There are times when organizations need to increase testing for a regular release, to meet a deadline or some unexpected occurrence, but it doesn’t justify expanding the inside team. The options are to quickly find someone for a short term contract, or depending on your application, explore crowdsourcing or go with an outsourced / offshore service provider that offers flexible staffing. Here are a few of the considerations that can help you when you need help right away.
Filling a contract position is not significantly different than hiring a full-time employee. Going this route lets you be very specific about the requirements and skills, and you have a chance to interview the candidates to verify they have what you need. The disadvantage is that this takes time, and onboarding one or more contractors is not advantageous when you need to ramp-up testing quickly.
Lately crowdsourced testing has gained attention as a way to quickly scale usability testing with a relatively fast turnaround. Crowdsourced testing has been around quite a while. It has been an extremely popular method for final or public beta testing and for testing gaming software. Even now it doesn’t take much more than a challenge to break software and free pizza to get a bunch of gaming fanatics lined up outside your door.
Crowdsourcing has grown in popularity with the explosion of mobile development and the need to test a multitude of devices, operating systems and wireless networks. But like all things, there are trade-offs that must be considered when determining if this is the route to go.
Who are the testers? Testers in the crowd come from different backgrounds, and possess different levels of experience. They can range from college students and employed testers looking to supplement their income, to individuals who previously worked full-time as testers and now prefer flexible work opportunities. Since they are freelancers, they can be available all times of the day, and on short notice.
One of the attractions of crowdsourcing is the potential to test public websites, mobile applications, software, or video games on a wide range of hardware devices, and different software/hardware configurations. However, good results will be dependent upon creating very detailed requirements up front. Even then, the consistency in the quality of the work may vary. There is also the possibility that test reports may not be uniform and contain duplicate bugs, which may require extra time to sort and validate the accuracy of the test results.
Security risks need to be evaluated carefully prior to releasing a project to the crowd. Giving a large number of users access to pre-release products can be risky. If there’s something special about the software, the secret could be blown or if it’s a really cool new app or feature, there’s the risk it gets talked about before you’re ready, giving the competition a heads-up. There’s always a chance the leak about a bug could get adverse publicity. While these are extreme scenarios, they do need to be taken into consideration.
When you have specific requirements and need to get going right away, working with a traditional outsourcing firm can get you to your goals quickly. Outsourcing firms will have testers with skills you are looking for and that likely have experience testing very similar applications. This benefits you by speeding testing, and having testers who are able to accurately identify and report issues. When you have very specific hardware/software requirements outsourcing firms can work with you on the best way to configure them for testing. And, depending on your needs, they may be able to automate a portion of the testing.
Most outsourcing firms are able to perform rigorous testing and help solve engineering problems. They also have standardized procedures and are able to validate workflows and a variety of user scenarios and can work with you to ensure the test coverage you need.
Assuring the Best Outsourcing Experience
Approached correctly, outsourcing on a temporary or as needed basis can be seamlessly integrated with in-house teams. The key is establishing good relationships. The bottom line is that people do business with people, not companies. And the preference is to do business with people you know and trust. Trust starts with confidence. Having open dialogue and discussion with the project managers is a good way to gain confidence that they can do what you expect. From there, starting with a proof of concept will be a gauge of how a larger project will go.
Outsourcing will, in many cases, force organization and process improvement. You need to communicate all aspects of your testing process including your communicating methods, status reporting, test case management and defect tracking in part or in whole to the testers working on your project. In a lot of organizations all of this may be getting done, but may not be well defined. Getting things organized and documented enough is essential to make outsourcing as efficient as possible, and will also benefit current teams.
An often overlooked aspect in outsourced testing is training testers on the application. Testers with excellent testing skills will produce smarter tests and better results when they have a good understanding of the system under test. Training doesn’t have to be extensive, but it can make a big difference in the results you get.
The individuals in-house who will be managing and/or working with offshore test teams can also benefit from training in the area of communication. The tech sector is highly cross-cultural. Being aware that there are differences in how communication is interpreted can avoid misunderstanding and friction.
From all the industry reports, the need for software testers will continue to grow, which means a lot of competition for skilled testers. For testers this isn’t a bad thing, but it can make it difficult for organizations to ramp-up testing quickly. In this environment it’s likely more organization will need to explore an outsourcing option at some time or another. Understanding your options and the key considerations will help you put together the right plan when you need testing talent in a hurry.