In the past eighteen months or so, I have noticed that large, multinational organisations have started to move towards a centralised approach to software quality control. More often than not, this central point of ‘quality’ is an external provider. For example, last year European banking behemoth UBS began outsourcing its quality assurance to one single, specialist provider. In this case this has also involved the incorporation of UBS’ QA engineers into the supplier’s team.
This trend towards ‘central quality assurance’ is now starting to impact the smaller end of large companies and the larger end of medium-sized ones. Conversations I have had with potential customers and with peers indicate that these companies are starting to outsource all their software QA to a single partner. In time I believe the idea of outsourcing a company’s IT QA will filter down to SMEs too.
Why do I think centralised, outsourced QA will be so popular? Well apart from the obvious reasons of cost-savings gained though off-shoring and access to highly specialised technical skills, a single centralised test-centre can offer customers a holistic view, enabling them to move forward more quickly with rolling-out new technologies and also enabling them to see the vulnerabilities in their software more easily.
A single, external team will also apply standard, usually internationally recognised methods to all of an organisation’s quality assurance. These methods will incorporate the learnings of a much wider experience of testing than a an in-house IT deparartment could have. The experience of quality assurance partners also means that project set-up times and indeed test times can be reduced and organisations are able to scale the size of their QA team with just a few days notice.
But – and this is a big BUT – for this approach to work, external QA teams still need work hand-in-hand with the internal developers. The QA team needs to be present at every stage of the software development project, right from the beginning. As I seem to find myself saying on a regular basis: “quality cannot be added at the end of a project.” If you do try to bolt it on later, any time and cost savings generated by using an outsource partner will be negated in the extra resource required for ‘late testing.’
Having said that, the external centralised approach to QA – if fully integraged – offers cost-efficiency, security, flexibility and a consistently high level of software quality across the organisation.