The value of offshoring testing services

During the coronavirus pandemic over the last 18 months, everyone has been in a similar position of not being able to visit an office and has experienced some kind of remote working.  It didn’t matter where you working from, we all used remote access, collaboration tools, and conferencing facilities to ensure we provided a seamless service. This way of working enabled our key stakeholders to be more open to the idea of offshoring more roles. Thus, this article aims to share the benefits and considerations around offshoring your testing services.

In January 2020, 46% of our testing services managed by our Service Integrator were provided through offshore resources. By the end of the year, 80% of the resources provided were moved offshore, and we have maintained similar levels throughout 2021. We kept the strategic customer-facing roles onshore with as many of these as possible being permanent roles to ensure we retain internal knowledge and expertise in-house. The majority of the actual pure test execution roles were moved offshore.

 

The pandemic certainly helped accelerate our offshoring model as everyone got to experience and understand the remote working environment. Over the last 18 months, we have realized the following benefits through offshoring:

  • Reduced costs – this is probably the first thing that springs to mind whenever you mention offshoring.  From personal experience, we have had significant savings gained through offshoring, working out to be approximately one-third of the original cost. We have therefore been able to reinvest some of these savings into our wider QA&Test strategy to gain further cost savings through technology and automation.
  • Physical space – pre-pandemic physical space in our offices was at a premium creating significant cost. Offshoring has freed up space and made an internal cost-saving.
  • Do not disturb – with testers offshore it has enabled them to focus on the testing and not be disturbed as often. This allows them to focus purely on test execution showing an increase in test execution.
  • Ability to increase working days – with some of the teams working UK hours, we have been able to extend our testing day to benefit from the time difference.
  • Building a center of excellence to focus purely on testing allows teams to support each other through Chapters, creating a continuous improvement culture.
  • Ability to ramp up resources – due to new demand, we have increased resources by 60% in the last 15 months.
  • Continuation of service – giving the ability to remotely work seamlessly from anywhere in the world.

 

How we have been successful

  • Having the right balance – We retained the key stakeholder-facing roles onshore. These are our Senior Test Managers who have to influence our senior leaders and are accountable for the overarching test approach and strategies. Where possible, these are internal roles.  Through regular contact, these individuals are the points of escalation and the face of the test delivery. They act as the initial escalation points and the voice of the offshore test teams.
  • We moved the detailed planning and test execution roles offshore – This provided stakeholders with clear escalation routes via onshore teams, allowing the offshore teams to focus on purely executing the test plans.
  • Creating a ‘One team quality culture’ – Quality is a shared responsibility across the whole organisation, which ensures we deliver the high standards our customers demand. Everyone is responsible for the quality and we needed to ensure it was engrained into both the on and offshore organisations. Through onboarding events, regular communications, incentive schemes with voucher reward and recognition, and the QA&Test Chapter community, we managed to keep people engaged and focused on delivery against our overall strategy.
  • We have completed regular audits and assessments across each of our delivery partners to benchmark their QA and test practices, drive quality improvements upfront, and standardise a quality-first culture.
  • Clear and frequent communication was key to ensuring everyone felt like one team, ensuring everyone understands the current business issues and objectives. We needed to ensure the messages around our strategy were understood and actioned on, with the offshore team support. We also engaged the teams on the top risks/issues and priorities on a regular basis.

 

Points to consider

  • Time zones – through offshoring we have been able to split the teams into shifts, with some team members working standard local business hours and others working UK hours. The setback is if the team is blocked early on requiring someone in a different time zone to fix the blocker. We have also experienced issues where the team’s starting work before UK hours of business have ended up regularly working longer days almost aligned to the /UK Hours shift teams. Strong offshore management is required to ensure that people are respectful and adhere to the appropriate working hours, key stakeholder-facing roles have to be UK hours.
  • Hardware/equipment and connectivity – this has been more of an issue during the pandemic as those offshore have worked from home with conditions not always being suitable. Network connectivity and the importance of good flexible working equipment is critical to ensure success (for example laptops versus desktop). You need to think about how you can support this, and the ability to provide new hardware if required. Ideally, you need to look to procure from the local country to avoid the cost and long delays to shipping equipment.
  • Reporting – The importance of accurate up-to-date progress is a critical success factor. Dynamic dashboards help the stakeholders understand the current delivery position, and through more accurate reporting and data collection you can build data-driven service improvement plans to ensure quality is fixed upfront, and make everyone accountable.
  • Organisational culture – you need to ensure that the offshore team is aligned and supportive of your wider strategy. Trying to achieve a switch or alignment in culture is more difficult offshore and requires onshore management to invest time to support and help drive this.
  • Contractual obligations – certain contracts may insist work is carried out within a certain country or continent. This can also be true for the tools and software licenses you are using.  Make sure you check with your legal teams and explore all contracts that could potentially be impacted, as a breach can have a serious impact on your business.
  • Stakeholders reluctance – we have previously been in a culture where face-to-face was the preferred method of meeting. Some will still request this, and it will take time to build up trust and show delivery success.  The key is giving the strong onshore candidates the ability to manage expectations and deal with the day-to-day issues to ensure the offshore teams are fluid to test.
  • Strong offshore management will be critical to ensure the teams deliver, share the passion and understanding for the strategy, and remain aligned.
  • Security is definitely at greater vulnerability with any remote working. Prevention is key and you must ensure this is considered before any offshore adaption.

We have seen significant benefits through our own offshore testing strategy, which has definitely benefitted and accelerated from the pandemic. Now that everyone has experienced remote working, your own stakeholders may well be more open to a new delivery model.

 

Article written by Stuart Makin, Head of QA&Test for O2 Telefonica

 

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