Blog posts on the subject of outsourcing and offshoring by management and developers at Optimus Information Inc.

When done correctly, outsourcing, both onshore and off, can provide substantial cost savings. A good outsourcing partner will deliver higher quality service in a shorter time-frame than bringing the skill in-house.

However, this is all presuming that you are outsourcing the right kinds of tasks and that you are working with a good partner. The below posts will help you choose what to outsource and what to look for in an outsourcing partner.

Benefits of Report Development as a Managed Service

report_developers-150x150 Benefits of Report Development as a Managed Service

Report developers are ready to go.

Outsourcing report development as a managed service is becoming increasingly common.

In the age of big data, companies are finding it challenging to utilize their existing data to its full potential. The value is not in the data, it is in how the data is interpreted and accessed. The goal of business analytics is to collect, organize, and display relevant data to key stakeholders.

In the current environment where every company is seeking cost cutting measures, outsourcing non-core activities to experienced third parties is becoming increasingly common. Business Intelligence, data management, and report development are some key examples of managed services that vendors offer to such companies.

Vendors such as IBM, are redefining the managed services concept that was earlier limited to application support. Specifically, outsourcing report development has become part of the strategic thinking process for a growing number of companies who leverage the data at their disposal.

Key questions when managing report development:

  1. How to find a technology expert who can leverage data and generate reports for business units, in a short period of time?
  2. What would be the most cost effective manner to have a long term relationship with someone who can bring resource pooling agility and reduce the risks associated with staff turnover?

These days vendors provide report development as a managed service to their clients. Vendors work with their customers on various projects with the help of their dedicated global team.

Benefits of using a managed service for report development:

  • Overhead cost control: Managed services help reduce the IT department’s overhead costs by providing an efficient alternative to in-house report development and query writing. This also frees up management to focus on more strategic endeavours.
  • Agile process: Managed services enable agility and scalability of report development at highly competitive rates.
  • Access to experts: Companies get easy access to expert report developers. Companies can tap into world-class expertise and higher quality at a fraction of the cost of hiring or contracting a specialist – this is especially true when migrating from one reporting system to another.
  • No risk of losing skills from staff turnover: Companies eliminate risks of losing critical skills in a volatile employment market and lessen the need to hire and ramp up new employee talent for extremely critical technology(ies).
  • Continuous availability and on demand bandwidth: Vendors who provide local delivery and global report development offer 24 X 7 services to their clients. Additionally, companies benefit from the flexible bandwidth during development and release cycles.
  • Industry standard IT governance: Good vendors make sure that there is industry standard IT governance that leads to extensive customer satisfaction. This will generate a higher value alternative to internal delivery and a higher success rate.

Managed services are not only limited to report development, they also extends to the complete business intelligence portfolio, including cloud offerings. We are seeing many vendors similar to Optimus expanding in this horizon to provide end-to-end business intelligence as a managed service, such as Teradata. In my view “Report Development as a Managed Service” is a flexible and needs-based model that allows companies to access resources at the most efficient price point.

Optimus provides report development services in Vancouver, Canada. We have expertise to develop cross-platform and cross-applications reports. We specialize in Mircosoft SSRS, Crystal Reports and other open source tools. If you would like to learn more about our report development process and experience, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to sit down and discuss your needs.

(image credit: lumaxart)

Software Testing as a Service: A New Way of Thinking

software-testing-services-150x150 Software Testing as a Service: A New Way of Thinking

The evolution of software testing services.

I’m not sure who coined the word ‘Software-as-a-Service”, but Salesforce.com have certainly capitalized on it and packaged it as a concept, an idea, a way of thinking and most importantly have successfully monetized it.

Any on-demand service has an extension of ‘as-a-service’. Software testing as a service is no exception. In the following few paragraphs, I will try to map this concept with real world scenarios and hopefully give our readers a flavour as to where we are heading, from a Testing & QA perspective, in the next few months to come.

Over the past couple of months, we spoke to over 50 companies in British Columbia, Canada. This included the likes of CIOs, VP engineering, IT directors, QA managers and testers.

