On February 15, 2011, Software Quality Systems (SQS) announced the expansion of their facility in Belfast to meet demands for more testing services from a “near-shore” site. I had the opportunity to speak with Rob McConnell, SQS Regional Director for Northern Ireland, to dig a little deeper into this growth, wondering if near-shore outsourcing is a trend we’ll be seeing more of in the future.
SSQ: Do you see the increase in demand from a variety of clients or domain areas or is it restricted to certain verticals? Which locations? US? Other parts of Europe? Asia?
Rob McConnell: We are seeing an appetite for the Nearshore service delivery model from a range of organizations across most major industry sectors. However, the Nearshore model is often more appealing to highly regulated or data sensitive sectors where pure offshore to low cost regions, such as India, is not always feasible. Northern Ireland as a Nearshore destination is proving very attractive for US-based companies. However, we are seeing demand from as near as the UK and Southern Ireland.
SSQ: Are there other European software testing facilities that are experiencing the same growth? Are there certain countries where growth is being experienced more than others?
McConnell: SQS’s German Nearshore operation in Gorlitz has also experienced rapid growth from German speaking countries for this service.
SSQ: Is your group then considered a "Testing-as-a-Service" organization?
McConnell: Testing-as-a-Service is an ambiguous term and has arisen out of the current Anything-as-a-Service phenomenon. When you break it down, SQS is a professional testing company and we deliver testing in the form of a service to each of our clients. We have, of course, adopted cloud-based technologies to support our service delivery model and, as a result, can provide fast, agile, on-demand testing services to our client base as a whole.
SSQ: To what do you attribute the rise in demand?
McConnell: The rise in demand for Nearshore testing services was born from the need for organizations to manage the risks associated with third party ICT suppliers and vendors. Typically, organizations will use offshore services where there is less potential for risk and impact on their business operations. Where risk is an issue, organizations look for different, innovative solutions and often have less appetite for pure offshore models. SQS’s Nearshore facility in Belfast could be perceived as an easier, less risky step for organizations to take when outsourcing their testing activities. It provides a cost effective solution but removes a number of the barriers often associated with an offshore model, such as language, culture and time zone. It can also be seen as a stepping stone to offshore as all SQS Test Centres are linked, allowing Belfast to interface with India in order to achieve long term cost efficiencies.
SSQ: Do you use a certain development methodology (i.e. Agile) or does it depend on your client? What's typical?
McConnell: The approach adopted for Nearshore software testing delivery is very much dependent on the client and what their existing processes support. Agile or test-driven development is becoming more popular, but many organizations continue to follow traditional waterfall models. As an organization that serves over 400 customers across 5,000 successful projects, SQS has vast experience working with most development methodologies.
SSQ: What tools does your group use? Proprietary or do you use the client's tools?
McConnell: SQS has a set of proprietary software testing tools (STP) that are now available to our customers. Typically, we adopt the preferred test toolsets of our customers on an engagement basis. However, we do, where possible, propose better toolsets where we deem them appropriate for our client’s best interests. These can be commercial or open source tools. SQS has long established relationships with leading vendors in the commercial test tools market and is able to support customers with tools selection, installation, configuration and management.
SSQ: Do you make use of virtualization or cloud computing to do your testing?
McConnell: Cloud technologies are now very much part of the SQS service delivery model for software testing. Cloud supports the key pillars of testing services, including the provisioning of on-demand test environments, Software-as-a-Service test tools and data management.