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Test Transformation Journey : Testing Center of Excellence & Beyond

Madhu Nair, Director Software Testing, OneAmerica
Madhu Nair, Director Software Testing, OneAmerica

Madhu Nair, Director Software Testing, OneAmerica

A few years back, our testing practice started its transformation journey as we moved from three divisional silos to a single centralized unit, as a part of IT modernization and a move to a Service Delivery model. This was a great opportunity to transform the test organization to meet the challenges of delivery in a fast-paced, complex environment for our growing financial services company.

We started by doing an assessment of where we stood, identifying gaps compared to our vision. Next, we built a roadmap to move the practice toward our vision of a mature testing organization. Our initial focus was on setting up the foundation of a mature test organization. Our intent was that once we have the foundational pieces and common lexicon for the testing practice, we would be well-situated to accelerate our path to maturity and efficiency.

The testing practice was centralized using the principles of Testing Center of Excellence (TCoE) model. The primary objective was to bring all the testers under one umbrella. Focus groups were built to deliver the framework for the CoE. We built and implemented a SQA testing playbook with:

• Testing Processes – Defined Standardization
• Testing Community – Growing Testing Competency
• Tools & Templates – part of standardization, stepping stone to optimization
• Testing Focus groups - Focus groups to research and help take testing to next level
• Testing Governance

The core benefit of the TCoE model is the promise of increased productivity through standardization and governance around implementation of the testing lifecycle, processes and tools and templates across multiple divisional silos.

  Our team members are now more engaged and are well-situated to accelerate, adapt and adopt to bring testing efficiencies. This is because of our investment in the key differentiator -- our hybrid TCoE model  

This laid a good foundation, but with the industry and our enterprise moving from waterfall to agile, the same reasons that made TCoE successful in a traditional waterfall methodology were, to a certain extent, not optimal when it came to the modern agile world. 

The traditional concept of a TCoE was more of a centralized, specialized, and independent testing service unit where the testers and developers did not share goals of delivering software solutions. This caused delays and communication challenges in the already time-sensitive world of agile efforts with two-week sprints. Faster feedback and cycle time improvements were critical to the outcomes and timely delivery.

While the TCoE model helped, we were not making exponential gains in meeting the expectations of the delivery teams in an agile world. As part of innovation and continuous improvement, we blended the best practices of a TCoE (standards and framework)with testers being distributed on agile delivery teams. They were supported and enabled with the standards, process, and templates from the TCoE, along with mentoring and training from the community of practice but their primary team, or “team one,” was the delivery team.

Being a part of the core delivery team, they were invested in the success of the team. Feedback and turnover were quicker. They were part of the core team, the champions for quality. We saw testers able to push the shift-left concepts and work with the product owners to ensure clarity of the acceptance criteria. Collaboration with the developers for automated unit and business rules tests, increasing unit testing coverage, improved.

We still have a long way to go in this transformative journey and will continue in our quest to be the best in class, continue working on key areas such as automated testing framework (e.g. – BDD),shift-left & continuous integration, and researching AI in testing concepts. 

Our team members are now more engaged and are well-situated to accelerate, adapt and adopt to bring testing efficiencies. This is because of our investment in the key differentiator -- our hybrid TCoE model. We have an engaged and enabled test community comprised of empowered test associates with the tools and techniques of a tester but integrated in the delivery teams as a core member of their “team one,” the delivery team.
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