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The True Cost of Free, Open Source Software Testing Platforms-->
In many industries, the technical support department is the de facto face of the company. Customers end up spending more time with call center representatives than anyone else.
But over the past few years of developing software testing products for the programming community, this hasn’t been my experience at all. At Testuff, the overwhelming majority of customer interaction happens before users even become our customers. In many ways, the sales department is the face of our company. And it took me some time to figure out why this was.
At first glance, I was tempted to chalk this to the robustness of our software test management platform. After all, our flagship suite is intuitive and support requests are exceedingly rare. However, this alone doesn’t explain why our technical support department remains idle while our sales department is fielding requests all day long.
After some digging around, I learned that Testuff was not unique in this regard – many of our best-performing competitors were experiencing the same thing. And I realized that what makes our industry different is the extensive thought and planning that goes into selecting a test management solution. And we’re not just talking about the software testers themselves. We often field sales questions from development teams and other stakeholders outside of the usual testing and quality assurance circles.
There’s no shortage of options on the market. But whatever test management platform you choose is a long-term investment – one that potentially lasts for years and years. So software testers routinely spend hours comparing different products. Typical considerations include things like:
• ease of installation and use
• how fit is the solution to current processes, procedures and other tools
• importing and exporting functionality
• learning curves and training requirements
• data security and emergency recovery
These are not overlooked by those who search for a test management solution. They are long-term infrastructure decisions – mission-critical features that are arguably more important than which options exist on a screen, or any specific feature or other bells and whistles.
In fact, many of these are more important than the upfront and ongoing costs associated with each testing platform.
After all, how could a paid service like ours possibly compete with the countless free and open source testing solutions on the market?
The answer is simple.
Yes – open source is free. And with a large enough community, open source models can innovate faster than their commercial counterparts (it’s true, and I’m man enough to admit that).
But… maintaining that community is a real challenge:
• Unpaid contributors inevitably leave for greener pastures
• Simple fixes take months instead of hours
• Support requests go unanswered
In many cases, development stops altogether, and early adapters are stuck with a system that no longer evolves.
To be fair, this need for continuous innovation isn’t exclusive to software testing, or even information technology. I’m reminded of the Israeli electric car manufacturer, “Better Place”, that had a wildly successful run before going bankrupt not too long ago.
Its base of customers bought into the belief that “Better Place” would eventually build a network of charging stations. Unfortunately, that dream never materialized. And now you have countless well-intentioned, forward-thinking car owners who can’t charge their vehicles.
These poor customers invested thousands of dollars in a system that suddenly became frozen in time. They learned how costly stagnation can be.
In an industry like ours, however, I would argue that the repercussions of stagnation are even worse. Free is good. But continuity of service and consistency of innovation are priceless. When these are absent, you end up spending untold resources trying to free yourself from a stagnant environment. Both in terms of money and time, the switching costs quickly eat away at any of the initial savings you may have enjoyed with the cheaper (or free-er) option.
I’m not against open source. Many of our best updates drew their inspiration from open source innovations. We also use quite a few of them for different purposes, however we make sure we can easily switch to other solutions (free or not). I’m also not concerned by competitors who charge nothing for their software testing services. It’s impossible to compete with them on price. But with consecutively updates, superior support and a few others benefits only paid solution can offer, users have a choice.
Arik Aharoni is the CEO of Testuff, which specializes in developing better tools for the QA and testing industry, with its flag SaaS application, Testuff Test Management Tool.