Quality control for outsourcing

November 7, 2010

Outsourcing is a strategic management model in which business processes are transferred to another company. As a software-outsourcing manager who has worked on several outsourcing projects to Korea, China and India, I believe that quality outsourcing is increasing and will have a profound and lasting effect on the quality profession during the next few years. The advantages of outsourcing frequently include making an organization more competitive by staying focused on its core competence and achieving cost reduction and efficiency. There are also disadvantages, such as poor labor relations at home and abroad, customer backlash, quality and security issues, in which remote quality control will be a critical issue for any size company. Outsourcing can lead to the hiring of under-qualified and poorly trained employees, which can affect the quality of products and services. Quality issues that are not quickly and effectively resolved by a company can lead to a loss of customer confidence and plummeting sales and profits.

So how to ensure the higher level of outsourcing quality?

1. Enhanced communication
Normally outsourcing does not include a requirements and analysis phase. This can possibly result in a misunderstanding, leading to ever-changing design or coding. Instability of requirements and designs is a common problem in the software industry. Although developed countries usually have the quite standard documentation in their software industry, but this does not mean they will not change.
1) Identify a site manager who will be responsible management and adherence to quality of deliverables in addition to the specific responsibilities.
2) Language enhancement,particularly in Asia, quality outsourcing may require the investigation of the contractor’s language ability. Interview every contract staff that comes on board; you can eliminate the risk associated with quality of skills.

2. Good documentation
The principal cause of most outsourcing failures stems from businesses farming out functions that have not been properly quantified. How can the success or failure of a process be measured if there is no definition of what is supposed to be accomplished or how? Make sure that the function is fully defined, and process documentation and technical writing can work for you.

3. Reasonable deadlines
I have experienced an outsourcing project that began with a fixed deadline, but our customer continued to change their design, up to version 7. Finally, the time left for development and testing dwindled to only few days, and the project was doomed to fail. Most outsourcing projects are given a too short of a deadline, and the reason is obvious: customers usually will cut cost as much as possible. And there is nothing wrong with that; However, if we have realized it will lead to project failure, cost savings cannot be achieved. So make sure you allow sufficient time to complete the defined process before obtaining quotations for service provision.

4. Rigorous testing
Outsourcing testing is a little different from traditional testing in that it requires two-step testing.
1) Local test
Test on development environment, or on simulated customer environment.
2) Remote test
The main reason for remote testing is environmental issue. Although the company has installed the customer’s environment, but can not say exactly the same as the customer environment.
In addition,use a independent third party inspection service provider is a good way to control quality.

5. CMMI
More and more outsourcing organizations are upgrading their quality standards to CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration – which is a process-improvement method that provides a set of best practices that address productivity, performance, costs, and customer satisfaction). If you choose a CMMI certified outsourcing vendor, you also choose better communication, better visibility, lower costs and higher quality.

By Min

References:

http://www.12manage.com/methods_outsourcing.html
http://www.iteer.net/
http://sunminjp.blogspot.com
http://www.sei.cmu.edu/cmmi/

2 Responses to “Quality control for outsourcing”

  1. Sean Maher said

    I agree, many outsourced project fail or have integration problems due to details that are lost in translation. I think that if communication improves and the owners feel like they have more control over the final product, that there is less reason to oppose outsourcing.

  2. Mike Gann said

    We’ve actually had a couple of positive experiences with outsourcing where one of our clients requested it for rote tasks like data entry/conversion. Our biggest hurdle was the time zone discrepancy – but we overcame that by holding conference calls where the very end of their shift and the beginning of ours overlapped. Most other concerns were addressed through our methodology which the overseas personnel adopted pretty easily. Not to say that’s the experience for everyone.

    I will say that outsourcing is really the exception to the rule for our clients. Most of our them have apprehension in shipping work overseas, regardless of where it’s going. We have a delivery center in Mobile, AL that we use to outsource QA and low-level development tasks and we sometimes get flak for trying to assign project work from Birmingham to one of the engineers down there. As far as the region we’re in, most business owners or stakeholders still want that very personal face-to-face interaction so they can easily reach out to choke someone if something goes wrong.

    One could consider it a rather idealistic viewpoint, but in general there’s quite a cache of expertise around the world and it’s not all that hard to take advantage of if it’s a good fit for what you’re trying to accomplish.

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