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Most issues that hamper outsourcing efforts revolve around communication and difficulty developing communication channels effectively. Communication is a challenge within a localized team alone, add in a testing team from another locale or country, and you add to the problem. However, communication issues are not insurmountable and don’t need to be a constant challenge. How do you keep communication channels open and flowing between QA team members including outsourced testing teams?

A successful outsourcing project requires project and communication planning. Plan ahead of the change, not after the contract is already signed.

Your first step is telling any in-house QA testers why you are expanding the testing team through outsourcing. Establish which team is doing what work, and create opportunities for advancement for the entire team. For example, hire an internal tester as the outsourcing team lead, liaison, or project manager. Open up as many opportunities as makes sense. You are creating a growth path, which is difficult in QA teams because career movement stagnates quickly. Get the QA team involved in the final planning and preparation, that way everyone is on the same page and understands the challenges, expectations, and positive implications.

Part of the final planning and preparation involves establishing common testing terms and establishing communication expectations.

Establishing common understanding by defining testing terms

A reliable method of building strong communication between team members is defining a commonly understood set of QA testing terms. It sounds basic, and it is. It is also often ignored, until later in the project when team members are confused, work is chaotic, and morale goes downhill. Reduce communication problems from the outset, by documenting and practicing against a defined set of testing terms.

What are QA testing terms? Start by defining the basics: Test plan, test case, and test strategy. They can mean the same thing, or entirely different things depending on the QA test team. It does not matter which definition you use; it matters that all the QA team members have a shared understanding of what each means. For example, a test plan and test strategy are usually overall documents encompassing all development projects being tested by the QA team during a release. Test plans tend to be longer, and test strategies are more succinct for Agile development teams. Test cases are the automated or manual test scripts. Now you have another term - test cases or test scripts? You will also need to define what a defect is, and what documentation is required when entering a defect. Create documentation with realistic and plentiful examples.

Next, define what types of testing each team performs. What does regression testing mean, what test cases (or test scripts) are regression? What about exploratory, ad hoc, feature, and functional testing? What testing, if any, do you use automation for? Basically, you must document the QA team’s definitions within the QA process used. Keep it consistent, so the process is not always in flux, and you will improve QA testing team communication internally and with outsourced team members.

Open communication - keeping teams in sync

Be honest; team communication needs constant attention to stay positive and productive.

How you make sure the teams are communicating, and keeping in synch? You do not want defects to slip through, or testing not to be executed properly because of misunderstandings.

The QA lead or liaison for the outsourcing team must be a believer in humanity, positive on diversity, and have a strong capacity for mediating and coaching.

Chances are you already have several capable QA team members who excel in coaching, training, and various testing techniques. Are they open-minded, or positive, or even better, excited about meeting and working with people outside their country, region, or area? You need a leader capable of communicating clearly and making fair and challenging QA assignments that enable both teams to grow and work together. Patience will be tested, and it will take time to build a cohesive team. It is entirely possible to build a strong QA testing team with members who work together or a million miles apart. The secret is treating team members with respect and fairness regardless of where they are located.

QA testing is a worldwide occupation. All you need is defined QA testing terms, a documented QA process, and the ability to communicate. Keep the teams in synch, and provide growth opportunities for all team members and your QA test outsourcing project will be successful and grow over time.