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SOA & WOA: Article

Achieve Software Quality Improvements via Outsourcing

Offshore product development (OPD) of software involves a lot more than just cutting costs and accelerating time-to-market

Contrary to common misconceptions, offshore product development (OPD) of software involves a lot more than just cutting costs and accelerating time-to-market. Savvy companies know OPD enables them to improve the quality of their software.

Outsourcing software development and independent software testing is a great way for companies to reduce cost, improve quality, cut cycle times, eliminate the need for in-house skills, and increase efficiency.

Unfortunately, far too many companies focus excessively on the benefits of cost savings - and end up paying the price in poor quality software and/or poor testing results.

However, companies that approach offshore product development as an opportunity can improve productivity and software quality by tapping into the skills, expertise and technology that they lack in-house.

The digitization of business has created an increasing reliance on software for internal and customer-facing activities, which in turn has elevated the importance on testing as part of the software development process.

A recent report from analyst company Pierre Audoin Consultants (PAC) supports this assertion. Ninety-one percent of IT departments interviewed by PAC said testing is one of the most important tasks that can be enhanced through outsourcing. The report also revealed that 75% of the companies interviewed already use testing vendors with onshore and offshore capabilities.

Outsourcing should be viewed as a way to improve software quality. Many people simply measure quality using traditional metrics such as open/active defects. To derive maximum benefits from outsourcing you need to analyze the business impact and the return on investment from using your testing team.

To ensure software quality, ask this question of your in-house test team and contract resources: How is your combined testing team helping you keep and satisfy your current customers, and attract more?

To ensure an adequate focus on the quality of the delivered software product, you should also ask:

  • Can I reduce the current cost of quality by 20% or more through a handful of ‘quick wins'?
  • Can I improve quality with my current project budgets?
  • Is my current testing solution able to do more?

Outsourcing activities to experts rather than low-cost offshore firms will help your organization proactively answer the above questions effectively.

In his paper ‘Roadmap to Successful Outsourcing', IEEE editor Wolfgang Strigel pointed out that outsourcing allows organizations to:

  • Realize significant cost-savings for resources. Businesses can take advantage of global resources to cut costs while retaining the permanent foundation of expertise in those areas that represent their competitive differentiator.
  • Use their core staff for strategic work while contracting other activities. This improves company focus and increases margins by using specialty knowledge only when needed, avoiding make-work projects for in-house staff not on a mission-critical path.
  • Shorten delivery cycles and get greater flexibility to ramp resources based on project needs.
  • Access experts through a reliable pool of resources - to confront the challenges of having in-house experts in all areas.

Building a long-term relationship with an outsourcing partner does not have to be dramatic. Serious partners will want to participate in services that can be verified by performance, while they work on and improve the current projects and process frameworks.

Starting with a sample or ‘pilot project' of a controlled size and scope will allow you to measure the results and judge the potential value of the service provider for future projects.

To maximize the value of outsourcing, you need to think about a tailored solution for your company that uses the following types of testing methods and techniques as part of the overall testing methodology:

  • Black Box Testing
  • Compatibility Testing
  • Integration Testing
  • Regression Testing
  • Performance Testing
  • Scalability/Load Testing
  • Security Testing

Your outsourcing partner should also understand the impact of manual efforts associated with test execution during a mission-critical project. Since manual test cases are a way of life in most organizations, your partner should have an effective way of getting manual test cases under control and automating the painfully repetitive areas of manual testing.

Equally important, your partner should be adept at defining and implementing an automation strategy - one that carefully analyzes the areas that can be automated to get maximum time saving and test coverage. This can be achieved by leveraging an ROI model (comparison of the cost of manual execution vs. the cost of automation and maintenance) as well as applying an approach to import/convert manual test cases to automation.

Finally, consider that every testing engagement should track information to measure and ensure quantifiable improvements. On a monthly, even weekly schedule, data should be collected in the following categories: application quality, test coverage, productivity, project-specific metrics, and automation metrics.

Summary
Outsourcing is rapidly creating a new competitive reality for companies, which have much to gain from global sourcing. For many companies, outsourcing has proved itself as a way to reduce operating costs and jump productivity by tapping into the skills and expertise of an outsourcing partnership.

More Stories By Mush Honda

Mush Honda is QA Director at KMS Technology, a provider of IT services across the software development lifecycle with offices in Atlanta, GA and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He has previously played various QA roles at Ernst & Young, Nexidia, Colibrium Partners and Connecture. KMS services include application management, testing, support, professional services and staff augmentation.

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