Managing Outsourced Testing (On time and On Budget)

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sample question may be, If they had to find a video card how would they go about doing it?

Do they use out of the box machines?
Some labs add software to machines, which may be native to their company. This software may mask problems, which an average at home user would not have. A good way around this is find out if the lab has an “out of the box” machine. These machines are ones which consumers get directly from computer manufacturers and are free from company specific software. Remember, not every machine is blessed with spreadsheets and word processors. If there is DLL the software requires from a popular application or operating system component, then the home consumer may crash and burn. If testing a widely used product, this sort of testing is mandatory.

Do the testers maintain the machines or does an I.T. staff?
If testers are always configuring machines, then they do not have time to test. If the test lab has an I.T. squad, they can keep the machines up and running while the testers are focused on testing. An I.T. team can also be quicker in turning around a machine.

Ask about personnel and view tester resumes. What are the testers Lab Technology cumulative experiences?
Be sure to see the resume of any prospective tester. The sales staff will promise all kinds of skills but the testing is still being done by individuals. Review reports and project summaries created by the testers. Look for similar testing experience or products they have tested.

Are the testers shared across projects?
If the lab is to be used sporadically, the known testers may not be available at a later date. Find out if this is the case and plan accordingly. Once you locate a good tester request that person for future projects. In fact, ask for particular testers as part of the contract negotiations.

Will they sign non-disclosures? Can testers be bonded?
Since work is done offsite or with multiple clients a non-disclosure is always advised. If your software is financially sensitive be sure to get everyone involved on your projects bonded. This can be another contract point. Don’t lose good testers due to bonding issues.

Do they have Project Management skills?
Someone in the testlab will be responsible for coordinating the test work and communications with your company. Find out if the proposed lead has any of this experience. It makes communication flow a lot easier.

Have they worked on similar project technologies?
Have the testers worked on similar projects? This can be a big help, especially if the testers in your organization are not familiar with the new technologies.

VISIT
Once the candidates have been narrowed again, it is time to do an onsite visit. The visit is critical to see firsthand how the lab is setup, what the work environment is like.

Take a lab tour.

Does the lab look like a comfortable work environment? This is an area that typically gets taken for granted. The testing is being carried out by individuals. People need an environment, which is comfortable to work. Some labs are small and do not have any windows. The better the environment, the better the quality of work.

Does the hardware seem well organized? Look around the lab. Look for different hardware. Ask them to locate some pieces. See how long it takes them.

Does the lab meet security requirements? Does the organization have specific security requirements? Make sure the lab can meet those requirements. Some requirements could be the project does not have access to the internal LAN, or

About the author

George Hamblen's picture George Hamblen

George Hamblen is currently a director of software quality assurance for Fidelity Investments Retail Electronic Commerce group. He leads a top-notch testing organization that combines technical talent with business know-how. The organization is responsible for Fidelity customer client/server and Web site applications, which have received many prestigious awards from leading business magazines. George has over 12 years of testing experience, which run the range from mainframe to PC/Macintosh. He has done every testing tasks imaginable from compilers, to spreadsheets, to CD-ROMs, to e-commerce applications. He was given the nickname “The Finger” for his ability to crash a spreadsheet aided only by a mouse. In addition to his management duties, he has developed and presented in-house training and test process improvements. He can be reached at george_hamblen@yahoo.com.

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