Managing Outsourced Testing (On time and On Budget)

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no dialup access to the outside world.

Interview the testers These are the folks doing the actual work. Interview them. Find out if their previous test experiences are a match for your needs.

COST
This is where it gets tricky. Vendors like to charge for everything. Be sure to get an itemized bid to work from. The bid should contain personnel; hardware and task related cost. The bid should also include the proposed start and end dates.

Is there a flat fee or is it a per day cost? The software may be late being delivered to the lab. Is there a charge for downtime or pay only when they are working? Find out if there is a charge for testers when they go on vacation. Do they have backup if a tester goes on vacation?

If commitment is long term can you negotiate a more attractive contract? If several projects are going to the lab, try to negotiate a lower rate. Doing one project at a time is more costly.

Are there additional hardware charges? Some labs will only include basic machines for testing. If your test situation requires more than the basic find out before signing the contract.

Will the testers be working onsite or offsite? If the testers are offsite and need to be flown out, negotiate who pays the expenses.

Agree on project end deliverable Decide up-front what the project end deliverable will contain. Generally, there should be copies of the bug reports, recommendations and all correspondence between the two companies.

Is there an extra charge for a project manager? Find out if the project manager is part of the test team. Do you pay for the PM? If so, see if one of the testers can double as the PM. This can reduce cost.

Getting started and establishing a Workflow
Once the vendor is chosen, it is time to get down to testing. Setting up project workflow or framework is the key to success. Here are some tips on getting started:

Test a low risk area. If there are some serious concerns about outsource then try a low-risk area. Choose a project piece that will not disrupt the schedule if there is a bad experience. As there are success experiences, then outsource as needed.

Establish a Primary contact on both sides. If work is being done offsite, it is important that communication is done frequently and consistently. The only way to do this is establish a single point of contact on both sides. This will help eliminate miscommunications and keep the workflow going. Email is good for keeping track of every exchange. Phone calls are OK, but do not leave an audit trail. In some cases, ask for a business contact. This person can handle the non-testing issues such as the contract or personnel.

Have entire team meet face to face. It is important for the team get to know each other, especially if the work is done offsite. By getting to know one another up front it helps build team unity once testing begins. If this isn’t possible, then try to get the key contact out to the site.

Provide Documentation to the lab Any and all documentation should be given to the lab. They usually do not have any prior knowledge of the environments or application. If the project has already started, then they will need to come up to speed quickly. If you cannot provide documentation, then have someone from the team travel out to the lab to help bring the testers up to speed. This technique can really bring a team

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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