Crowdsourced Testing – A Smart Approach to Software Testing

The genesis of the term ‘Crowdsourcing’ can be traced back to the year 2005. Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson, editors at Wired, used the word to describe how businesses were using the Internet to outsource work to the crowd. Crowdsourced Testing (CT) brings together the benefits, efficacy, and competence of Crowdsourcing and the Cloud platform, and offers a unique way of involving real users/ testers into software testing under the actual conditions. According to Gartner, Crowdsourcing will constitute 20% of all enterprise application development sourcing initiatives by 2018.

This form of testing evolved as a result of ubiquitous nature of the internet in addition to the complexity of the collaborative software platforms now available and offers a cost-efficient way to test. It involves a number of different testers located at different places.

CT is quite helpful in successfully overcoming two main challenges that the testing world currently faces:

  • Dealing with complexities involved in conducting large-scale user-oriented usability and performance testing
  • Dealing with the increased test costs and testing time due to innumerable mobile devices and diverse platforms

When is Crowdsourced Testing Most Useful

CT can be fairly useful in the following scenarios:

  • When developing a user-centric software with the need to test in real environment with real devices
  • When there are fragmentation issues involving multitude of devices, OSs, networks, and browsers
  • When users are geographically dispersed with different user audience specified
  • When there is a need for large number of cross-skilled resources, and the budget is limited

We now have a checklist of scenarios where CT can be quite useful, but introducing CT is not an easy task even when there is adequate management support.

Implementing Crowdsourced Testing- The Challenges

The common challenges that come across when implementing CT include:

  • Seeking the right set of efficient Crowdsourced testers based on the precise understanding of the shortcomings of internal QA & software testing team, and the test requirements
  • Delivering a basic understanding of the test strategy and test plan to all the crowdsourced testers
  • Developing an environment of trust between Developers and externally Crowdsourced Testers.
  • Establishing coordination between different teams when dealing with different time zones, cultures, and languages

With these points in mind, let us focus on how to begin the implementation process. Initially, Crowdsourced Testing teams must be chosen carefully based upon technical skills, capabilities, and qualifications of testers and the internal QA teams, as per the test requirements. Secondly, setting clear time-frames for coordination and communication between the teams and sticking to these schedules strictly is essential. Additionally, input to the Crowdsourced teams must be precise in terms of scope of the test, testing roadmap, test planning and strategy, and a list of known issues. Further, the testing strategy needs to be regularly revisited, along with keeping a tab on the progress made. Finally, the results that one gets from CT must be assessed and analyzed regularly for software quality assurance, and ultimately, for a superior end-product.

When implemented aptly and sensibly, CT also offers a number of advantages.

Advantages of Crowdsourced Testing

Let us focus on some of the benefits that Crowdsourced Software Testing offers:

  • Reduced Costs: There is no additional cost of the overheads as office space, electricity, and furniture, and usually the payment is simply on basis of the output produced.
  • Better Scalability: With a large on-demand workforce, Crowdsourcing provides a new way to offer QA services that work well with the fast pace of Agile and CI/CD development cycles.
  • Resource Accessibility: Easy access to expert resources is available with varying degrees of expertise in different fields, at a short notice.
  • Faster Feedback: Quick and unbiased feedback from diverse real users through early detection of bugs is offered.  
  • Increased transparency: Software testing plans, processes, and procedures, along with the payment protocols, are transparent and easy to track. 
  • Better Localization: CT ensures that the app is convenient and fit to use for the specified target audience.
  • Quick Delivery: Faster deployments are possible with testers testing simultaneously across the globe.
  • Superior Quality: Better software quality testing, greater precision, and fewer defects, with testing in real environment by the skilled testers, using real devices is possible with CT.

Though CT offers the above set of benefits, yet is not a foolproof solution to faster, economic and user-oriented large-scale usability and performance testing. CT must be implemented gradually and cautiously with due planning and understanding, else it may turn out be an expensive affair.

Limitations of Crowdsourced Testing

When implemented inaptly, or without proper guards and agreements, CT may result in:

  • Possible Confidentiality Breach – Critical data of any project may get exposed in the process of Crowdsourced Testing, leading to confidentiality breaches. Innovations may get leaked to the competitors.
  • Higher Probability of landing up with a large number of trivial bugs – It’s possible that a large number of trivial bugs are reported, with major bugs remaining undetected or unobserved, as crowd testers are normally paid on basis of the number of bugs they report.
  • Communication Breakdown – Time zones, availability, culture and language barriers can create a void in the communication process.
  • Higher Turnaround Time – Balancing the turnaround time based on collating multiple reports from different testers and analyzing and summarizing them on a regular basis is a tedious job, and may cause chaos and delays.
  • Co-ordination Flaws – Managing testing teams in different locations in coordination with in-house testing and development teams is a difficult task. Flawed management may lead to a higher software testing time, and more costs.
  • Inability to ensure max test coverage – Ensuring maximum test coverage is difficult as testing cannot be planned or tracked the way it used to be in Waterfall or Agile test efforts.

In a nutshell, before CT is adopted by any organization, it is inevitable to weigh both pros and cons in context of the exact testing requirements of the software under development. Besides, analysis of the risks involved, skills of the in-house QA & software testing team, user-centricity of the software being tested, proper planning, clear testing strategy, and executive buy-in and management readiness are some of the essential factors to take into account, when embarking on this journey. So, go for it only when you have carefully dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.

Wish you well in your testing efforts!

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