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Outsourced Software Testing


Thinksoft Global Services Inc.
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Mr. John Kiley
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Thinksoft Global Services (Europe)
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Thinksoft Global Services Limited
Type II, UNIT-5, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai Instronics Estate,
Chennai - 600 041.
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Thinksoft Global Services Limited
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Thinksoft Global Services Limited
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Citi Point
Unit Nos.: B - 601, B - 602 & B - 603, 6th Floor,
Andheri - Kurla Road,
Andheri East,
Mumbai - 400 059.
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What is 'Software Testing'?
Software Testing is the operating of a system or application under controlled conditions, and evaluating results arising from those controlled conditions. This evaluation must include both normal and abnormal conditions.
What is 'Software Quality Assurance'?
Software Quality Assurance is the monitoring and improving of the entire software development process, making sure that any agreed-upon standards and procedures are followed, and ensuring that problems are found and dealt with.
What is the 'Software Quality Gap'?
The difference in the software, between the state of the project as planned and the actual state that has been verified as operating correctly, is called the software quality gap.
Why does software have bugs?
Business Requirements - Inadequate understanding & conversion of business requirements into functional specifications
Software complexity - The complexity of current software applications may be difficult to comprehend for anyone without experience in modern-day software development.
Programming errors - Programmers "can" make mistakes.
Changing requirements - A redesign, rescheduling of engineers, effects on other projects, etc. If there are many minor changes or any major changes, known and unknown dependencies among parts of the project are likely to interact and cause problems, and the complexity of keeping track of changes may result in errors.
Time pressures - Scheduling of software projects is difficult at best, often requiring a lot of guesswork. When deadlines loom and the crunch comes, mistakes will be made.
Poorly documented code - It's tough to maintain and modify code that is badly written or poorly documented; the result is bugs.
Software development tools - Various tools often introduce their own bugs or are poorly documented, resulting in added bugs.
Why outsource testing?
Skill and Expertise - "Testing" is a specialized skill and task. Outsourcing of testing to a specialist testing partner provides the opportunity to leverage and deploy best practices.
Focus - Using a dedicated and expert test team allows the development team to focus on sharpening their core skills in design and development in their domain areas.
Independent assessment - Independent test teams are unbiased and look afresh at each test project. They bring with them both experience and knowledge acquired across a diverse spectrum of applications.
Save time - Testing by an independent test team can happen simultaneously along with the software development life cycle. This ensures delivery of a quality end product within the scheduled time.
Reduce Cost - Outsourcing testing projects to a specialist testing partner provides the flexibility of having a large test team, only when needed. This reduces carrying costs, ramp-up time and additional expenditure on infrastructure and optimises resource utilization.
Why the Focus on Testing?
Published data shows that the largest component in the cost of quality is the cost of rectification. This cost is not only in terms of money, but also in terms of time lost to market, thereby resulting in loss of market share..Studies further suggest that more than 50% of the effort involved in developing large software applications is devoted to testing and for life-critical software; the testing effort may be even larger. With less time to market the product and rapid changes in technology, development cycles ar ebeing squeezed. Short and manageable development cycles are promoting specific skill zones as part of the engineering process. And of course, "Testing" is emerging as the activity to make short life cycles a viable proposition.
Advantages of Outsourced Testing
Demand for Reliable Software: - In critical applications like web, banking, financial, and risk management, the business risks of defective software have increased tremendously. A minor failure in an application could spell doom for the organization. In such a scenario, testing assumes great importance.
Insufficient Numbers of Qualified Testers: - Good quality testers who can come into an organisation and get a grip of the situation at a very short notice are in short supply. Finding them is extremely difficult and retaining them even more so.
Professional Testing and Quality Standards: - Software development companies lay emphasis on strict standards of coding. Likewise, there are testing standards that are dedicated to testing software. Therefore, a product that is developed within a framework of high coding standards and tested by a professional testing partner with quality standards, will have greater reliability.
What is software 'quality'?
Quality software is reasonably bug-free, delivered on time and within budget, meets requirements and/or expectations, and is maintainable. However, quality is obviously a subjective term. It depends on who the 'customer' is and their overall influence in the scheme of things. A wide-angle view of the 'customers' of a software development project might include end-users, customer acceptance testers, customer contract officers, customer management, the development organization's management/accountants/testers/sales people, future software maintenance engineers, stockholders, magazine columnists, and so on. Each type of 'customer' has their own slant on 'quality'. The accounting department might define quality in terms of profits, while an end-user might define quality as user-friendly and bug-free.
