Its safe to say that in today’s world Information technology plays an integral part for the growth of any large businesses. Businesses need new products and investment in technology to stay ahead in the competitive curve.
Some of the key business challenges that exist today for organisations include
- Increased competition requiring an environment of constant innovation
- Improving customer experience
- Reducing Time to market
- Managing Complex IT landscapes
- Improving operational efficiency
This translates into the need for organisations to ensure that Business Applications run smoother to meet these objectives. With this growth also comes the need for building and improving delivery excellence. Testing as an activity has evolved over a period to be offered as a more specialist service and a QA function for an IT department. In the case of large organisations the advent of testing services has arisen. This can either be achieved through the use of in-house resources or partnership with the IT companies that bring in the relevant expertise.
The Managed Testing service (MTS) Rationale:
- Reduce TCO of systems by ensuring defects are minimised.
- Improve time to market with measures such as test automation
- Ensure standardised approach and practices are followed especially in large IT functions
- Increased flexibility through the use of a shared pool of testers
- Consolidated reporting to management teams across portfolio of progammes and projects
Testing can be considered a key enabler of managing change in an organisation and in every respect the setting up of a managed testing service itself needs to be managed on the lines of a business transformation.
Principles for the approach
The following highlights some key principles to be kept in mind whilst setting up a Testing Service for a large organisation
- Governance Structure
The structure of the managed testing service needs to be aligned towards the delivery organisation of the client and structured to ensure that there is adequate communication with business unit heads to ensure continued sponsorship. The structure needs to also adapt to the evolution of the MTS in an organisation. For eg, the early stages of setting up an MTS would require a transition manager and senior test managers for individual services for rolling out the MTS in the organisation. As the service stabilises, the structure can be adapted to be made leaner.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day
Change is a slow process. The business benefits and best practices to be introduced cannot be achieved from day one. This may be on several reasons for eg the large complexity of the IT landscape, resistance from stakeholders, training users on key tools and techniques. Also in larger organisations the footprint of MTS cannot be extended to all areas of IT Delivery at a single go which therefore calls for a phased approach to be employed.
To provide an example, a discussion can take place at the time of scoping to indentify critical applications particulary those with stability issues. The MTS can therefore provide end to end testing in those areas. There may be other areas where a top down approach may be applied. Ie. Place Test Consultants and test managers who work with existing test teams to ensure rollout of best practices.
- Stakeholder engagement
Continued stakeholder sponsorship is key to the success of an MTS function. Therefore a Senior Test Manager or Portfolio manager can be made responsible for the testing for a specific delivery function and would meet regularly with the IT head for the area to discuss progress on projects. The progress should also encompass the performance of MTS in business units other than the one under the stakeholder in question to provide an overall picture and increase confidence in the acceptability of the service.
Communication does not end with winning the contract but it’s the beginning of a journey of brining change. In larger organisations, the approval for setting up an MTS would usually be carried out at the senior stakeholder levels. This means that there is a wider education required to be provided to the core delivery teams who run the show on the ground. Therefore an MTS has to employ several means of communication to reach out to key business users and delivery teams (PMs, Release Managers, Analysts, etc) and third parties involved. This has to be in the form of dedicated roadshows, frequent corporate wide emails as well as leverage existing corporate communication resources
- Approach for Test Tools
The MTS needs to scope and review existing test tools and determine licensing needs and infrastructure requirement. A lot of this cannot be realistically achieved as part of the due diligence or business case development for setting up an MTS. Therefore the early stages of an MTS invocation, the focus needs to be on understanding the as-is process. This period should also be utilised to provide education to key project managers on the proposed test tool to be employed and gain feedback. For eg , The HP quality center provides a functionality for Dashboard and metric reporting. Therefore a requirements workshop with key delivery managers can help assess the standard reporting format to be deployed. Furthermore workshops can be held to prepare a standard governance process for the Test tool deployed
- Alignment with Delivery Governance Teams
As testing works with an objective of delivery excellence, this may involve introduction of new business procedures within delivery governance in the IT organisation. For eg, with an MTS a PM or delivery manager now has access to better estimates review for test effort and approach from the MTS. This would thus involve a process change for business case and estimates approval whereby it would be mandatory for new projects being set up to have the test approach and estimates verified by the MTS . Therefore the MTS needs to work closely with the PMO or QA function of the IT organisation to ratify IT business processes and procedures.
In Summary: The increasing focus on managed testing services is advent from the offerings now available from large IT organisations and with dedicated testing consultancy firms that exist today. The MTS is here to stay. With the right approach in implementation, the Managed testing Service is set to be a key enabler for all large organisations driving change.