The implementation of a Testing Center of Excellence with appropriate funding can be a cost-effective way to reduce product failures in the field with their predictable repercussions. David W. Johnson explains what types of returns you can achieve with such an investment in the final installation of this tip series.
The Testing Center of Excellence (TCE) brings testing specialists and technical testing components, as required, to ensure that the proper testing techniques are applied on an engagement-by-engagement basis. My previous articles dealt with the structure of a TCE and the roles resources play within that structure. The question now becomes "What returns should a testing organization expect to harvest from a TCE?"
The TCE delivers an effective testing structure to an organization that will result in both short- and long-term returns on any investment. With a structure in place, the testing process can now become a mature institutionalized process within the organization. The benefits of a mature Testing Center of Excellence include the following:
- Provide a means of leveraging environmental usage and knowledge as well as human resources across projects (there are real dollar savings implications here)
- Provide all project teams with access to testing specialists
- Provide testing consistency across projects
- Provide accurate quality assessment of end products
- Meet test schedule and budget commitments
- Reduce cross-project testing budgets by sharing human and technical resources
Most important, testing efforts can be predictable and on target.
Most IT organizations contain several testing groups, both formal and informal, each of which has its own testing environment (lab) and "testware" (software, hardware and procedures). This ad-hoc collection of resources leads to duplication, overlap of testing efforts and assumptions about one group's testing efficiencies, responsibilities and abilities based on exposure to unrelated testing groups. With the formation of a TCE all testing assets are brought under one organizational umbrella using a standard set of processes and procedures. This removes testing overlaps, exposes testing gaps and brings a common understanding of what the testing group's role is within the overall organizational structure.
Leverage environment usage
A TCE will leverage a common set of testing environments to support several testing engagements. Instead of each testing group preserving a testing environment for one deployment area of the product landscape, test environments can be rolled out as required based on the overall deployment schedule. This not only leads to efficiencies in hardware utilization, but it also reduces the overall resource cost of supporting testing environments.
ROI -- Common testing environments reduce hardware costs and associated support costs.
Access to testing specialists
A TCE will provide senior testing specialists that provide testing consulting services on an engagement-by-engagement basis. Senior testing specialists can quickly assess most testing challenges/issues and provide an immediate solution to mitigate any impact on the testing schedule. The existence of a TCE allows the organization to leverage these testing resources across several engagements. Without a TCE these resources usually are not available to the entire organization.
ROI -- Senior testing specialists leveraged across all testing engagements provide the expertise to meet the testing challenge and maintain the testing schedule.
Testing consistency & quality assessment
A TCE provides a consistent level of testing. This allows for a quality improvement program that will enable the testing practice to reach an appropriate level of maturity. With a consistent level of testing, an accurate quality assessment of any end product can be made before the product is released into production. Decision makers can now understand both the benefits and risks of rolling out the product, as testing provides a true measure of the product's stability/quality that can then be used to make a well-informed go/no-go decision.
ROI -- Unacceptable risks to production are identified, allowing for appropriate go/no-go decisions.
Test schedule and budget commitments
With consistent processes, procedures, environments and staffing comes the ability to size testing efforts appropriately and identify risks to the testing schedule early. Testing now becomes a discernable set of tasks within any product lifecycle with a beginning (entry criteria), middle (design, build and execution of tests) and end (exit criteria). Impact to the testing schedule due to late product delivery or delayed defect resolution can be tracked, and appropriate measures can be taken to mitigate the risks to production. Testing can now be managed.
ROI -- Testing is managed using standard Project Management Office (PMO) processes and procedures; therefore, risks to the schedule are identified early and appropriate actions to mitigate the risk to the schedule can be taken.
Reduced cross-project testing budgets
Testing usually involves a significant pool of resources both from the business and the testing group. When a testing group exists in isolation, each group being responsible for a specific aspect of the product landscape, the testing group must be sized to deal with the testing resource peaks with appropriate assistance from outside resources. With the implementation of a TCE, resource planning can now encompass the entire pool of testing resources against a schedule that addresses the testing needs of the entire product landscape. With appropriate planning, the draw on testing resources becomes less cyclic and more steady-state. When exceptional circumstances occur, they can be recognized early and appropriate actions can be taken.
ROI -- Overall staffing is reduced to meet an equivalent set of testing goals.
The bottom line
Testing is a time- and resource-intensive process that organizations often treat as an afterthought. This leads to inappropriate planning, unnecessary risks to production and serious product failures in the field. The world of IT and business is full of instances where inadequate or poorly executed testing has lead to significant product failure in the field. These product failures then create opportunities for competitors to gain a permanent advantage in your product space, and lead to a decline in revenue.
The implementation of a TCE with appropriate funding can be a cost-effective way to reduce product failures in the field with their predictable repercussions. That having been said, companies and decision makers tend to believe that such failures cannot happen to them. Unfortunately that is not true, and if companies continue to ignore the risks they will certainly suffer (and have suffered) the consequences.
About the author: David W. Johnson is a senior computer systems analyst with over 20 years of experience in IT across several industries. He has played key roles in business needs analysis, software design, software development, testing, training, implementation, organizational assessments and support of business solutions. David has developed specific expertise over the past 13 years on implementing "Testware," including test strategies, test planning, test automation and test management solutions. You may contact David at DavidWJohnson@Eastlink.ca.