We approached them with couple of pointed question:

  1. What are your pain areas around Testing & QA?
  2. What are your % budget allocation (quantitative) / mindshare (qualitative) to Testing & QA?

 

Our take away from all the meetings:

  1. 85% of the target audience were certain that they need help on Testing & QA.

Of this 85%, they can be categorized into 3 categories:

  1. Needing help on improving their overall QA processes.
  2. Needing help on plain execution of their test cases.
  3. Needing help to move towards higher level of automation.

Incidentally, although Testing & QA is an area of importance, decision makers are unable to quantify the budget allocation nor able to dedicate mindshare to it. The primary reason is the apprehension of needing on-going testing support. They would rather prefer it on an on-demand basis.

This was enough food for thought for us to realise the benefit of ‘Testing-as-a-Service’ and how it can help organisations lower their total cost of ownership and guarantee predictable outcomes, across the lifespan of the development cycle.

Testing has come a long way from being a FTE (full-time equivalent) driven way of working, to ‘as-a-service way’ of thinking.

software-testing-services Software Testing as a Service: A New Way of Thinking

The evolution of software testing services.

*Source: Optimus Information

We all remember those good old days of multi-year contracts, where vendors used to layout the buffet and testing used to be just another line item. Then the offshoring wave kicked-in and dedicated testing teams were deployed overnight. The concept of the Testing-Center-of-Excellence started taking shape. This resulted in segregation in Development and Maintenance contracts which led to the foundation of Independent Testing Vendors across the globe.

However current market shifts compelled organisations to take a step back and rethink their business model. Incidentally, Testing & QA fell into the on-demand category. Testing-as-a-Service thus became an evolutionary approach, where the risks are further being distributed across the board.

As we delved further into it, we observed some key subtleties of this concept:

  1. Testing-as-a-Service is not the same as cloud based testing. The latter is an activity / means to an end, while Testing-as-a-Service is a framework, a unique way of approaching Testing & QA, independent of vendors and tools, which traditionally been considered as an activity.
  2. Defining the objective of the Testing-as-a-Service model: 1) Predictable outcomes, 2) Move towards an on-demand pricing model 3) Lower TCO. Organisations should demand a result based invoices rather than effort based invoices, raised typically at the end of every month. This will be factored into the model.
  3. Start with areas where possibility of automation is greater. Testing-as-a-Service model works very well where need is well defined and understood. This might seem like a ‘catch-22’ situation for certain organisations. In this case, this model may not be the best one to begin with; however necessary due diligence should be done for future benefits and adaptation of this model.
  4. Organisations should work closely with their testing tool vendors to factor in licensing cost in the model. One of the approaches is to amortize the license cost of the tool over the span of the usage. However, leading vendors such as HP, SmartBear, Microsoft, offers an on-demand licensing portfolio.

All said and done, these are some industry accepted approaches. In the end, focus should be on customer needs and to ensure a win-win situation for all stakeholders.

These are some of our thoughts as we continue to work closely with our clients as their trusted advisors.

Any pointed feedback is always welcome; as it would help us further improve our processes. You can learn more about our QA practices at OptimusQA or share your thoughts with OptimusQA on Twitter.

 

*This article was also featured in ‘SoftwareTest Professional’ Magazine’s January Newsletter, a leading industry magazine focused towards Testing Professionals. Seth Eliot, a thought-leader in the testing community and a Senior Knowledge Engineer, Test Excellence, at Microsoft, took personal interest in the article as well.

IT Outsourcing Destinations – Is this really a debate?

it_outsourcing_centers_at_night-300x133 IT Outsourcing Destinations – Is this really a debate?

The world as viewed by NASA at night.

We are often asked questions about IT outsourcing  destinations such as…

  • Do companies still outsource locally?
  • Does India still have price advantage?
  • What about China?
  • How is this new location in Caribbean?

These debates have been going on for years; meanwhile, many companies including ours,  have been consistently delivering premium-outsourcing solutions to clients by using a hybrid delivery model.

