Testing Centers of Excellence & Standardized QA Processes

Amy E Reichert

Posted On: June 30, 2022

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Read time8 Min Read

TCoE or Testing Centers of Excellence refers to creating, supporting, and training QA testers using standardized testing procedures and processes. Long referred to as the QA Process, TCoEs are useful for establishing test organization in an Agile development environment.

Agile testing teams are usually automation focused but often become chaotic, and inefficient when it is time to train team members or switch QA testers to different Agile teams. After all, without organization, each QA team member within an Agile team tends to make their processes. When changing teams or trying to train new QA testers, it becomes difficult to manage and learn yet another new process.

Making QA testing more efficient and effective, while giving QA testing greater business value means supporting and nurturing a strong TCoE.

Key Takeaways:

  • What does TCoE or testing center of excellence mean?
  • Keys to creating an organized and effective testing team.
  • Learn the ways standardized testing methods improve software quality.
  • How to create an effective TCoE within an Agile development team?
  • Find out the benefits of standardizing QA testing processes in a TCoE.
  • Discover how effective and efficient testing is when it’s part of the development effort rather than a support function only.

This guide describes what a TCoE is, how to create one within your organization, and the benefits a TCoE provides for the software development team. Additionally, this guide provides information on building a cohesive, organized, and flexible QA testing team by utilizing a TCoE.

What is a Testing Center of Excellence (TCoE) in Software Development?

The TCoE is the center of QA testing activity. It’s the standardized or organized process documentation, training, and support center for QA testers.

In an Agile development team, the QA tester typically performs testing for one, two, or even more teams. Additionally, testers are often moved to a different team depending on the need or workload. There’s certainly nothing wrong with flexibility, the problem is when teams have different work processes, rules, or procedures. Changing teams takes the focus off testing and puts it on spending time figuring out what to do.

For example, when working do you lose focus, attention, and time when you are forced to switch gears often? How often is too often? When teams are testing and operating under different processes and expectations, or worse – no process at all, how does a new QA team member get started without wasting time struggling to catch up or catch on? The answer lies in establishing a common goal and work processes as a team. The TCoE is the repository of process information and knowledge. One can think of it as a library of all the information a QA tester needs to execute testing both effectively and efficiently.

The types of processes standardized in a TCoE include:

  • Defect Entry
  • Defect Tracking tool procedures or instruction
  • Manual testing procedures and techniques
  • Manual test examples
  • Manual testing tool use instruction
  • Automated test development procedures
  • Automated test examples
  • Automated tool use instructions
  • QA role definitions and description

Successful TCoEs have full support both in words and actions of development management. TCoEs are meant to improve quality using continuous improvement methods and by increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the QA testing team.

The TCoE has to be owned and operated as an independent voice for application quality. Typically, a QA Lead or Senior QA manages a team of QAs responsible for implementing processes, educating the QA team, and keeping documentation up to date. QAs may serve in a TCoE committee for example, and review processes after each release, quarterly, or yearly. The point is that the TCoE creation and evolution is the responsibility of a team, not an individual, regardless of ranking.

Benefits of Standardized QA Processes

Organized testing improves testing speed and effectiveness. Testers, developers, and the rest of the development team know what to expect from testing. Testers themselves better understand the tasks to execute and spend more time testing than trying to figure out how to test.

QA testers can better focus on providing quality test execution in the early development stages rather than waiting for developer code to drop. More time and focus on testing, the more defects are found and the scope, breadth, and depth of testing increases.

Organized testing with a TCoE does not mean testers lose creativity or innovation. Creativity, innovation, and imagination in finding and locating defects are critical to testing success. Standard procedures provide the backbone of testing procedures to follow, they don’t limit the testing effort. Organized testing is easier to track, document, prove, and eliminates wasted time spent trying to figure out how to test.

Other benefits of standardized QA Processes via a TCoE include:

  • Ability to move team members without the need for training.
  • Increased business value with a knowledgeable team of testers.
  • Organized testing to ensure testing coverage and depth.
  • Known procedures eliminate guesswork and re-work.
  • Being part of the TCoE committee builds leadership and training skills.
  • Improved adherence to release schedules
  • Consistent tool use

How to Create a TCoE?

Creating a ToCE can be as simple as using a Dropbox folder, or other shared, secured accessible digital storage folder and storing procedures within it. Many test management or development tools include a library or repository function that can be utilized for accessing and storing TCoE data or deliverables.

Make sure users cannot delete or edit the TCoE folders or data. As a team, create the committee team and get started on creating processes and procedures that apply. Include team members from development and product, if possible, to include varying views and testing expertise. The committee works best when it’s a mixed group of QA experience from beginners to seniors. Innovation comes from diversity and inclusion of different ideas, views, opinions, and experiences. Use it to build a strong TCoE team.

Steps to creating a successful TCoE also include:

  • Defining tools for tasks such as defect management and test development.
  • Developing processes with intuitive detail for new users to follow and understand.
  • Ensuring easy accessibility and understanding for all users across the software development team.
  • Keep processes clear, succinct, direct, and to the point. Clear and accurate communication is the goal.

Keys to Creating a Cohesive, Organized, and Effective QA Team

A function of a TCoE is providing education and support for QA testers around processes and procedures to follow regardless of the team they’re assigned to. Another aspect of TCoE leadership is making the QA voice heard and respected. Being a part of every development conversation and decision is critical.

A TCoE and the QA testers within the team need to be part of the development process as a whole, rather than playing a support role. Ownership and accountability for QA testers increase when testers are included within the development team rather than viewed as an outsider, or as an unnecessary support role. Being an integral part of application development improves QA tester engagement, focus, energy, and enthusiasm for providing effective and efficient testing.

Inclusive and diversity benefit team innovation, and cohesiveness. Diversity and inclusion affect not only factors like race or gender, but also include experience levels, roles, and leadership skills. Team members contribute more when they have a variety of experiences to share concerning work, life, management, and software development.

TCoE & Creating a Successful Agile Software Development Team

TCoE focuses on organizing the QA testing process and procedures. However, an effective TCoE benefits the entire Agile software development team. By moving QA out of a support role and into an active part of overall development, there’s an increased chance of finding defects and discrepancies in both code and design early in the development cycle. Finding issues early reduces costs and chaos while improving release quality.

Organized testing in a TCoE assists development teams in moving QA testing resources where needed, whenever a move is needed. With standardized processes, QA testers already understand the expected outcome of their work and can focus on testing rather than struggling to follow new rules or guidelines.

Overall, a development team works more cohesively when processes are organized and standardized. By reducing the chaos, application code quality increases as does team productivity. Continuous improvement eliminates stagnation in procedures and processes and keeps innovation actively flowing. Less stress and active, engaged team members result in more releases that are on time, on budget, and an application with higher quality for users.

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Amy E Reichert

Amy E Reichert is a Freelance writer for a variety of topics focused mainly on QA testing, Agile, and technology trends. Amy has 23 years of professional experience as a QA Engineer/Analyst within the ERP, healthcare, and business management sectors. Many years of developing test process, leading diverse and inclusive teams as well as testing on mobile and web applications.

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