This Comprehensive Guide details What is a Testing Center Of Excellence and how to set up a TCoE. It includes the pros & Cons, KPIs, and Stages of Evolution:
As companies shift into new ways of developing software, testing as a centralized service is becoming more common.
Organizations are looking for ways to successfully deploy testers across multiple teams, without giving up the standardization and best practices that some QA organizations have worked hard to create and maintain.
A testing center of excellence can be a perfect way to maintain standardization across your teams and ensure that your organization prioritizes testing innovation.
What You Will Learn:
What Is A TCoE?
A Testing Center of Excellence (TCoE) is a framework that defines, implements & measures testing controls and standards across an organization.
In this framework, the testers themselves have shared resources across teams, however testing protocols, toolsets, and KPIs are maintained at a centralized level. This allows organizations to quickly deploy any tester to any team while continuously maintaining QA principles and processes.
When Is A TCoE Useful?
It can be advantageous for companies that have complex organizational structures that sometimes result in testers spanning multiple teams where project goals may not align. However, there are several other situations where a TCoE may be useful for an organization.
If any of these apply, then a TCoE could be an ideal solution:
- You have a complicated organizational structure: If all your testers do not report into the same manager or do not share common goals, it can be challenging or impossible to normalize processes and tooling across an organization.
- You have a desire to identify common testing KPIs and track trends: Ensuring quality across multiple teams can be challenging, especially if you don’t have one person or a group whose primary focus is on it. You could see variations in how teams track certain KPIs while others track none at all. It can define common metrics and measure quality throughout your organization, thereby reducing or even eliminating the challenge altogether.
- Defects are an issue: By standardizing processes, tooling, and KPIs, it can lead to fewer defects throughout your SDLC.
- You want to homogenize processes and tooling across teams: A TCoE’s main function is to standardize processes and tools across teams. This normalization results in less time spent on defining and implementing multiple variations unnecessarily. In addition, it encourages cross-team communication around best practices and guidelines related to the test case writing, automation scripting, and execution.
- You feel pressure to reduce time to production: The QA cycle of writing test cases, scripting and executing takes a considerable percentage of the overall software development lifecycle (SDLC). Having a TCoE in place cuts out the repetitive processes across teams, allowing them to focus solely on testing tasks that matter.
- Your organization is challenged by not hiring and onboarding strong testing resources: It can establish reliable recruiting, hiring, and onboarding protocols. This leads to strong testers across your organization, who are all onboard with consistency.
- You want to encourage persistent innovation: A tester’s day is filled with writing test cases or scripting, executing tests, and reporting defects. There is typically very little time for innovating and advancing the way they work. Having a Testing Center of Excellence ensures that someone in your organization is focused on this critical component.
- Shifting projects and priorities leaves your testers shifting teams or deliverables often: In an agile environment, sometimes customer feedback loops lead to frequently shifting priorities. Having the ability to shift resources and maintain quality is the key to being successful.
How To Set Up TCoE?
Once an organization agrees to the framework of a Testing Center of Excellence, then hard work comes in the form of successfully implementing it.
A successful implementation considers the below steps:
- Define the challenges you need in your TCoE to solve or account for. At a minimum, it should standardize tools and processes. Additionally, you may customize your TCoE to include discovering and implementing new technologies, defining and measuring KPIs, or even hiring and onboarding new QA resources.
- Identify who will govern your Testing Center of Excellence. This should be a dedicated team of individuals who properly represent your testing teams as a whole. Some organizations decide to partner with a vendor for this implementation while others keep it fully in house.
- Outline your TCoE roadmap. Every organization is different in their needs and desired outcomes. Identify what areas are the most important and prioritize those accordingly.
- Define how this group will interact with other teams. This requires leadership buy-in across your organization. Things to consider include how the TCoE will roll out new processes or tools and ensure proper adherence, and what level of guidance they can give to teams if the protocols aren’t followed. Defining this upfront will limit the future missteps between your TCoE and teams.
- Document your current tools, KPIs, processes, and methodologies. Prior to and during implementation, there will already be an agreed-upon set of processes or tools. Ensuring expectations are properly documented and an ongoing document repository in place is important for future reference or onboarding.
- Engage your teams to understand starting deficits. Perhaps you have testers who aren’t adhering to previously defined processes, or maybe they are using unapproved tools. Engaging each team to validate you understand their needs, as well as any gaps, is essential in building a strong starting foundation.
- Communicate across your organization: By this point in your implementation, most people should be aware of the Testing Center of Excellence and know what it means, however, don’t take that knowledge for granted. Make sure you communicate the existence of the TCoE, the purpose, and its goals to everyone in your organization.
Your resources and costs may vary depending on how your company approaches the implementation. For example, if you decide to partner with a third-party vendor to start-up and/or maintain the TCoE, the internal resources dedicated to this may be minimal, however, your partnership may result in higher costs.
On the contrary, if you’re considering implementing this framework in-house, then the following resources and costs should be considered:
- Resources: A Testing Center of Excellence should be comprised of individuals who are fully dedicated to this initiative. When considering who should be included, contemplate recruiting testing managers, testing leads, and ensure someone from each testing competency is involved (automation, manual, performance, security, etc).
- Cost: The cost associated with starting up an internal TCoE includes resources that will be dedicated to its implementation and those that will formally sit within that group moving forward. In addition, there may be costs to consider while standardizing testing tools or purchasing a document repository solution.
