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Testing the Waters-Lessons for Organizations Outsourcing Usability Testing Tools for the First Time

By Percy Dara Hilloo, Head-Testing Practice, Blue Star Infotech

Percy Dara Hilloo, Head-Testing Practice, Blue Star Infotech

Outsourcing User Acceptance Testing (UAT), the last critical mile to cross before launching a product/software in the market has slowly gained prominence over the years with the maturity of testing and outsourcing itself. While organizations may have started outsourcing low level testing long back to get the usual outsourcing benefits in terms of cost savings, improve quality, faster product launch, there has always been a constraint to outsource UAT. Since UAT is considered as the final check before it goes live, CIO’s are reluctant to lose control and they are of the opinion that an internal team has better understanding of the end-user requirement and hence they are in a better position to check the final release. However it is found that outsourcing UAT is leading to far better output than validation done by internal teams. There may be multiple reasons associated with that –

1. Independent validation- Through a highly qualified, external team definitely adds value in terms of completing the test coverage. The independent consultant with right industry experience can better understand the key business user expectations

2. Intuitive Testing- Intuitive Testing is an essential part of UAT. The test cases/scenarios considered during testing is regular business scenarios, often missing out the infrequent business scenarios that may have a very high impact on the success of the application. Internal test teams at times may not have the complete domain knowledge, outsourcing UAT may help you to get experienced consultants who can visualize more scenarios.

3. Stress and Load Testing- Today stress and load testing is very important before an online portal/e-commerce site goes live to ensure that the website functions properly even in peak business hours with too many users logging in or making transaction on the site. Enterprises often miss out this important activity due to lack of time and lack of vision and expertise of internal team members. An external consultant can help to test the performance of the application during peak periods and launch a system that runs uninterruptedly and can support end number of users.

“Internal test teams at times may not have the complete domain knowledge, outsourcing UAT may help you to get experienced consultants who can visualize more scenarios”

While there may have been many conflicts whether to outsource UAT or not and what are the critical factors that can lead to success of such a critical engagement. UAT outsourcing like any other engagements can’t be an overnight process and has to go through step by step process of control mechanisms and procedures to be successful. The first move would be for a CIO to be convinced about outsourcing and to get buy-in from internal teams that outsourcing will really add value. The next challenge is whether outsourcing UAT to an existing vendor who is already developing the software would be more efficient or a new vendor can bring in more efficiency and reduce risks. In case we outsource it to the existing vendor, ‘Conflict of Interest’ needs to be addressed clearly. Cost value analysis is also essential before outsourcing the project. Though we see huge advantages in outsourcing UAT, it is not that it will end all challenges of an organization. It is important to choose the correct outsourcing partner and control the testing to achieve desired results. The following are some of the important aspects to consider before outsourcing UAT to an external vendor –

1. Establishing Goals for Engaging with UAT Consultants- Enterprises must frame objectives for IT vendors, who have an expertise intesting services, when associating with them during the Project Initiation phase itself. This helps IT vendors to effectively strategize their functions in the Testing phase. Also the External Test Consultants can be involved during the Solution Design phase to provide better visibility into the solution strategy and configuration designs. This can help getting maximum out of the External Test Consultant during UAT.

 Selecting Appropriate and Proficient Testing Consultants: Testing consultants help enterprises to determine the viability of the software, platform and it is vital for them to choose the External Test Consultant firms that have appropriate Industry Exposure and Product Knowledge.

2. Innovation and Customization are Key Qualities for IT Vendors– It is beneficial for enterprises to select IT vendors who have a creative approach to testing. Creativity empowers them to employ skilled and robust techniques to cover all possible scenarios which may not be a part of current transactional system be checked.

3. Analysing Trends and Metrics:

The reports from testing services should be analyzed to understand how the tests are progressing and issues are getting reported. This is an important function because if there is a deviation in established standards and actual performance or there is a lack of information on complex it may lead to gaps in expected solution.

4. Encourage Cross functional Coordi­nation and Inter Organizational Com­munication– The success of any out­sourcing project depends on cooperation and proper communication between the internal team and external vendor. Coor­dination of activities and communication of suggestions or solutions helps in the smooth functioning of a project.

5. Selecting Right Testing Tool for the Right job– The availability of an array of testing tools may create a difference in opinion amongst members on what tools must be employed. One may prefer Microsoft Excel to track tasks, another may prefer Microsoft Project, and yet another is a bit more advanced and uses SharePoint lists with automated workflow. IT vendors of testing services must select the most appropriate technique for the several platforms of the enterprises.

6. Developing effective Tracking and Controlling Mechanisms– UAT is a critical factor for software project’s success. It is important for an organization to employ well-defined and measurable parameters for controlling and monitoring the outsourced Acceptance Testing process. Both organization and the vendor must identify a range of metrics to measure the progress on the various activities of the acceptance Testing process.

Outsourcing of UAT may seem to be a challenge for many enterprises. However, by following the aforementioned guidelines the enterprises and IT vendors can form a robust partnership that may help in ending an organization’s challenges and be the panacea to the CIO’s ails.

In order for this model to succeed, the vendor needs to take utmost care to ensure that the ‘conflict of interest’ situation is managed and organization considering outsourcing Acceptance Testing must prepare well to educate all stakeholders of the project in order to mitigate the occurrence of these issues. Factors such as cost, techniques, IT vendors’ expertise and adaptability of enterprises must be evaluated in order to reap rich dividends of outsourcing UAT.

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