirms.co for in-depth and unbiased reviews

Testing Specialties and Domain Expertise

The risks, technologies, and timelines that teams deal with vary greatly by business and industry. For example, software used for healthcare requires an understanding of compliance issues and extensive security testing. Check to see if a software testing company has experience working for organizations that are similar to yours.

There are many areas of testing, so most testing companies will have different strengths. If a company professes to be 100% experienced in testing for all aspects of software quality, run!   

Technology and Toolbelt

Don’t forget to check or ask each company directly if they have experience with the tools you prefer to use. If you’re unsure about which would be best, ask if they can do an assessment and give you a good recommendation. Consider your product and the kind of testing that needs to be performed.

It’s unrealistic for a testing company to have prior experience working with each one of the thousands of testing tools on the market today. But keep in mind that it’s easy for a good tester to learn how to use a new tool. What’s more valuable is the mindset they adopt and their testing approach.

Extra Considerations for the Most Discerning Software Testing Services Buyer 

So far, we’ve shared a whole laundry list of considerations and things to research about a prospective software testing services provider. But there are some other things to look for if you really want to have that “good feeling” about the company you hire: 

  • Projects that show they’re committed to the research and development of testing tools and contributions to the open-source community
  • Team members and leaders who share their knowledge with the testing community via meetups, conference talks, blogs, podcasts, etc.
  • Sophisticated and highly selective recruitment process with a low employee turnover rate
  • Ample employee training opportunities and career planning
  • Multiple, strategic locations
  • Flexibility on their part to travel to attend in-person onboardings, training, host workshops, etc., so that you can connect with them face-to-face

It’s essential to find a provider who demonstrates a commitment to maintaining a strong company culture. It can predict how well they can work with you as an outsourced software testing partner. Additionally, consider the testing company’s ability to adapt to your own culture and processes.

Would you like to keep reading about How to Choose a Software Testing Company? This article may interest you.

Software Testing Outsourcing Best Practices

Team work

Establish a Point of Contact on Both Sides

When outsourcing software testing, it’s important to allocate time for addressing emails and problem-solving. A key practice is designating a main point of contact from both your team and theirs. They will be in charge of making sure that everything goes smoothly and that everyone receives whatever they ask for in a timely manner, thus preventing project delays.

Creating an environment where anyone feels comfortable to ask questions is essential for successful outsourcing.

representative image

Involve the Testing Team at the Beginning of Development

The sooner you involve the testing team, the quicker and easier they’ll be able to understand the product and what it is you’re trying to achieve in order to add value. It’s also a huge time and cost saver to start testing as soon as possible.

Learn here why the combination of Shift-Left Testing & Shift-Right Testing is a Possible Strategy

Determine a Strategy and Project Goals at the Outset

Make sure to establish the testing strategy before starting to work on your project. Without a solid plan, you may come to some dead ends and everyone will have different opinions on which direction to take next. Make sure all parties are aware of the plan. Give testers all of the information that they need, including the requirement specifications.

It’s also important to set expectations at the beginning so that testers know what to aim for.

Work to Build Trust

In order for outsourcing to work, both sides must trust one another. Trust means that there’s confidence in the fact that everyone shares the same goal, each team can count on each other, and that both sides are capable of effective cooperation. 

Team work

To build trust with the team, it’s important to: 

  • Listen to their needs. By actively listening and addressing the concerns of the outsourced team, you foster mutual respect. When you uphold your commitments and deliver on your promises, you establish trust as a dependable partner, increasing the likelihood of reciprocal actions from their side.
  • Be honest. Don’t give false explanations for disappointment to spare feelings. Instead, offer genuine feedback that enables them to trust your expressions of satisfaction when they have indeed performed well.
  • Get to know them as people. Your outsourced team members are humans as well. Ask how they’re doing and get to know them a little bit more. Have regular video chats to be better acquainted than you could over the phone. Simply seeing each other’s faces makes it a much more human interaction. They will appreciate you for seeing them as people first and foremost and secondly as testers.
  • Get everyone on your team on board with the decision. Sometimes, your in-house tester morale may take a hit when you outsource part of your testing. Be transparent in your motivations and explain how it will only benefit them and the overall quality of your application. On the other hand, to maintain a high morale amongst the outsourced testers make them feel included as much as possible.

Treat Outsourced Testers as Long-Term Partners 

Sometimes when outsourcing for a short project or contract, it’s easy to treat the external team as a temporary addition to your business that doesn’t require much attention. However, a good vendor should treat all clients equally. Make sure your outsourced software testers feel valued so that they want to do business with you again. Even if it’s a short-term project, treat them as if they were a long-term partner.

Don’t miss this article! Raising the level: getting started with a software testing partner

Key Takeaways for Software Testing Outsourcing

Given the various advantages of outsourcing software testing, many software engineering and quality engineering managers have turned to outsourcing as a helpful solution to their business needs. 

Make sure to consider all the pros and cons of outsourcing software testing. Make a list of criteria that satisfy your business goals when searching for the right testing company. With enough careful review and assessments, you can find the best software testing company that suits your needs. 

Remember the best practices once you’ve finally onboarded a new external team. As with any internal team, it requires proper management in order to provide the most value for your company.

Partnering with a software testing services provider can help you bridge the gap between testing and development, giving faster feedback while also reducing costs and business risks. And that’s just the start! 

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