During the Software Test & Performance Conference 2008 in Boston, (STPCon) an in depth survey was conducted regarding the effect on quality and overall cost based upon the location of the QA and testing team. The survey included over 200 participants, of which over 82% were directly involved with the technical QA and testing activities. Participants included managers, directors and technical personnel.
The results of the survey represent the technical QA and testing community’s collective view on offshore software testing. The results may indicate a misguided perception among decision-makers which believe the total cost of offshore testing is lower than the total cost of onshore testing solutions.
The survey differentiates between two main types of testing solutions:
- Onshore testing – Testing is considered onshore when software testing services are provided at the customer’s site or at a dedicated Test Center that is located within a 2 hours drive from the customer site.
- Offshore testing – Testing is considered offshore when it is provided at a remote site often located in a different country and continent.
The first question asked in the survey was chosen with the intent to verify the basic premise that the main reason companies opt for offshore software testing is to reduce costs. The survey findings concurred with this premise. Over 86% of the people agreed or somewhat agreed that cost is the driver for offshore QA and testing.
Having established the main motivation for offshore software testing, the survey proceeded to examine the factors that affect the cost of testing.
Factors affecting cost
Geographical closeness – Participants were asked whether the geographical closeness of the QA and testing team to the development and domain experts teams affects the quality of the system delivered. Over 88% of the survey participants claimed that closer proximity between the development and testing teams improves the overall quality.
Management attention – is a high cost factor in any project. When a testing solution demands less attention from management, significant cost savings are realized in the overall project budget. The survey results were slightly in favor of onshore testing for requiring less management interaction. About 55% of the participants in the survey answered that onshore testing requires less attention from management.
Communication – Good communication is crucial to the success of any project. We asked if there is a difference in the number of communication problems between offshore software testing and onshore testing. The majority of the participants, over 60%, claimed that onshore testing solutions can eliminate most communication problems.
Control over the work being done – delivering a project on time is achieved with tight control of the entire scope and life cycle of the project. Late delivery can have a devastating effect on the overall budget and product costs. Almost 80% of survey participants believed onshore testing results in greater control over the work being done compared to offshore testing.
Quality versus number of people – when there is a need to increase the level of the QA testing, there is a natural desire to increase the number of personnel. However, increasing expertise and professionalism may be a more effective solution. In the survey, close to 60% of the participants claimed that onshore testing can actually maintain or improve the level of testing with fewer people than offshore testing.
These results may indicate a management misconception regarding the actual, total cost of the QA and testing effort. The majority of QA and testing professionals agreed that onshore QA and testing can increase quality and communication, while requiring less involvement from management. However, in light of this survey, there may be a need to reevaluate whether offshore testing is indeed the most cost effective alternative in comparison to onshore testing.
While the goal of offshore QA and testing is often to reduce the product cost, unforeseen problems often result in cost increases of 30% per quarter over projected project costs. The opinions expressed in the survey support a study conducted by Forrester Research which showed approximately 40% of companies using offshore QA solutions are unhappy with the results.