Offshore test management is not just a job or a role. It’s a critically strategic skillset for any sizeable organisation to foster, and for those who practice it, it’s more art than science.
Test services have been largely moved offshore in last few decades and the skillset now required to manage dispersed teams is far more diverse than basic team management. Critically, new studies have now shown that the most obvious benefit of performing testing offshore, namely cutting costs, may only be true in the short term. In many cases, over a longer period, moving work overseas is proving more costly when it comes to maintaining the quality and quantity of work.
Good test management should provide software solutions into production that are functionally and non-functionally fit-for-purpose, and whose levels of performance, reliability, supportability and resilience are acceptable to the end user. Unfortunately, the service provided is not always up to the desired standard, and recent research by software quality tester Cast, found that on average an additional £2.23 million is spent on the average big application after it has gone live as a result of unexpected problems with the code. With such substantial costs being incurred to fix software post go-live, the whole agenda of ‘cost-saving’ through use of the offshore testing model is being lost. Most importantly however, in the future, the objective of testing will be lost if the critical issues are only identified after going live.
The solution for these significant issues relating to offshore testing, is not to revert back to a 100 per cent onsite testing model. The key, is to try to understand the root-causes of the problems with the offshore model through a detailed in-depth analysis of the situation.
The challenge in understanding this problem is accepting that there is not one resolution which will suit all offshore testing projects. The issues and the resolutions depend on various factors specific to a project, such as geographical location, time zone differences, quality of analysis and code, to name but a few. Therefore the key for a successful offshore testing model is:
- to understand the root-causes previously faced by offshore projects and the current project, and
- to convert the resolutions into a robust test strategy and test process
Testing professionals who work within offshore test teams or co-ordinating projects across different parts of the globe, need to understand the root-causes of various problems. Here is a list of factors which strongly influence the major issues in offshore testing model. Also, understanding these common factors will help move into the next level of performing in-depth analysis of the root-causes.
- Time difference
The difference in time zones is a key factor. As the working hours are not the same, onsite and offshore testing teams rely heavily on the so-called ‘overlap hours’, namely the few hours in a day when both teams are working at the same time. This lack of correlation with working hours means that time is wasted waiting for instructions, clarifications and delivery, and is something that must be understood and addressed in the test strategy and process.
Some of the problems can be alleviated by establishing a robust communication flow diagram, as well as producing information workflow sheets and templates, and centralizing the information. This will help to improve the clarity between the two teams and ensure the seamless flow of information. The test strategy should also establish a strong process for forecasting the issues, while the testing process should ensure that the testing releases, deliveries, environment updates, etc. are aligned with these time restrictions.
Though English is spoken in offshore locations, the accents can be very different and language can often be ambiguous in its application. It’s very natural to have difficulties in understanding during the initial test design phase. Unfortunately, this is where the problems start. The test design phase requires thorough understanding and any wrongdoing or mishaps as a result of a misunderstanding or misinterpretation can be very costly. To address this major issue, the test process and strategy should ensure there is proper documentation of all testing artefacts and that there is a robust test review process. It is also necessary to have a good overall written communication model. Brickendon’s exclusive TCPS methodology can help to efficiently address this issue.
It’s very important to understand the difference in work cultures (between offshore and onsite teams). For example, the work culture in China or India is very different to that in the UK. The test process and strategy must take account of this factor and should ensure that neither the offshore or onsite team is alienated. It is very important to win the confidence and trust of both teams. The testing process must ensure active involvement and accountability of offshore teams throughout the project life cycle. The process must also account for all local practices. For example, in Germany it is necessary to seek approval from the workers’ council to carry out testing at the weekend. The key is to embrace the difference in cultures rather than to challenge them.
The other major factors include lack of face-to-face communication, trust, mutual understanding of pain points and regionally specific challenges. All of these require a detailed in-depth analysis to fully understand the root-causes and then to address the resolutions through robust test strategy and test process.
So, is ‘offshore testing is a ‘real’ cost-saving model? The answer is yes, it can be, provided everyone involved in the project has a detailed understanding of the issues and the ability to convert all the resolutions into a robust test strategy/process. Brickendon’s successful Offshore Test Strategy/Framework helps in detailed root-cause analysis and builds a robust offshore test strategy and process. In short, it helps to ensure offshore testing is the ‘real’ cost-saving model it was expected to be, without losing any of the quality.