What is the size and impact of major computer system failures caused by software bugs?
The following media reports illustrate the costs of defective software:
  • In October of 1999, the $125 million NASA Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft was believed to be lost in space due to a simple data conversion error. It was determined that spacecraft software used certain data in English units that should have been in metric units. Among other tasks, the orbiter was to serve as a communications relay for the Mars Polar Lander mission, which failed for unknown reasons in December 1999. Several investigating panels were convened to determine the process failures that allowed the error to go undetected
  • In August of 1999, the bugs in software supporting a large commercial high-speed data network affected 70,000 business customers over a period of 8 days. Among those affected was the electronic trading system of the largest U.S. futures exchange, which was shut down for most of a week as a result of the outages
  • In April of 1999, a software bug caused the failure of a $1.2 billion military satellite launch, the costliest unmanned accident in the history of Cape Canaveral launches. The failure was the latest in a string of launch failures, triggering a complete military and industry review of U.S. space launch programs, including software integration and testing processes. Congressional oversight hearings were requested
  • In March of 1999, a small town in Illinois received an unusually large monthly electric bill of $7 million. This was about 700 times larger than its normal bill. It turned out to be due to bugs in new software that had been purchased by the local power company to deal with Y2K software issues
  • In early 1999, a major computer game company recalled all copies of a popular new product due to software problems. The company made a public apology for releasing a product before it was ready
  • In February of 1999, according to nationwide news reports, the computer system of a major online U.S. stock trading service failed during trading hours several times over a period of days. The problem was reportedly due to bugs in a software upgrade intended to speed online trade confirmations
  • In April of 1998, a major U.S. data communications network failed for 24 hours, crippling a large part of some U.S. credit card transaction authorization systems as well as other large U.S. bank, retail, and government data systems. The cause was eventually traced to a software bug
  • January 1998 news reports told of software problems at a major U.S. telecommunications company that resulted in no charges for long distance calls for a month for 400,000 customers. The problem went undetected until customers called up with questions about their bills
  • In November of 1997, the stock of a major health industry company dropped by 60% due to reports of failures in computer billing systems, problems with a large database conversion, and inadequate software testing. It was reported that more than $100,000,000 in receivables had to be written off and that multi-million dollar fines were levied on the company by government agencies
  • In August of 1997, a retail store chain filed suit against a transaction processing system vendor (not a credit card company) due to the software's inability to handle credit cards with year 2000 expiration dates
  • In August of 1997, one of the leading consumer credit reporting companies reportedly shut down their new public web site after less than two days of operation due to software problems. The new site allowed web site visitors instant access, for a small fee, to their personal credit reports. However, a number of initial users ended up viewing each others' reports instead of their own, resulting in irate customers and nationwide publicity. The problem was attributed to "...unexpectedly high demand from consumers and faulty software that routed the files to the wrong computers"
  • In November of 1996, newspapers reported that software bugs caused the 411 telephone information system of one of the U.S. RBOC's to fail for most of a day. Most of the 2000 operators had to search through phone books instead of using their 13,000,000-listing database. The bugs were introduced by new software modifications and the problem software had been installed on both the production and backup systems. A spokesman for the software vendor reportedly stated that 'It had nothing to do with the integrity of the software. It was human error'
  • In May of 1996, software bugs caused the bank accounts of 823 customers of a major U.S. bank to be credited with $924,844,208.32 each, according to newspaper reports. The American Bankers Association claimed it was the largest such error in banking history. A bank spokesman said the programming errors were corrected and all funds were recovered
  • According to news reports in early 1999, software bugs in a Soviet early-warning monitoring system nearly brought on a nuclear war in 1983. The software was supposed to filter out false missile detections caused by Soviet satellites picking up sunlight reflections off cloud-tops, but failed to do so. Disaster was averted when a Soviet commander, based on what he said was a '...funny feeling in my gut', decided the apparent missile attack was a false alarm. The filtering software code was rewritten
How to select off-shore vendor?
An off-shore vendor can be selected on the basis of the following factors:
  • Proven Track Record
  • Experienced on-site project management
  • Solid quality program
  • Disciplined methodology
  • Vendor Infrastructure
  • Ability to match vendor skills and project requirements
  • Adequate number of qualified resources
  • Ability to mirror users' processes and standards
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