A Testing Centre of Excellence is all about uniformity and continuity

June 13, 2018

Testing Centre of Excellence (TCoE), by Iya Datikashvili, director

No two things are ever the same. Whether it’s a piece of software, members of a testing team, or varying managerial styles, everyone and everything is always slightly different, and it is these differences that can cause problems. In the testing world, one of the biggest challenges facing organisations is how to achieve an efficient and robust testing service model across their entire IT department without introducing operational risk. One new and attractive solution to this issue is to adopt a Testing Centre of Excellence (TCoE).

So, what is a TCoE and what are its benefits? A TCoE is a team, shared facility, or entity, that provides governance, leadership, best practices, support and training across the organisation’s software testing efforts. It consists of testing specialists and assets that can be used to appropriately leverage testing knowledge, technology, methodology and resources to all testing engagements.

Establishes governance and oversight

The aim of a TCoE is to manage and maintain operational control to achieve increased efficiency and productivity. It optimises manual, automated, and non-functional testing practices and resources to increase quality across applications, and reduce the overall cost of testing services in a systematic, repeatable and predictable manner. To put it simply, a TCoE establishes governance and oversight, as well as a common set of standards and practices by which the testing entity will operate.

There are a variety of reasons for establishing a TCoE, including to increase efficiency and quality, to reduce the overall cost of testing services, or to transfer management risk and accountability of the testing services to a central group. Whatever the focus, the planning phases and implementation processes are crucial.

Before delving in to the specifics of building a TCoE, it is important to mention that a TCoE can have different operating models. It can be outsourced as a managed service or established as an internal service model. In either case, it is recommended that an organisation partners with a vendor that specialises in establishing TCoEs to help implement the programme.

As a managed service

A TCoE as a managed service establishes a partnership with a managed Quality Assurance (QA) service provider in order to benefit from their specialised testing capabilities and to transfer management responsibilities. The service provider takes care of all software testing needs and requirements, including staffing, delivery, programme management and thought leadership. The service provider sets up a dedicated TCoE customised to the organisation’s needs, takes ownership of QA projects and tasks, and ensures that uniform testing standards are implemented across the organisation. The model is scalable and flexible and offers onshore, nearshore, and offshore resourcing options as required by the business.

Internal service model

With the TCoE as an internal service model, the entire QA requirement is set up and managed internally within the organisation, in line with a governance model that encompasses strategies with common practices, methodologies, tools, and assets. Similar to the TCoE as a manged service, TCoE as an internal service sets up a dedicated testing unit customised to the organisation’s needs, takes ownership of QA projects and tasks, and ensures that uniform testing standards are implemented across the organisation. The responsibility for staffing, resource management, programme management and thought leadership remains with the organisation itself. Although this model can also be flexible, offering onshore, nearshore and offshore resourcing, it is relatively harder to scale by comparison to a manged service model, and is much more dependent on the organisation’s global presence.

TCoE benefits

While the management framework between the two TCoE models is different, the driving factors for the models are based on similar principles and should effectively provide the same benefits:

  • Centralised testing process, governance and escalation mechanisms
  • Decreased costs due to increased efficiencies
  • Lower technology risk and increased customer satisfaction owing to improved quality
  • Increased capacity due to efficiency gains
  • Predictable deliverables: on-time, on-budget, high-quality
  • Standardised, reusable and proven testing assets applied uniformly across the organisation
  • Reduced exposure to risks associated with SME transition, training and retention, and attrition
  • Specialised and core competency units, such as automation and non-functional testing, managed as a horizontal shared practice across all projects
  • Transparency in programme-wide Quality of Service (QoS) achieved by periodic quality maturity assessments
  • Streamlined project ramp-up capabilities

Game changer

Organisations looking to partner with a vendor to implement a TCoE need to perform due diligence on the vendor’s testing strategies and expertise within those strategies, particularly in relation to automation. Automation is a game changer when it comes to delivering quality while also shortening the development and test lifecycles, and should be a relentless focus of the testing centre. It is a differentiating factor between the success or failure of the entire TCoE implementation.

Once an organisation has secured executive support for the transition to a TCoE model, the next steps are to develop the target-state structure, outline an implementation roadmap and risk-mitigation plans, and to ensure the TCoE operating model is aligned with the needs of the business.

While the benefits of implementing a TCoE model are many, in order for the transition to be successful, the implementation strategy should be based on stakeholder buy-in, cross-functional team collaboration, and have a focus on ensuring minimal disruption to existing operations. Without this structure, the main benefits of TCoE implementation will struggle to be realised.

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