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One has often wondered about the marvels of technology. Its speed, precision, uniformity and ease in accessibility have transcended from age-old PCs to contemporary handheld devices. With the trend of BYOD (Bring your own device) and handheld devices becoming the order of the day, businesses are increasingly relying on the web and mobile based platforms to exploit business opportunities.
From cab services, such as Ola and Uber, to online retailers, such as Amazon and Flipkart, business ventures rely extensively on the web and mobile platforms for their business. However in order to efficiently leverage this model of business, IT vendors are playing a vital role by providing enterprises testing services – User Acceptance Testing (UAT) – to evaluate the viability of such platforms.
Why to outsource UAT?
UAT is the last critical mile to cross before launching a product/software in the market and has slowly gained prominence over the years with the maturity of testing and outsourcing itself. While organisations may have started outsourcing low level testing long back to get the usual outsourcing benefits in terms of cost savings, improve quality and faster product launch, there has always been a constraint to outsource UAT.
Since UAT is considered as the final check before it goes live, CIOs are reluctant to lose control and they believe 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 like:
1. Independent validation - A highly qualified external team definitely adds value in terms of completing the test coverage. An independent consultant with right industry experience can better understand the key business user expectations.
2. Intuitive testing - It is an essential part of UAT. Test cases/scenarios considered during testing are regular business scenarios, often missing out the infrequent business scenarios that may have a very high impact on the success of an application. Internal test teams at times may not have complete domain knowledge, thus outsourcing UAT can help you to get experienced consultants who can visualise more scenarios. As a consultant will belong to specific industry, he will have a more objective view of the business scenarios that may occur in that industry.
3. Stress & 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 transactions 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.
While there may have been many conflicts whether to outsource UAT or not and what are the critical factors that can lead to the success of such a critical engagement. UAT outsourcing like any other engagement can’t be an overnight process and has to go through step-by-step process of control mechanisms and procedures to be successful.
Although we see huge advantages in outsourcing UAT, it is not that it will end all challenges of an organisation. It is important to choose the correct outsourcing partner and control the testing to achieve desired results. Here are some of the important aspects to consider before outsourcing UAT to an external vendor:
1. Set objectives for UAT providers: Enterprises must frame objectives for IT vendors who have an expertise in testing services while associating with them during the Project Initiation phase. This helps IT vendors to effectively strategise their functions in the Testing phase. Factors, such as industry experience, information on industry best practices and adherence to compliance guidelines, are critical determinants while selecting an IT vendor for providing UAT services.
2. Encourage innovation & creativity from testing providers: 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. Analyse test progress: The reports from testing services should be analysed 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. Coordinate & communicate: 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 help in the smooth functioning of a project. Issues can be addressed without delay that help in the completion of projects in the given time period.
5. Choose right testing tool for the right job: The availability of an array of testing tools may create a difference in opinion among members on what tools should 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 several platforms of the enterprises.
6. Establish effective monitoring techniques: As UAT is a critical factor for software project’s success, it is important for an organisation to employ well-defined and measurable parameters for controlling and monitoring the UAT process. Both organisation and vendor must identify a range of metrics to measure the progress on the various activities of the Acceptance Testing process.
Factors, such as cost, techniques, IT vendors’ expertise and adaptability of enterprises must be evaluated in order to reap rich dividends of outsourcing UAT. The decision to outsource UAT will be much easier for those organisations whose outsourcing practises are matured, have stable and transparent relationships with outsourcing vendors and follow metrics driven processes to monitor the project progress. For successful UAT outsourcing, both client and vendor should assess the feasibility of various steps, lay down well-defined framework, methodologies and responsibilities pertaining to each team.
Testing has witnessed a metamorphosis as it was restricted only to functional issues and risks in the past. However, with the advent of e-business development, this focus has changed. Gartner too mentions, “IT enterprises must skill up to the competencies of developing robust sourcing strategies that map to business requirements and develop the competencies to deliver a mix of internally and externally vended services seamlessly. This requires not only new skills, but new behaviours, new processes and new measurement schemes.”
It is a feasible suggestion that organisations should establish a robust and integrated framework for outsourcing Acceptance Testing with vendors.
(This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (October, 2015 Issue).