Does off-shore testing really cost less?

When it comes to Quality Assurance (QA) testing, remote working technology has literally opened up the world to resource competition for your business. To some, this is excellent news as it helps drive competition and keep prices reasonable. These leaders see the peripheral information showing how off-shoring can maximize margins and reduce project costs, but are these really the end results they obtain?

QA testing is a labor-intensive role in any project or DevOps program, and to some it’s low hanging fruit when the budget gets tight, but before you pull out those pruning shears as you see the hourly rates of overseas firms, make yourself informed and start to factor in the hidden costs to your budget that aren’t included in that overseas proposal.

The “quality” of the QA tester

We’re talking about the difference between cheap labor and optimized labor. Sometimes it’s the culture gap that holds back autonomy and prevents assertiveness when something has gone askew. Many times also having the knowledge and experience to recognize communication issues or know how to resolve them once identified.

In either case, the cheap tester will stick to the script, ignoring anything they may notice (beyond the defined defect) and continue with their work. The problem will continue through the DevOps process undetected or unannounced until the right person finally notices or, worse yet, the problem exacerbates into a user-facing production bug or outtage. All of which causes extra labor costs downstream in order to correct the issue and everything else affected.

Compare that to the rigor our Lighthouse testers go through with The GauntletTM  assessment to even just earn a position on our team. From this assessment we have complete trust in the knowledge and abilities of our testers, and that they can identify inconsistencies and offer solution based fixes as needed; without missing a beat. This experience and foresight have the potential to save your project a tremendous amount of time and labor hours, and in some documented cases we’ve saved clients hundreds of thousands of dollars thanks to the quality testing we provide.

All that said, we’ve also found that onshore teams have a natural curiosity and drive to question things that “look off”.  For example, onshore teams will take the initiative to analyze user stories and ask questions for clarity not just run a script. They do this to build higher quality test cases that test the true and intended functionality of your product.  Practices such as these help the developers clarify what they are building prior to developing it which in turn helps improve the project team’s overall productivity.

With an offshore team, a need for an increase in the level of QA testing immediately translates to a rise in the number of testers. While onshore testing companies are more nimble in approaching such a need. Instead of adding headcount, they investigate the option of an increase in the level of expertise and experience of their professionals on the team. Higher quality testers can accomplish a higher volume, with higher quality results, in the same given time, resulting in savings to the project budget instead of the additional cost.

Management costs

When it comes to managing an off-shore group, another hidden cost is the extra hours spent managing the them. Here, normally a project manager or some delegated on-shore managers work closely with the off-shore team, ensuring that the flow of communication is constant and understood. They are also integral to introducing and maintaining the project flow to those off-shore testers. This usually takes the form of calls and meetings which occur outside of the regular office hours to accommodate differing time zones, while in an effort to keep the off-shore team productive, email correspondence occurs at all hours, so as to not delay productivity, pending an answer.

Those managing an off-shore testing team are also managing others on the project. This extra responsibility not only creates additional cost but also additional risks that come with having a more complex delivery process and more hand-offs between humans.

What about Agile?

Agile adds another layer of complexity and management cost when working with off-shore testing teams because while working within an Agile framework strong communication and critism are important factors in delivering timely and correct code. Team members need to feel comfortable critiquing eachother and in some cultures this isn’t an acceptable practice.

To get the most out of the Agile experience with an off-shore vendor, ambassadors are often sent from each side to work with the other team to enhance communication between teams. Ambassadors have a primary goal of building trust between the groups. Their next goal is ensuring that critical information (even when discussed in a casual context) is never missed, filling the gap between cultural communication styles. The cost of travel and expenses is over and above the hourly rates.


From the quality of the tester missing a nuance that eventually is identified as a critical defect to simple communication differences, many delays occur as the result of off-shore testing. For instance, a developer trying to read and re-read a defect description and has to ask for more clarification. He sends an email asking for that clarification, but the sun is down at the off-shore testing facility, which means he will not get a response until the next morning. If he has another question…you know the rest. These delays are often an undocumented cost against the project deadline, but their presence is undeniable.

Intellectual property and security risks

While breaches can occur worldwide, they are the least likely to happen here in the U.S.

Intellectual property is a concern whenever trust is extended to an outside company, giving inside access to everything that your development team has been creating and customizing. When working with a U.S. Based testing company like Lighthouse, you are engaging a company with the highest reputation of integrity, and one that is accountable to and works within the same strict copyright rules and enforcement as your company practices.

In addition to intellectual property theft, there is a concern about data integrity and security. While your stateside security may have the best firewalls and anti-hacking tools, guarantees and enforcement are minimal overseas. For all you know, your data could be wide open for hacking and theft with little recourse if something goes awry. The U.S. has little influence or governance in other countries that may be frighteningly lax on such topics.

Rest assured that when working with Lighthouse, our onshore Testing Center of Excellence keeps your intellectual property secure here in the U.S., ensuring your assets are protected


PMIASQIEEESoftware Engineering InstituteInternational Software Testing Qualifications Board