All of these are valid debates. The more I think about them, the more convinced I am that a hybrid delivery model consisting of a strong local presence consisting of both technical and business people, coupled with a talented back office team in India has a unique advantage.

A strong local presence helps in understanding client needs in the right context. Having a business analyst or solution architect on site to work with the client’s team enables an outsourcing partner to understand the business reasons behind the technical solutions. Through white boarding sessions and collaborative brainstorming, a real partnership is able to identify the best solutions to help clients succeed.

The back office team helps with scalability, speed, efficiency and a process driven workflow. Successful outsourcing firms have mastered this art over last few decades. I would even venture to say that most projects succeed in this model. Projects that fail are often suffering from other challenges such as poor project selection, misaligned team capabilities, inter-personal issues, or false expectations. A well-established outsourcing partner knows what their team can and more importantly cannot deliver.

For our back office, we choose India due to various reasons including process maturity, English as primary language, availability of skilled resources and insights gained in over 40 years of providing outsourcing services.

We are seeing tremendous traction in the hybrid model and that is true for all of our offerings. From software development, to software testing, and business intelligence, we leverage cloud based infrastructure and mobile technology to deliver industry leading solutions.

I think that trends like telecommuting, improved communication infrastructure, better collaboration tools, and cloud based SaaS/IaaS, have all contributed to higher comfort around our hybrid delivery model. But with all the great tools out there, nothing trumps the elegance of a proven process.

Strategic vs. Tactical Outsourcing: Understand the Difference

delivery-model1-300x163 Strategic vs. Tactical Outsourcing: Understand the Difference

Example of a Delivery Model

What is strategic vs. tactical outsourcing? The difference lies primarily in the relationship that you create with the vendor. Clients choose outsourcing to benefit them in both strategic and tactical situations. As long as clients are aware of the pros and cons, have a process in place, and make a well-informed decision, outsourcing can be very successful.

Tactical Outsourcing

There are situations where you need help for only a few months or quarters. These situations may include meeting a deadline, having limited availability of specific resources or bringing a project back on track. These are tactical reasons to outsource; however, these are good opportunities to begin a relationship and then move towards strategic relationship.

Strategic Outsourcing

Another important aspect is the pairing of vendor and client. Are you close to the vendor? Are you an important client for the vendor? Do you have access to the management team of the vendor? A vendor for a $500K per annum relationship is different than a vendor for a $10M per annum relationship, even though both may look similar.

Proximity is another important factor. When things go wrong, you can spend face-to-face time with the vendor and bring things back on track. Local presence is important. Also, if vendor has her own facility in low cost destinations like India, it may offer an added advantage and flexibility.

Lastly, demonstrated capability is crucial. Has the vendor successfully delivered to companies like yours?

Outsourcing with Optimus

We have clients who decided to use Optimus as an extension of their core team. This provides them with elastic delivery capacity, while at the same time, retaining key knowledge within their own team. Many of these relationships have continued for years and have provided clients with significant economic and time to market benefits.

We develop relationships based on these factors. We are conducting 2 hours workshops to discuss “Outsourcing in Connected World.” Let us know if you are interested.

Offshoring – Next Gen

With improved infrastructure and work – life being integrated, there is tremendous opportunity to disrupt exisiting way of offshoring. We are aiming to do that. Cloud, SAAS and good internet bandwidth. Can we move to “Pay as you go” model for offshoring.

IT Outsourcing in British Columbia

I met many technology CEOs in last 2 weeks. Most of them have shown an interest in having a reliable outsourcing partner. Partner who can work as an extension of their engineering team and help in the areas of software development, software maintenance and software testing.

The key questions:

  1. Can it be same or better quality
  2. Can it be same or better productivity
  3. Would it be cheaper, faster and better.

I believe that hybrid model i.e. an extension of client’s engineering team with on-shore and offshore capabilities is the long term way to succeed.

Where do things go wrong ? I think that wrong expectations, wrong assumption that all work can be done offshore and also mistake in ascertaining what is offshorable and what is not, are some of the reasons.