While a lot of attention is being paid to cost controls in the context of current market trends, the pressure to reduce software testing costs is not something that changes with economic tides. The reality is that even in a bull market, development leaders — pushed by financial expectations and the costly nature of development — are not only being asked to deliver high-quality releases faster than ever, they’re being asked to tighten budgets.

How can the tension between speed and quality also be balanced with cost? It’s a challenging issue — it might bring to mind a classic, three-part venn diagram of speed, cost and quality, and the supposition that you can have two of those things, but not all of them. Thanks to advances in development processes, the potent power of crowd testing (or its evolution, networked testing), and an increasing unity between automated and manual testing methodologies, there is more overlap in the diagram than ever before.

Reduce software testing spend by rethinking process

When considering cost reduction, many leaders naturally drift toward making hard cuts to testing thoroughness, or to the team. The key to software testing cost reduction, however, is efficiency.

Testing is often something that comes in at the tail end of the development cycle — it’s not the star of the show, and while every development leader recognizes its importance, there can often be a mentality of “it’s not exactly broken, so let’s not putz with it.” Over the past decade we’ve observed significant successes when product and development leaders that break out of that mindset and opt to reexamine their process.

Question the process, and think about how to reduce costs not with cuts, but by testing smarter.

In that time, there has been some sea-change. Nearly 80 percent of engineering teams are adopting shift left and moving integrated testing into their CI/CD pipeline. While only a quarter report completing this change, this is a significant move because continuous testing increases the speed of the development cycle while simultaneously reducing compounding errors (bugs multiply if not caught early). The result is more upfront work to establish testing protocols, but less time spent on balance, shifting cost to advancing the product vs testing it.

This type of efficiency play is table stakes for what we advise our clients to do: question the process, and think about how to reduce costs not with cuts, but by testing smarter.

The Crowd helps software testing cost reduction in a variety of ways

On the note of testing smarter — crowd testing has been around for a while and is a proven model. Yes, it works because of the coverage advantages it offers — but more and more we hear about the efficiency, cost and retention savings of leveraging this method. 

A distributed, on-demand team of testers can take a tremendous weight off the shoulders of an in-house development team, allowing them to focus on their core tasks and increase efficiency. It’s also worth mentioning that many engineers would prefer to not go deep on testing with every build. Not requiring that of them can help increase retention — a significant source of long-term cost savings for any development team.

Unify manual and automated testing for cost savings

Nearly any application or program is going to require some mixture of manual and automated testing — it’s getting the mix right that can be hard, and expensive. We recently introduced the concept of fusing the two together — using both to reinforce the speed and success of the other. It’s a paradigm-challenging idea, and that’s in part the point. To achieve real savings in software testing, we have to push past the norms and dig deep for efficiency.

Economic factors and other external pressures aside, now is the time for development leaders to re-evaluate their approach to development cost-savings. The past few years have seen user expectations for digital experiences soar, and the need to push the envelope on quality and experience is only going to intensify.

Marcus Hardy is Testlio's former Director of Communications.