Take the concept of Software as a Service (SaaS) and throw in some social networking and collaboration capability, and you've got uTest, a startup marketplace for QA and usability testing with a pay-per-bug business model.
Founded in early 2007, the Ashland, Mass.-based company is readying a pilot with eight companies participating. A second pilot with five additional companies is planned for April, according to Doron Reuveni, uTest CEO and founder.
The uTest platform provides a hosted infrastructure to manage complete software QA cycles and projects.
"The idea was to create a marketplace whereby companies can get on-demand QA and testing services from a global community of testers," Reuveni said. "Taking the current [QA and test] industry today, you either need to sign long-term contracts with outsourcers in India and China or build and establish your own QA infrastructure. Offering Software as a Service, you can manage the QA cycle from beginning to end on the platform and leverage a global community of testers, tapping them on demand."
An on-demand service fits the needs of QA, Reuveni said. "QA and test is an on-demand type of business, with peaks prior to a release," he said. The benefit of this on-demand service is that "the community has access to many types of hardware and software environments, which is critical when releasing Web applications to the market."
Reuveni said uTest is designed to strengthen an organization's QA team or replace an outsourcing arrangement. "We're not preaching replacement of your current QA. What we believe is, you can expand your current QA to have better testing from a reach perspective, [including] environment, [tester] experience, etc."
uTest has received venture funding from Mesco Ltd. and the Massachusetts Technology Development Corp. (MTDC).
"uTest's strategic play is it combines SaaS and real social networking, and delivers the service over the Web. We like it; it's scalable and current," said Joel R. Mesznik, Mesco founder and president.
It will also meet a need, Mesznik said. "QA is secondary in many companies -- it doesn't get enough dollars."
"For companies that want to work with us, time to market is critical," Reuveni said. "The efficiency of running a testing cycle 24/7 and covering a lot of ground is critical. Having a global community improves the time to market significantly. A lot of the companies I'm talking to want to finish development of a Web application on a Friday and do the QA cycle throughout the weekend, do critical fixes on Monday, and roll it out Monday night. Our model fits with them well."
How companies use uTest
The way uTest will work, according to Reuveni, is a testing manager with a project will define a target community from uTest's profile of testers based on experience, skill, etc., and set project deadlines. Through the platform, the project will be marketed to qualified testers. The customer company remains in charge of the project, Reuveni said.
"The QA manager running the project needs to make sure he directs the testers correctly and be on top of the fact that they run the test scenarios correctly," he said.
Within the platform, there are methodologies for redirecting the testers, changing the testers or dismissing testers, Reuveni added.
The customer is billed per bug. The price per bug is not fixed, however. Reuveni said the price will fluctuate based on how many testers are assigned to the project, if the bug is found at the beginning of the project or at the end where bugs are harder to find, and how the tester is rated. Similar to eBay sellers, the testers get rated based on bugs found and test manager feedback.
To date, uTest has signed up about 2,500 testers. "About 70% of the community is expert testers, or testers by profession, some with more than 10 years of experience," Reuveni said. He said uTest has attracted two types of testers: Those who work in software testing today and view this as additional income, and freelance QA consultants. A small percentage is not professionals, he said, but have some expertise, such as high-tech students.
While some companies may be reluctant to utilize a service like uTest because of security concerns, Reuveni says they will be in the minority.
"Companies don't turn over source code; they turn over a downloadable application or runtime or a link to a QA environment," he said. Also, in the next release of the platform, they are adding functionality that enables a company with security concerns to upload the application so that only the testers certified for that project can access it, not the whole community.
Companies that have signed up for the first uTest pilot are: 888.com, SecondRotation, AmericanWell, IncrediMail, HiroMedia, Iminent, GroupGain and eFieldHouse. Reuveni said the community will also be testing the uTest platform.