Long Distance Advantage: An Outsourcing Case Study

Sponsored By: FPT Software

Ricoh is a global information management and digital services company. For more than 85 years Ricoh technology, creativity, and expertise has helped businesses around the world thrive in times of change.

Ricoh launched its first office copier, the Ricopy 101, in 1955. With the dawn of the age of office automation, Ricoh became a leading supplier of office productivity devices – from print copiers to cameras to anything else that helps connect people to information.

Ricoh provides a wide range of digital services to businesses, maintaining a vast number of product lines, with many years of different makes and models of printers and other devices. With a team of around 80,000 employees worldwide, Ricoh supports a wide array of industries, using an innovative mix of people, processes, and technology to unlock the power of trapped and hidden information in areas such as cybersecurity, business process management, and cloud and infrastructure.

The Need

Most printers and other pieces of office hardware are now software-driven. That software needs to be continually updated to ensure it is compatible with new office computers and operating system versions, and to ensure it is compliant and secure in its own right.

Download: “Partner Powered. Two Outsourcing Stories.”

Ricoh is continually seeking to improve its software testing capabilities, with a particular emphasis on security. Said Tom Haapanen, VP, Global Solutions Engineering, Ricoh USA: “We have been focused on security by design. For example – designing secure software that does the right things and safeguards customer data.”

Ricoh had something new in its development pipeline: Streamline NX.

“This has become our lead solution for managing security for our network devices and printers and scanners, and helping our customers ensure regulatory compliance,” said Haapanen.

Streamline NX today offers things like secure printing – “workflow capabilities, very extensive device management capabilities … and all of that is integrated into a single pane of glass that customers can deploy either on-premise or in the cloud.”

The Challenges

Ricoh sought out a QA organization that could partner with them to continuously improve testing processes, said Haapanen. Ricoh had worked previously on smaller projects with FPT – a pioneer in digital transformation and leader in consulting, providing, and deploying technology and telecommunications services and solutions.

There was only one catch: FPT is located in Asia and Haapanen’s team is based in North America.

With distance comes possible “X factors,” from language and culture to challenges around two companies being many time zones apart. Often when doing software testing in such situations, everything must be clearly laid out; that means coming up with flawless use cases, including expected results, for the test team to go through.

When a dev team and a testing team are not in the same building – let alone even the same continent – it can be difficult for the former to ensure the latter is performing testing properly. And if anything goes wrong on the testing side – maybe it’s the middle of the night on the dev side – progress is halted; the project is delayed until the dev team gets to the office, and communication with the remote testing team can resume.

The Results

To Ricoh’s surprise, communication with FPT ended up being a strong point. “It’s been a big plus, and this is going back to the early days, when we found we actually got better communication with a team in the Philippines than we were getting from a team in the same time zone,” said Haapanen. “This has been a real eye-opener for us.”

Ricoh initially did a six-month pilot with FPT. Ricoh found it was able to easily align with its partner in terms of getting structured test plans that matched their expectations.

“We received daily updates. FPT provided very good test coverage, and showed a strong understanding of how to exercise our software, to make sure we captured any issues we might end up discovering later at a customer site.” Ricoh noted that from day one, FPT has worked beyond spec sheets to assess and thoroughly understand their software.

“When testing, it is to some extent human nature to look for the low-hanging fruit – issues you can resolve easily,” said Haapanen. “But FPT gives us more. Having an organization that actually assesses our software – understands how it’s designed, and develops a test strategy based on that – makes a huge difference for us.”

While dedication and commitment have been key factors, the glue holding it all together has, again, been communication. The idea of offshore testing may be an attractive one for many companies – you finish programming during the day your time, and then the overseas testing crew comes in “overnight.” It theoretically saves half the time. All told, it’s a neat trick to pull off – if you can pull it off the right way.

Luckily, Ricoh was able to do just that. The key throughout: communication.

“We get our test team – or the senior members of that team – to collaborate with our dev team,” said Haapanen. “They participate in the specification process so they can understand what we are and what we are designing, and also identify gaps in the specs at that early stage.”

With comprehensive, high-quality specifications, Haapanen continued, Ricoh’s testing team is able to kick things into gear with test plans. Feedback begins to flow. Dev communicates with testing on what they’re planning to test, and eventually there is a considerable reduction in the chances of something being missed.

“A two-way flow of information between the test team and our development team is key for us to be able to do better things.”

It is worth acknowledging the importance of continuity when it comes to working with an outsourced testing team. Effective communications between teams, and cultural alignment and harmony, hinges to no small degree on there being staff continuity.

“This has been a big plus for us in working with FPT – they don’t have large turnover so nobody’s going to be at zero,” said Haapanen, “FPT has been very good at retaining key people on their team. Even their junior people are not job-hoppers. This is a challenge to working with a lot of outsourcing companies, but with FPT we haven’t had that struggle of constantly having to get new people up to speed.”

Haapanen said Ricoh could not be happier with the partnership. “The reports we provide are complete, to the result that FPT is able to track down the problems they need to track down. Their team has built a solid understanding of how our software works, how our business works, and what our customers expect as well as how they are using our software or want to use our software. This understanding helps FPT make great decisions about how to test our software.”

Download: “Partner Powered. Two Outsourcing Stories.”


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Sponsored By: FPT Software

Glenn Weir
Glenn Weir
Content writer at IT World Canada. Book lover. Futurist. Sports nut. Once and future author. Would-be intellect. Irish-born, Canadian-raised.