In my last post I discussed how a Testing Centre of Excellence can reduce cost and create efficiency in an organisation. In this post, I will discuss some of the other benefits of a TCOE.
A Testing Centre of Excellence can:
- Increase test maturity and promote innovation across the organisation
- Define, encourage and enforce best practices
- Define test policy and test strategies aligned with the business needs
- Ensure specialised testing services are available
- Enable metrics and management information to be collected and acted upon
A Testing Centre of Excellence can define a roadmap and put strategic initiatives in place to increase test maturity. It’s often too hard to do this when testing is owned by individual projects as tactical, day-to-day testing activity always, always, always takes precedence. Looming deadlines and limited budget inhibit strategic thinking and activity. Increasing test maturity is not easy and takes time, effort, budget and strong leadership. Naturally, individual projects do not have the time, budget or capacity to deliver the necessary change to increase maturity. It’s just not their raison d’etre. On the other hand, a TCOE can be tasked specifically to increase test maturity across the organisation and can be equipped with the skills, leadership and budget to succeed.
A Testing Centre of Excellence can Define, Encourage and Enforce Best Practices
Best practices can be defined by the centralised, more experienced and more knowledgeable test professionals within the organisation and get rolled out across all teams, business areas and projects. I don’t mean to be disparaging of more junior testers or senior testers outside a TCOE but a TCOE can create a hierarchy with career progression opportunities so that the company as a whole can benefit from the knowledge and skill of the more senior people. This is especially useful across geographically distributed teams where particular geographies find it harder to recruit more experienced testers. The alternative is that this knowledge remains siloed in a particular business unit to the detriment of other business units and projects. Even worse, without career progression opportunities beyond a single project or programme, there’s a risk that the knowledge and experience will leave the company. More senior people will eventually search for bigger and better roles and if these do not exist internally, the individuals will inevitably be attracted to other companies.
It is natural that individual projects and project managers will at times want to move away from best practice and take more risk. After all, not everyone understands the value of good and proper testing and at times, time and budget restrictions force corners to be cut. By having individual project testers and test managers backed-up by a central, senior testing professional with more clout and a company-wide policy, this can be discouraged and escalated where necessary.
A Testing Centre of Excellence Defines Test Policy and Test Strategies aligned with the Business Needs
A centralised testing organisation is more likely to be aligned with the strategic business needs and can define policies / strategies to mitigate the business risk. There is a counter argument that a centralised strategy is less aligned to project needs and risks, I will concede this. A test policy that has flexibility and a dispensation process to allow for variance is therefore needed so that projects, with the right level of scrutiny and approval, can override organisation policy where appropriate.
A Testing Centre of Excellence Ensures Specialised Testing Tervices are available
It can be difficult, expensive and time consuming for individual projects to engage specialised testing services such as performance, mobile device, network emulation and security testing. This is especially true when they are needed for a short duration – which is often the case. Not all plans run smoothly and we all know that test execution can be delayed. How many project managers or test managers for that matter, have the skills to properly recruit a good performance tester for example? Many times, I have seen the fallout of a project recruiting a contract technical tester and needing to defer strategic decisions to this person. Many times, this person makes, in my opinion, poor decisions based on limited experience that are not always in the project’s best interest. This has profound and far reaching consequences very much to the detriment of the project and company. A TCOE can reduce this risk by having a pool of trusted technical testers that can be shared across the organisation. This requires demand forecasting, future planning and a cross charging mechanism to be in place, but it is a good solution to the problem.
It’s a big advantage to have these capabilities within the organisation, available with a greater degree of flexibility, at short notice and at a lower cost. There can often be a greater level of trust too. We have helped a range of organisations set up TCOEs and even provided them as a managed service and seen these benefits realised.
A Testing Centre of Excellence enables Metrics and Management information to be collected and acted upon
Gathering metrics and management information is not easy. It needs to be thought out, tools need to be configured too and there needs to be consistency in processes to compare and contrast the data. Without consistent processes, the comparison of metrics across business areas and projects and the associated trend analysis is impossible. For example, a metric of number of tests executed per day requires the tests to be of similar size and structure yet a test can be written in many ways and vary in length while still being a valid test.
By defining a standard and controlling the use of that standard, the TCOE is able to create the environment where MI can be gathered and compared across the whole organisation. The right metrics can highlight the variation in the amount, type, quality and efficacy of testing across projects and business units.
Why is this important? Let’s take the hypothetical example where a project manager doesn’t budget much for testing. She doesn’t have enough testers allocated to her project or time in her plan. By measuring this and comparing the data with other project managers and then correlating with the number of defect leaks into production, patterns can be found (or maybe not) to determine what is the most cost-effective amount of testing. There are all sorts of metrics that can be valuable to an organisation to help find the right balance of the time, cost, quality triangle and get the most benefit from a testing budget.
If you are considering creating a Testing Centre of Excellence and feel you could benefit from some support and advice to do this, please get in touch.