TCoE Pros & Cons
While analyzing whether to implement a Testing Center of Excellence you must fully consider the pros and cons as such.
Given below are some benefits of implementing a TCoE:
- Enhanced core skill sets of all testers: By implementing a Testing Center of Excellence, you’re investing in your testers’ overall skills through training and innovation, thereby resulting in higher quality products for your customers.
- Standardization of automation frameworks and reduction of complexity: By having a defined automation framework you’re ensuring that all teams are following basic coding standards. This leads to shorter scripting cycles & execution times, time reduction when onboarding new automation engineers, and improved testing quality & coverage.
- Increased agility: Enforcing every tester to work within a set guardrails allows priorities to quickly shift without testers having to learn varying processes or tools across teams. In addition, scaling up teams using an outsourcing model allows individuals to be quickly and consistently onboarded.
- Continuous Improvement: The main component of having a well-rounded TCoE is the ongoing modernization of tools and processes. Having a dedicated team whose goal incorporates this, makes certain that your organization is always operating in a modern testing world.
- Cost Savings: Standardizing tools across teams could result in considerable cost savings for an organization over time.
- Decrease testing costs: HCL published a case study detailing a Testing Center of Excellence implementation that led to an 11% decrease in testing costs for the organization. The full case study can be found here.
It may not be the right path for your organization at times.
Here are some cons to consider before deciding to make the leap:
- A TCoE may overcomplicate things: If you have one or two teams with static testers, odds are there that the processes and tools are fairly aligned. Or maybe you have high functioning teams that would find standard ways of working an impediment to being successful. Either way, adding in an additional layer may add unnecessary complexity, thereby resulting in delayed releases and frustration.
- Insufficient support could lead to burnout and failure: Deciding to implement a TCoE without backing from all levels of your organization could lead its members feeling discouraged and burned out if their process and tooling recommendations aren’t supported or adopted properly.
TCoE Stages Of Evolution
The below image shows the three stages of TCoE:
Testing Center of Excellence Pitfalls
With every new venture, there are certain pitfalls to avoid.
Given below are some pitfalls to consider while implementing a TCoE:
- Not aligning TCoE goals to organizational outcomes: By definition, it is a centralized team of people who share the common goal of encouraging quality across the organization. The other teams will be subject to adhering to the outputs of the TCoE. It’s only logical that the goals of the TCoE align with your organization’s goals.
- Not defining how much authority the TCoE has: You will inevitably have a tester or team who fails to follow processes or use tools outlined by the TCoE. Failing to provide the Testing Center of Excellence with the ability to enforce guidelines will be counterproductive and lead to low adoption rates over time.
- Failing to create feedback loops for communication, both ways: Having a group of individuals defining process or implementing new tools, without buy-in or direction from the other teams in the organization, will drive an unsuccessful implementation. It is important that all testers are engaged and help in driving decisions, not just in the beginning, but over time as well.
- Creating a TCoE with bad collaborators and communicators: It’s not enough for this group to be comprised of people who understand the testing principles in-depth, it is also a must that they value communication and collaboration.
- Trying to move too quickly during the implementation phase: Identifying, planning, and implementing a Testing Center of Excellence takes time. Ensuring that you’ve gone through the steps above, and taking the time needed to plan upfront, will pay off in the end.
KPIs For Testing Center of Excellence
Identifying a solid set of KPIs upfront will help you to understand if your implementation of the TCoE is adding value to your organization or not. As you continue to roll out a new process or tweak the existing ones, the KPIs will provide a good success measurement.
Identifying what KPIs you should measure is challenging and unique to every organization. While selecting your set of KPIs, you must consider the team sizes and distribution, company culture, and current gaps or challenges you are trying to fix.
Follow this link for some Commonly Used Testing Metrics.
As with any major organizational shift, analyzing your current state and understanding your gaps is the key to determining if a TCoE is right for you.
While deciding to move forward, invest the time upfront to ensure that you outline specifically what your Testing Center of Excellence is & isn’t and make certain that you select the right people for the job.
Enlisting testers who exhibit good collaboration and communication skills, in addition to a solid understanding of the testing principles, is important in a successful implementation.
In addition, make sure that you identify and communicate how you will measure success. If you’re using a set of KPIs, communicate what those are so that the teams understand what their success measurement is.
In a nutshell, trying to measure too many things, in the beginning, becomes daunting and you may lose sight of the overall big picture.
A TCoE gives organizations the ability to implement standard testing principles and tooling across any number of teams while ensuring that the quality remains a priority. In addition, it helps to define and measure KPIs, thereby ensuring a consistent quality product to the customer.
While this tutorial references an agile organization, a Testing Center of Excellence can be enlisted within any organization, agile or not. If implemented fittingly, it can help an organization scale testing without compromising quality.
Analyzing where your organizational challenges lie today, and how you see those blocking your ability to scale and shift priorities in the future, will give you a good starting point in determining whether it is an appropriate solution for your organization or not.
After concluding to move forward, arrange the time upfront to implement it successfully. Ensuring testers with good communication skills, a solid understanding of testing principles, and a desire to help the organization grow, are all attributes while looking for TCoE leaders.
Make certain that you fully define the success criteria for your Testing Center of Excellence, engage all levels of your organization, and convey the purpose and desired outcome appropriately. A solid built TCoE can bring many positive benefits to your organization when implemented thoughtfully.