Despite the complexity in our technology landscapes, and unforgiving expectations of employees, partners and customers alike, testing is often deprioritized. There’s no question how important it is—up to 40% of budget on major projects, amounts in the thousands or millions of dollars—goes toward testing. And yet for many companies it continues to be “un-addressed” and is often assumed to be covered by their project methodology.
I write “many,” because some top companies are already embracing testing as an essential competency and bringing it to a whole new level through Testing Centers of Excellence (TCOE). To avoid the cost and risk of business disruption due to technology failures, introduce innovative technologies in less time, and ensure consistent quality in business-critical applications, an increasing number of large scale enterprises are establishing TCOEs.
This is being triggered by the rapid speed new technologies are in demand and driving the pace of innovation. The pressure is relentless and business processes and systems must be validated more quickly than ever before, even as budgets are squeezed.
In the last blog, Worksoft discussed five strategies to successfully manage enterprise change, which culminated in the building of a center of excellence to support testing and quality assurance throughout the organization. Today we are going to delve more deeply into TCOEs and four steps toward properly planning and building one.
Step 1: Set the Proper Foundation
First, understand how your organization is ensuring the quality of systems andbusiness processes today. When and how are enterprise applications being tested? How are end-to-endbusiness processes validated when new technology is deployed? As well, your company will need to truly understand your objectives: what are the immediate drivers? What are the primary concerns you are mitigating through a TCOE? What are the most important results?
Step 2: Start with a Project
You can’t boil the ocean. You want to prove a new approach before making a large scale investment, and the best way to do that is to identify a project with which to demonstrate the value of end-to-end business process validation. Today’s automation solutions enable companies to get value early and often. In our experience, those first successes pave the way and drive demand for more.
For the deployment, you will want to address everything from the installation and configuration of the technology to be used for automated business process validation; figure out how automation fits into your software development lifecycle (SDLC) and project methodology; and identify where to leverage business process documents for staff training, compliance and other purposes. The good news is that you can demonstrate success and value quickly with automation. We’ve seen it again and again.
Step 3: Build a TCOE Program
Establish automated business process validation as a competency. To achieve business value and innovation, the TCOE must be managed the way any business asset is: as an integrated set of repeatable activities focused on producing a positive business outcome.Building a TCOE entails adopting an approach and a technology across an organization, but it’s more than skill alone. It includes people, processes, and technology.
Successful TCOE efforts manage to put in place a leadership structure with an executive sponsor, steering committee and subject matter experts; bring in top ranked automation technology for business process validation; and manage it like a project itself. That’s right, for the TCOE to help accelerate the success of your projects it must itself have a project charter, success criteria, clear role definitions, objectives – and a budget.
HINT: TCOE doesn’t mean you have to dedicate an army! I recently spoke with a Worksoft customer who increased their automation level from zero to more than 6,000 process test executions in 2014. I commended them on their TCOE and I immediately was met with, “We don’t have a TCOE. We just have a centralized team that has instituted standardized processes for automation.” Sounds like a TCOE to me, regardless of what we call it. And it doesn’t have to be big to be effective, it just has to perform and enable the function for the rest of the enterprise.
Step 4: Adopt Across the Enterprise
The single most important aspect to the success of a TCOE is strong executive sponsorship and an executive champion. As well, move the TCOE forward by effecting change and quantifying the value one project at a time—and continue to demonstrate its successes and value through key projects, strong communications and measurable results.
The time to build a TCOE is now. Top firms are already managing business process validation as a central function. For example, some are running 300 hours of automation to validate most of their core SAP business processes – every night! How is that possible? With 30 parallel machines and a competency in testing and automation.
Like all competitively advantageous technologies and processes, the benefits come from embracing them before your peers. That window for getting a step ahead with automated business process validation will likely close in a few short years, as the bar becomes inevitably raised and automation becomes the new normal in quality assurance.