The Cost of Software Quality
Aside from vendor fees or in-house specialist salaries, the cost of software quality is all your expenses on ensuring the quality of your software products. Understanding what these costs are will help you budget for them properly.
Let’s take a look at the different types of QA costs.
Types of QA Costs
The main software QA costs include prevention costs, detection costs, internal failure costs, and external failure costs.
- Prevention Costs. These are the investments an organization makes to prevent quality problems. Prevention costs include training developers, error proofing, root cause analysis, and improvement initiatives.
- Detection Costs. These are the costs of the software quality control processes that aim to find and resolve defects before the software is made available to consumers. They include the costs associated with inspecting and testing codebases, as well as help desk costs.
- Internal Failure Costs. Internal failure costs are the costs incurred in resolving defects before the product gets to the end user. They include wasted time, delayed projects, and the costs of reworking the defective product.
- External Failure Costs. External failure costs refer to the costs associated with delivering low-quality software products and services. They include returns, warranty claims, lawsuits, and a damaged reputation.
Ways to Cut QA Costs and Improve ROI
The cost of software quality can add up pretty quickly and become a substantial investment. Here are some tips that will help you minimize costs and maximize ROI:
- Start testing as soon as possible. It’s important to start testing as early as possible to keep QA costs to a minimum. Early testing reduces the chances of discovering critical defects after release. In addition, the costs of fixing flaws in the later stages of development can be up to 30 times more than fixing them during the design and architecture stages.
- Automate testing wisely. Automating testing can be an excellent way to save costs during development if your product is stable. Even if your software product is dynamic, you’ll benefit from automating as many tests as possible. Test automation results in improved efficiency, allowing QA engineers to deliver bug reports quicker so that the development team can start fixing defects sooner. Automation also enables you to have better test coverage.
When implementing test automation, avoid rushing to automate every single test immediately. Instead, carefully consider your company’s testing needs and calculate the ROI for test automation.
- Keep an eye on hidden costs. When setting up a budget for a project, look out for hidden expenses that may appear during testing. For example, your product might have unique features that your testing engineers aren’t familiar with. To test it correctly, they’ll need to spend time learning about the product resulting in adoption expenses.
Other possible indirect expenses include infrastructure costs for testing tools and maintenance expenses. These hidden costs could take up a substantial part of your budget. Thus, you’ll need to keep an eye on them and look for ways to incur fewer hidden expenses.
- Choose your QA team wisely. The quality of your QA team has a significant impact on the ROI of your QA. Thus, you’ll need to consider several factors when choosing a team to outsource your software QA needs. These could include their portfolios, reputation, and testing infrastructure.
- Evaluate your QA success. Doing this will enable you to figure out how to improve your testing processes and make better decisions.
Another thing to consider, aside from costs, is proper agreements with a third-party company.
How to Draw Up a Contract With an Outsourcing QA Company
A Service-Level Agreement for quality assurance, or QA SLA, is the part of a written contract between you and a software QA company that specifies what you expect from the service provider and the process for conflict resolution.
Usually, these are made to ensure availability of resources. For example, an SLA might include how quickly the provider can expand a team if a project’s scale increases.
Why You Need an SLA
Contracts are a no-brainer, but a QA SLA will help you ensure a few outcomes:
- Service quality. An SLA allows the client to set their expectations for service quality and easily measure the service provider’s performance. As a result, the QA team can be held responsible for poor performance.
- Clear communication. Clear communication is essential for successful collaboration between teams. An SLA helps ensure that communication methods and schedules are agreed on beforehand, resulting in smoother communication.
- Documentation of the best procedures and practices. Best practices are often more likely to be followed when they’re clearly stated in a written document. An SLA enables the service provider to provide its employees with a quick reference document for best practices.
- Mutual protection and peace of mind. An SLA gets rid of assumptions and provides all parties involved with peace of mind. Thus, you can rest assured that your organization’s interests are protected if things go wrong.
Major Components of an SLA
A Service-Level Agreement for software QA outsourcing often consists of two key components—QA services and management.
Service elements include:
- Specifics of software quality assurance services provided. This includes a list of clearly defined individual services with a description of the service, who and to whom delivers this service, and when an individual service is required.
- Conditions of service availability. This part should define the schedule when each entity involved in the agreement is available in a time of day, time of week, and time zone format.
- Responsibilities of the parties involved. These are obligations that each entity is legally responsible to fulfill.
- Cost/service trade-offs.
- Standards of service. These define what are low and high performance levels, taking into account the estimated workload.
Management elements usually include:
- Measurement standards. These are clearly defined methods of assessing the work.
- Reporting processes. These include the reporting types and format, i.e., who reports when and how.
- A conflict resolution procedure. This is a method for resolving client-vendor conflicts from identifying the disagreement to defining resolution responsibilities.
- A mechanism for updating the contract. This is a note of how changes can be initiated and implemented in a signed contract.
Costs budgeted, agreements made, now let’s see how the process of outsourcing QA works on a few real-life cases.
A Practical Use Case of Success Metrics
The benefits of established goals and metrics are most noticeable on long-term projects. While shorter projects (a performance and load testing session before a product’s launch) might benefit from a “one and done” approach, long-term partnerships with QA teams require consistent communication and clearly established goals.
A good example of this in TestFort’s project portfolio is our continued work with Shutterfly.
When Shutterfly approached our team, their key goals were to shorten their release cycle and optimize their QE process and resources. This meant that our team had clear objectives:
- Ensure a QA process that would enable two-week release cycles
- Build and maintain a lean QA team where all resources are used efficiently
- Adopt a QA workflow that fits with Shutterfly’s development team
With our success metrics clearly defined, we began building the team and establishing a QA process. This included creating test plans, templates for QA documentation, and enlisting qualified engineers to fill key positions on the team.
Over the course of our work with Shutterfly our team has extended to 10 QA engineers and is led by a dedicated project manager. Our responsibilities have also expanded to creating a suite of automated tests to further improve testing efficiency.
You can read more about our work on this project in our interview with Shutterfly’s Director of Quality Engineering.
Quality assurance in software development is essential for the development of high-quality products. However, to ensure positive ROI, you’ll need to:
- Ensure that you’re using the right QA metrics to evaluate your product/service.
- Set KPIs to evaluate the effectiveness of the QA team.
- Hire the right specialists if you intend to outsource QA services.
TestFort is a software quality assurance company with over 150 skilled QA engineers and nearly two decades of experience in automated and manual testing.