The most obvious benefits of hiring a Nearshore testing team are the standard benefits that nearshoring offers: a reduced cost from their domestic pricing, but still working with a team that shares timezones. But this timezone affinity is particularly important for software testing since the remote testers must be able to communicate frequently with their clients to understand the latest changes on a project.
Beyond standard nearshoring benefits though, contracting with Nearshore testers can bring additional value. If a company prefers to keep crucial software and intellectual property in-house, they can still contract with outside testers without giving away the technology behind the scenes. Remote testers can work exclusively against application interfaces and still do their work effectively.
“Timezone affinity is particularly important for software testing since the remote testers must be able to communicate frequently with their clients”
In addition, if an application is going to be used internationally but has been built entirely by a software team in a single country, then the remote testers can bring an outsider perspective, help test multilingual sites from the perspective of a native speaker, and ensure that a website’s services still work well across borders.
Five Tips for Nearshore Testing Teams
Although Nearshore testing offers all these benefits, getting it right isn’t easy. After many years of business, we believe these five tips are key to building a successful Nearshore testing team.
Consider Where Testing Fits into Your (Agile) Process
Regardless of the methodology you follow, if your company offers stand-alone testing services to clients, then you must consider carefully how the testing roles fit into both your internal processes as well as your clients’ processes, which may vary.
Assuming you are using some form of agile software development methodology, like Scrum or Kanban, then the ideal for any testing team is to be tightly integrated with those building and using the software.
The global pandemic has greatly increased the adoption of remote work, though this trend was already happening prior to Covid-19. This is a benefit to companies companies offering stand-alone testing services to agile teams, because those agile teams are already adopting online tools to manage their Scrum boards. Gone are the days when everyone could easily gather around a whiteboard with a handful of sticky-notes. We are all now adapting to the use of remote agile board tools like Jira, Trello, and many others.
Remote testing can particularly benefit the process you are working within. For example, if your Nearshore testing team is located centrally in a single city, then they can all have access to your office for the use of mobile devices for application testing (even if they still need to work from home most days for safety reasons). At AgilityFeat, most of our developers and clients are spread around the Americas, but we keep our testing team centrally located near an office in Panama City, Panama, so that we have access to a lab of physical devices when needed.
Also consider how your nearshore testing team will communicate and collaborate with your clients. While online tools are useful for reporting on test results and marking agile stories as having passed testing, don’t let the tools do all your talking. Making sure that your team can communicate in the language of your clients, and participating in daily standups, is crucial to collaboration – the ability to do this is a key benefit of agile nearshoring and should not be overlooked.
Ensure Billing Practices Align with Your Client Process
An agile contract is meant to be flexible. Generally speaking, it’s better to write a contract based on time (an hourly rate or monthly fee), and leave the details of the work to be implemented outside of the contract. This allows for teams to work in a more collaborative fashion with their clients, instead of constantly creating change request documents and contract revisions.
You can quantify things like web pages tested or the mobile devices tested upon, but you can’t predict how much testing will need to be done
Fortunately, testing works well within this concept since it’s hard to quantify the exact deliverables of a testing team. You can quantify things like web pages tested or the mobile devices tested upon, but you can’t predict how much testing will need to be done. Instead, clients should naturally understand that a tester’s contract will be time based since it is dependent on how long the development team will need to fix any issues the testers find.
The downside of a time-based contract is that it’s harder to objectively measure success or failure, and so clients can use that subjectivity against you in negotiations. That’s why the next tip is so important – to demonstrate the value of your testing group early and often.
Demonstrate Value Early and Often
For many job descriptions, demonstrating value is relatively easy. Software developers can show the completed application feature, customer Service can show how many calls they answered and use customer satisfaction surveys, marketers can show how many website visitors they brought in, and the sales teams can show revenue generated and deals closed.
For a tester, demonstrating value is a bit harder. It can even be confrontational if you take the approach of cataloging every unimportant detail of a client’s application just to drive up bug count. Being too picky is not the way to demonstrate value, since clients don’t care about all defects equally (nor should they).
The best way to demonstrate value as a tester is through strong communication and collaboration
The best way to demonstrate value as a tester is through strong communication and collaboration. Over-communicate what you will test and when, and communicate results back to the client frequently. When a defect is found, it’s important to specify everything you can about how to find and recreate that defect. Everything you do to make it easier for the client to reproduce and repair the defects you find will pay off in client happiness with your work. These things are true of any testing team, but especially true when you are a remote Nearshore worker.
Agile methodologies don’t call out the “right” way to do a test plan – ideally it’s the acceptance criteria of user stories, which are tested one by one as development is complete.
This ideal approach can be myopic though and cause testers to forget overall end to end testing and exploratory testing. A well written test plan that is approved upfront may not feel very “agile”, but is crucial. The test plan should be detailed enough to convince clients that you understand their application and are focused on the right areas in your testing. Those test plans should remain flexible though, since an agile team will continually add new features that were not originally anticipated, and they may need you to change your area of focus in testing.
To save time, have a standard test plan format and common tests ready to present to clients as part of the sales process.
Offer Value-Adding Services
Clients often perceive manual testing as something that anyone can do, and so they are reluctant to pay very much for it. I strongly disagree with this perception since I know it’s not easy to find high quality testers who communicate well with their clients. However, the perception is widespread enough that anything you can do to increase the value of your testing group to your clients will pay off in larger and more stable contracts.
Building tests that can be run automatically requires good technical skills and strong communication, and delivers additional value to your clients
One example of how a Nearshore testing team can add value is through test automation and load testing practices. Building tests that can be run automatically requires good technical skills and strong communication, and delivers additional value to your clients. They project an image of efficiency, by demonstrating that you can automate the less valuable and repetitive parts of manual testing, and keep your team focused on the higher value exploratory testing.
This extra value delivered is worth the investment, as it can garner higher rates than manual testing. Test automation is not a one-time process either, it requires consistent maintenance so can lead to longer term relationships.
Find your Testing Niche
Nearshoring is great, but if your only value differentiations are “we speak your language and we work at lower rates”, then it is hard to stand apart in the pack. Value propositions based purely on price always become a race to the bottom, as your clients choose the Nearshore team with the lowest hourly rate. This is particularly true in an area like testing where clients perceive less value being generated than in other areas like software development.
The key for any business to combat price competition is specialization
The key for any business to combat price competition is specialization. The more specialized you are in a particular industry, or a particular technical skillset, then the more likely the client will choose you over other nearshore providers, regardless of your rates.
Our team at AgilityFeat does a lot of testing of live video applications, through our separate brand WebRTC.ventures. Testing a video chat application is quite different to testing a static website or basic mobile application. While our team can still perform more standard testing too, much of our work utilizes our specific technical expertise with testing live video applications. This specialization has paid dividends in the clients we attract and the rates we can charge.
Good Testing Means Good Business
At first, clients don’t always want to pay for testing. But they sure do miss it when they don’t have it! Therefore, the key to building a successful nearshore testing team is to make your value so obvious that they will seek it out even prior to the last minute when they realize they need testing help.
To make those sales earlier, you must demonstrate confidence, a strong process, and frequent value delivery. Having a specific niche you work in will also help clients find you more proactively.
If you follow these tips for Nearshore testing, then good testing is no longer a chore – it’s just good business!