To most non-testing experts, software testing services are a dull but necessary activity, whose main driver for growth has been the creation of testing factories in India. And yes, there is a significant element of this. At NelsonHall, we continue to be surprised by software testing service providers’ ever expanding service portfolio, the level of investment in proprietary accelerators to complement COTS, and the adoption of open source software.
Three years ago, the value of crowdtesting seemed arguable: a large number of crowdtesting web sites had emerged with modest scale and offered an unstructured, low cost service that did not seem to suite enterprise needs for scale, structure and formalization. And then there emerged a few crowdtesting vendors taking a more structured approach, more enterprise acceptable introduction to crowdtesting. passbrains was one of those vendors, along with Applause/utest. The company is headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland and was founded in 1999 initially as PASS Group. PASS Group has come a long way from traditional testing and QA services (targeting mainly Western Europe and specializing in healthcare and life science), focusing on manual and automated testing and on regulatory and compliance validation, to offering crowdtesting services across sectors (e.g. retail, telecom, financial services, media & entertainment).
PASS Group launched passbrains in January 2012 to offer functional testing, compatibility testing, security testing, localization and of course usability testing for web and mobile apps and more traditional applications. Alongside, passbrains also developed its Enterprise Crowdtesting Platform (ECP).
Four years on from its launch, passbrains counts 45k community members and has fine-tuned its model and expanded its service portfolio. UX testing has become the main growth engine. As a result, the company has expanded its offering from final usability testing (to identify bugs) to pre-release UX assessment (of new features of a hardware/software product and service). The company provides mobile-centric services, from UX testing around software products (e.g. mobile payment), hardware products (e.g. set up boxes, WiFi routers) to services (e.g. product shipment and return services). As part of its pre-release UX work, passbrains also provides community-based online surveys for assessing product/services UX pre- and post-release/launch.
passbrains’ move to UX testing is driving changes in the company’s member community: non-testing professionals now represent more than 50% of its total members. This brings another challenge: bringing the formality and process-based approach of testing that is prevalent in testing to UX and non-testers. This is where passbrains’ investment in ECP helps, bringing a structured approach to UX testing (through workflows) and also gaining further information on its members. Details are:
- Community management: the company has moved away from focusing on recruitment alone (to grow the total number of members) to gain further knowledge about its members (information on demographic attributes, skill profile, experience with passbrains, and available PCs and mobile devices)
- Training, certification and rating: along with community management, passbrains is focusing on understanding the capabilities of its members, logging on past work for passbrains, and also through skill assessments, certifications and ratings (e.g. vertical domain, technologies)
- Test Cases, ticketing and workflow: to automate the work assignment, test case management, feedback collection, ticket reviewing and workflow management process. The system integrates with HPE QC/ALM and also with JIRA/Atlassian.
- Online surveys through passbrains’ survey editing and management tool
- Rewarding members. The payout aspect is important as passbrains has evolved its payment model from being ticket-based, to being based on execution of test cases, online surveys, UX videos (and other work deliverables)
- As part of its drive to build a structured approach, passbrains now offers private crowds. A major client is Liberty Global: passbrains recruited and currently manages 10k members across Switzerland and Austria. The private crowd approach helps building stability in the testers base as well as selecting community members based on parameters required by the client (e.g. subscribers to a specific bank, telecom service), for continued UX testing and feedbacking.
Next on the horizon is wearables testing, e.g. for fitness trackers, smart watches, and connected cars. This should drive further demand for UX in the context of IoT.
Geographical expansion is also on the cards, first from a community perspective. Since 2013, passbrains has a delivery center in Bangalore, India, used for servicing clients in APAC and one in Hamburg for Europe, Germany since 2014. The company also works with partners (e.g. SQS, Accenture, Tech Mahindra, Mindtree) for other verticals and geographies.
From a testing service vendor selection, NelsonHall likes vendors such as passbrains, which have a specialized and defined service offering, and are investing in accelerators and platforms. This makes the service offering of vendors such as passbrains easy for NelsonHall to talk about and evaluate against the needs of client organizations.