requirement, then this task is a candidate for outsourcing. Like hardware testing, strong documentation is important to get the most for the outsource dollar. When the project is over, you can take ownership of the testscripts and make them part of your regression suite. Check with test tool vendors in this case. They may have engineers who can do these tasks.
- Do I need to execute any stress / load testing?
If testing a client / server or web application, it is imperative there is some sort of stress or load testing. This testing will simulate user load and give you an idea of how the system will behave when the number of users increase. Stress / Load testing is typically carried out by senior technical engineers. This talent can be hard to find. Stress testing usually occurs once the application is close to shipping, which means the schedule might be very tight when the opportunity arises. This testing usually requires extra hardware as well.
- Do I have funding for outsourcing or can I arrange for funding?
Money can always be an issue. If money is tight, then oustource just the most critical items in the criteria. One creative alternative maybe to borrow resources from another department. Another is to strike a deal with a nearby college to get some interns.
Research labs using your criteria
Start the lab search by calling on peers or colleagues. Word of mouth is still the best reference. If this route does not turn-up any prospects, then take to the Internet or trade publications. The newly formed Software Quality Magazine can be a great resource. Software test labs come in many varieties with different specialties. This is why is so important to have defined search criteria. Narrow the candidates to two or three and then setup some phone interviews.
Q.V.C. (Question, Visit and Cost) Shop around for a lab
Now that you have your candidates, it is time to question, question and question. This is a key step in determining which lab to use. Here are some key points to get answered:
Ask for the following sample deliverables:
Testplan and testcases
Sample deliverable output is critical. When work is being done offsite, the written and verbal communication takes on greater importance. Face to face meetings will be few and far between. Look for items such as clearly detailed defect reports, test cases with defined outcomes and very detailed project summaries.
Ask about hardware / software
Will the project share machines with others?
What is the availability of project-specific equipment?
If using a high volume test lab, chances are they share equipment across projects. It is in your best interest to find this out. If there are going to be issues, find out if the test lab will lease whatever equipment needed.
How much hardware \ software do they have?
Get an inventory of hardware and software. Any reputable lab should have all the latest equipment. Additionally labs should have a good supply of older machines that still proliferate in the marketplace. The goal is to get as close as possible to the machine class the target audience is using. Look to get a list of the following:
Is their hardware organized and available?
A lab may have a lot of equipment in inventory, but how well organized is it? In some cases I have seen labs with parts everywhere, and machines split between labs. Ask if machines travel from lab to lab and how they keep track of the components. A good