Exploring Testing Center of Excellence (TCoE)

Ajay Balamurugadas

Posted On: August 16, 2022

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Read time5 Min Read

The effort to get to 90 from 60 marks is relatively easier than going from 90 to 100. As we pursue excellence, the bar for quality rises. Testing Center of Excellence (TCoE) is not a new concept but widely misunderstood. Some think of it as a one stop solution to every testing problem, some associate TCoE with just the governance measures. Sometimes, only innovation is associated with TCoE. Today, let us explore the Testing Center of Excellence and its operations.

What is Testing Center of Excellence (TCoE)

It is an independent body that has the capability and bandwidth to guide, assist, and govern the entire testing practice within the organization. It provides leadership, templates, training, research, guidance, innovation across the testing projects. It is made up of a core team with varied skill sets whose responsibilities include researching on upcoming trends, comparing tools and processes, creating utilities, creating and maintaining frameworks for projects, reviewing project artifacts for adherence to quality measures.

Why do organizations need a Testing Center of Excellence (TCoE)

With organizations delivering more and more projects, there are high chances of inefficiencies creeping in. Everyone uses their own customized templates, each project running its own processes, missing collaboration between teams and creation of more silos. As everyone gets busy in their day to day releases, the organizations miss chances to get ahead of their competition through innovation and good practices.

A Testing Center of Excellence (TCoE) ensures that all projects get started on the right note, follow the governance measures to avoid getting into trouble later, share resources and practices across teams, learn from each other, adopt the innovative and scalable tactics to outsmart the competition and be the market leader. One of the other key focus areas of a TCoE would be to eliminate waste and build a strong future on the foundations of innovation. A TCoE would start providing ROI quickly if persisted through the initial few weeks.

When should organizations plan on a TCoE

As every organization is unique, there is no one time for organizations to start thinking about establishing a TCoE. If your fundamentals are shaky, you need to fix that first. TCoE plays a major role when you want to take that big leap towards the next stage of growth. If your day to day activities are under control, running on auto-pilot mode, are not causing any major issues and you are not looking at growth in the near future, do not think about a TCoE.

For organizations that have reached a stable phase and need to leapfrog their competition, align the loose ends across teams, establishing a TCoE will ensure that the resources are utilized in an optimal manner. It would bring in predictability, efficiency, control, foundation for growth and consistency across the different teams.

Who will be part of the TCoE

The core team should consist of people with the following skills:

  • Strong testing skills
  • Keen interest in upcoming trends
  • Ability to learn quickly
  • Compare and contrast tools and approaches
  • Ability to present a coherent story
  • Audit processes, review artifacts and suggest remedial measures

The team can be anywhere between 3–10 members depending on the organization size and field of play. There have been TCoE with more than 100 members too. It all depends on the maturity of the organization, teams, skill sets and their journey so far.

What should be the reporting structure of a TCoE

Many organizations make the mistake of having the TCoE and delivery teams report to the same manager. As and when the pressure on the delivery teams increases, the TCoE teams are diluted and diverted to manage delivery. In an ideal state, the TCoE should be independent and equally accountable for the key objectives agreed upon. Under no circumstances should the TCoE take over delivery unless it is part of an exercise to understand the on ground reality. Both TCoE and delivery team heads should be independent and report to one common person.

How to operationalize a TCoE

A TCoE should collaborate with multiple teams and stakeholders and have both short term and long term goals. Right from discussing with the sales teams to be aware of the upcoming opportunities, be in touch with the hiring teams to establish the pipeline, working with the delivery teams to understand the project deliverables and processes, collaborating with the marketing team to publish case studies, artifacts, setting targets for the innovation teams to be on top of trends, the scope of a TCoE is spread both wide and deep.

After establishing a TCoE, ensure to monitor the progress and track against the objectives at regular intervals. It might appear to be an overhead initially and it would be tempting to dismantle at the first signs of fires in delivery. DO NOT DO THAT. A well established, maintained TCoE will help prevent further fires in delivery. It will ensure that the entire cycle of sales, hiring, delivery, marketing runs smoothly and on auto-pilot within a few months of operation.

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Ajay Balamurugadas

Ajay Balamurugadas, goes by the handle ‘ajay184f’ in the testing community and is continuously re-inventing his testing methodology. He co-founded Weekend Testing – a worldwide movement for skilled testing, authored multiple books available at bit.ly/booksaj and bit.ly/ajleanpub. His friends associate the terms – ‘Change Agent, Idea Man, Motivational’ to him. He tweets and loves to have long conversations on software testing and life in general. He is currently working at GSPANN Technologies, Inc. as Senior Director – QE. When not testing, he spends time with his wife and two children.

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