Five Questions to Ask Before You Outsource Your Test System
MATsolutions is pleased to host a series of blog posts by written by experts in their fields. This week, we’re joined by Albert DeWeese, Principal of Good Automation.

 

Outsourcing your test system development project can be a savvy business decision, but there are potential pitfalls you need to know about. Ask these five simple questions before you risk your project's outcome on an unknown third party.

1. Do you know my industry?

Every industry and every company is different and consultants have to be able ramp up quickly on the regulations and best practices of your industry. You want to look for a consultant to who has experience with working the types of regulations that are important in your industry.

2. Do you have the technical expertise?

This question seems obvious but has some important implications.  Are you up to the job?  Do you have availability?  Do you have the skills?  Are you certified?  You want an expert in developing test systems with a strong technical foundation.  You want someone smart who can quickly ramp up on your product.  You want someone who understands the kind of measurements you are taking.  Do they understand your technology?  Are they strong in statistical analysis?  Do they understand your regulatory compliance challenges, your specific market, and your customer?  Ensure your supplier has the necessary certifications and check with others that you trust to ensure they are up to the job.

3. What is your project management process?

Great project management is critical to bringing your project in on time and on budget.  Good project management is a fundamental capability but many companies big and small are surprisingly poor at project management. It is important that the status of the project is communicated clearly and concisely.  Poor project management results in budget overruns and schedule slips.  But when your supplier overruns budget they will not work for free.  Instead they will charge you extra to recover costs.  Fixed price contracts may seem to protect you from this but often the overrun comes late in the project and you are already vested in using this supplier on this project.  Therefore their budget overrun becomes your problem when they invariably ask for more money to complete the job.  Project management is a two way street, and requires hands on management by both parties and cannot happen with poor communication.

4. How will we communicate?

In a perfect world, everything goes as planned.  It is frustrating to have to ask direct questions to drag bad news out of a supplier.  Bad news shared early is manageable.  Communication is a two-way street - your consultant can’t know what you don’t tell them and you can’t know what your consultant doesn’t tell you.  It is important to have written expectations to begin the development process.

You also want to ensure that the consultant is responsive to phone calls and emails.  Is your supplier confident enough you give you frequent status updates including those not so pleasant updates relating setbacks?  Setbacks become problems when they are not brought out front and center early, where they can be addressed by both parties in the most timely and efficient manner.

5. Can you support me long term?

When you invest in test development and outsourced systems, you want your investment to pay dividends long term.  The right consultant will give you a system that is upgradeable, expandable and easy to maintain.  They will ensure that your system meets your needs now and can evolve to face the future.


Albert DeWeese is Principal of Good Automation, a company that believes that using the right consultant will help you get the best solution for your needs.  If you have more questions about test systems, test automation, or using a consultant, email them at learn@goodautomation.com or call 972-717-4663.  They are happy to share with you their library of in-depth education materials related to the art of test system development and great project management.