Onshore vs. offshore testing: we all thought about it. Let’s compare!

Have you been tempted to try offshore testing yet? Every aspiring project manager has had the thought cross their mind, and until they experience it for themselves, offshore testing looks like the answer to the budget crunch…or is it?

I recently came across a survey conducted by the Software Test & Performance Conference in Boston (STPCon). The study had 200 participants, with over 82% being directly involved with the technical QA and testing responsibilities. These participants were the perfect mix of technical specialists, managers, and directors.  Here are some of the results:

Incorrect hypothesis: offshore testing reflects a lower cost

The initial perception is that the cost of offshore testing is significantly less than onshore (rural) testing. 86% of those participants said they based their decisions about offshore testing primarily on price.

Cost factors

The next thing they investigated in the survey were the factors that contributed to the overall cost, and they expanded those factors beyond the hourly rate of the testers themselves.

Geographical closeness

Participants surveyed were asked if there is any effect on the quality of the QA testing team when they are close to the development and domain experts. More than 88% of the participants believe that closer proximity improves the overall quality.

Considering the value of collaboration and camaraderie that develops between those working together as a team, these results make perfect sense. Those connections elevate morale, which contributes to higher productivity. Even if the testing team is remote but onshore, the cultural similarities can still foster a productive team environment. Offshore teams often struggle at achieving such a level of engagement with their onshore teams because of those cultural and language barriers.

Management attention

Management costs are a significant impact on the development team. About 55% of the survey participants reported that offshore testing teams require more attention from both management and development, while the onshore testing teams can often hit the ground running with minimal direction, requiring less management interaction. When a testing solution requires less management attention, significant cost savings are a benefit to the budget for the project, overall.

Variances like these are in part about the cultural difference and language, again, between the two locations. Onshore teams, being more familiar with how the entire project flows, can be more intuitive to the future needs and adjust according to the changes as they present themselves rather than wait for an official change of direction from management that an offshore team requires.


Communication continues to be one of the top concerns when working with offshore testing organizations. This communication can be related to language, but again, may stem from cultural differences.

For example, it is considered a sign of weakness in some cultures to admit a lack of understanding. To this culture, they believe it better to remain silent and figure things out themselves than be perceived as weak. This is an incredible gamble to take on a project, where real dollars are impacted by a misunderstanding that could be quickly clarified if brought to the attention of the team or management.

Onshore teams have a natural curiosity and willingness to challenge things that “don’t look quite right.”  For example, onshore teams will review user stories and ask questions to get clarity; therefore, they can build much higher quality test cases that test the intended functionality.  This helps the developers clarify what they are building and helps improve the overall team’s productivity.

Of those surveyed, 60% agree that having their testing teams onshore eliminates most communication challenges.

Quality over quantity

When working with an offshore team, when there is a need for an increase in the level of QA testing, the immediate response is to increase the number of testers. Onshore testing companies are inclined to be more nimble in their approach to the need. Instead of immediately adding headcount, they will investigate the option of an increase in the level of expertise and experience of their professionals on the team, which often proves to be a highly effective solution.

Nearly 60% of respondents in the survey agree that onshore testing can maintain or improve the level of testing with fewer people than their offshore counterparts.  In fact, most companies indicate that they can do onshore testing with 30%-50% fewer resources.

See our blog about inadequate quality testing resulting in Technical Debt: the extended cost of undiscovered defects.

Study summary – hypothesis is busted

The results busted the initial belief that offshore testing comes at a lower cost to the project. Once other variables affected by the offshore team are pulled into the equation, that total cost of an onshore software testing partner is often equal to or less than offshore testing. QA and testing professionals agreed that onshore solutions for QA and testing increase quality and communication (soft dollars) while requiring less attention from management (hard dollars).

While the goal of offshore QA and testing is often to reduce the product cost, that assumption is proving itself time and again as debunked. Unforeseen challenges and barriers are likely to raise costs by an average of 30% per quarter over the projected project costs.

The opinions expressed in the survey show consistent agreement with another study conducted by Forrester Research. Forrester’s study demonstrated that approximately 40% of those companies using offshore QA testing solutions found themselves unhappy with the results.

Other factors to consider

Neither study addressed additional risks of hiring an offshore testing solution. Those hidden expenses and risks include security, loose intellectual property laws abroad, productivity lags, and quality issues (yes, unfavorable quality of the quality team.)

Offshore prices are rising

Many countries offering offshore IT professionals have gotten wise to the cost variance between onshore and offshore solutions. The gap has been slowly closing for over a decade. I remember one international company making their way through India, Singapore, and Europe as they started raising their prices.

Efficiency matters

QA testing is more than bodies in chairs following a script. Many will report that is what it felt like they got with an offshore solution. Highly skilled quality testers are intuitive in developing testing plans and testing strategies, and scripts are of a higher caliber. The onshore testing professionals know where to maximize efficiencies to keep costs in control without compromising quality.

Keep yourself pointed True North

All of these examples are why so many businesses turn to Lighthouse’s rural onshore software testing—the high-quality alternative to offshore software testing.  Our proprietary sourcing model enables us to field a team of industry-certified software testing professionals located right here in the US—at the same or lower total cost than you’d pay offshore. Don’t just take our word for it. We have plenty of testimonials from our customers to tell you themselves.

So how can you point True North? We’d love to tell you more. Contact us, and we will tell you all about it.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Lonnie D Franks September 10, 2019, 10:22 am

    Good article. I especially liked the point about Quality of Testing versus Quantity of Testing.

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