Outsourcing Software Testing to China:
What to Look For
YuTing Hung, Vice President of Operations, The Symbio Group
Testing is essential to the development of quality software products. This is true for everything from consumer applications to enterprise business software to the embedded code in aircraft, automobile engines, pacemakers or radiation therapy machines. Reliable, high-quality software is critical to competitiveness and even safety in industries from telecommunications to financial services, transportation, manufacturing, utilities and healthcare.
Commercial software companies must test their consumer and business applications because consumers today demand stable, easy-to-use and reliable software. The success, or even survival of a software vendor depends in large part on thorough testing.
However, testing may not be a core competency for every software vendor or in-house software developer. Outsourcing software to a skilled, cost-effective partner can free internal resources for more valuable work. While India is the Asian country most well-known for IT outsourcing, China has unique advantages in performing software testing, provided the testing firm has the skills and facilities to make the best use of China’s infrastructure.
Skill: HigHly Qualified TeSTing ProfeSSionalS
Software testing requires a deep understanding of development methodologies and tools, as well as skills and experience with test processes and tools. But software testing also requires tracking the results of various types of tests on hundreds, if not thousands of software modules for weeks, months or even years. For these reasons, a testing firm should also possess deep skills in project management as well in disciplines such as change management and version control.
China now graduates about 700,000 IT professionals each year, most of whom have a great command of the English language that was the case even several years ago. However, when evaluating an outsourcer’s testing staff, it’s important to look beyond sheer numbers for the right proportion of lower, middle and higher levels of skill and experience.
Unlike India, in China, testing is a respected occupation and professionals often stay in that job for many years. Not only do colleges and universities put a high priority on teaching testing skills, but software testing is seen as a strong career path with good growth possibilities. As a result, Chinese outsourcing firms have a much wider and deeper pool of testing talent than those in India. China’s QA and testing professionals remain committed to their technical path of choice and are more likely than their counterparts in India to stick with a testing project until it is completed. This means lower costs, lower attrition and higher-quality testing with fewer project disruptions.
When looking for a testing partner in China, customers should look for outsourcers with :
Ÿ Strong and ongoing relationships with universities to find, train and recruit top students
Ÿ Permanent employees (rather than reliance on con tractors) so that a new staff of testers doesn’t need to be trained for each iteration of a software product. This reduces “ramp up” time and costs, and also increases the quality of the testing.
Ÿ Ongoing training and career development to retain skilled testing professionals
Ÿ Communication: Strong process and infrastructure (such as video conferencing) to ensure consistent communication among testers and with the client on status of bugs, errors and the testing process
Ÿ U.S.-educated management teams so they understand both the culture of the Chinese workforce and the needs and expectations of Western (or U.S. and European-based) clients.
While China overall is less expensive than India, costs are rising, especially in “first tier”cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. As competition increases for everything from real estate to skilled staff, costs rise and threaten to undercut the price advantage that China has long offered.
With an eye to rising costs, some outsourcing firms have been moving some facilities and staff to Tier 2 cities within China (such as Chengdu and Hangzhou) that have lower costs than larger cities, but still provide high quality skills and infrastructure. The Symbio Group, for example, has established facilities and training partnerships in both Tier 2 cities to provide top-quality services at competitive prices.
The development and testing of software is a dynamic, fast-changing process in which new customer requirements, government regulations, or technical challenges can overturn a testing schedule overnight. Customers need testing partners with the management skills and processes in place to react quickly to changing needs and schedules without endangering either the testing schedule or the budget.
Software testing is a specialized skill set that is critical to the success of any organization that relies on information technology. As rising costs make testing cost-prohibitive in North America, Europe and even India, companies should consider the lower-cost, high quality testing skills available in China. Compared with these other locations, China’s Tier 2 cities offer modern infrastructure, dramatically lower costs and a wealth of skilled testers. To get the highest value from outsourcing their testing to China, customer should insist on outsourcers with the proper skills, depth of management and geographic reach to tap Chinese testing skills without sacrificing quality or cost savings.
Bio: yuTing Hung
Ms. YuTing Hung joined Symbio Group in 1997 and is currently the Vice President of Quality Assurance and Operations. With over 11 years of experience, Ms. Hung leads Symbio’s QA/Globalization teams, growing it from 20 employees to 130 today. In 1999, Ms. Hung built the first dedicated traditional Chinese language testing & localization team for Microsoft in China, in her role as QA Manager at Symbio. Ms. Hung also led Symbio Business Integration, Human Resources, Recruiting and Process teams. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Management and Japanese Language & Literature from the Chinese Cultural University in Taipei, Taiwan.
Source: ClientSide News, 2009 March