TCOE: Building a Quality Framework with Business Process Testing
A growing trend. Today, many large enterprises embrace a “center of excellence” model by forming teams to accelerate the deployment of innovation, and ensure the quality of critical business processes and systems. Typically, these teams fall within an IT or Quality organization and are managed as a budgeted line item. This trend is a departure from the past when business process testing and software quality assurance were managed on a “one-off” project basis – or not at all.
What is triggering the growth in centers of excellence? Now more than ever, enterprises are tasked with introducing new technologies and systems at record speed – SAP S/4HANA®, digital, mobile, and cloud technologies are in demand, driving the pace of change. This pressure is forcing enterprises to test at an increasing rate, even as budget and staff constraints grow ever tighter. The trend also means increased emphasis on end-to-end business process testing to minimize disruption when technology changes are introduced. Shortcuts can lead to quality issues and operational problems that organizations must avoid.
Real business benefits. A center of excellence for software testing provides a framework for agile methodologies, eliminates redundancies, ensures high business process quality, and reduces risk to the organization. In a recent industry survey, over 40% of companies that use SAP® disclosed that they either have a TCOE in place, or have plans to start one soon. For many Fortune 1000 firms, it’s the best approach to reduce IT costs, accelerate innovation, sharpen testing competency, and improve quality – all at the same time.
The goal of any TCOE is to accelerate the delivery of innovation, while driving down the risk and cost of change.
Moving Up the Maturity Curve
Large initiatives frequently fail. Most companies aren’t willing to invest broadly in a new area until an initial project proves value. The best strategy is to achieve success incrementally, choose projects carefully, and allow your TCOE to mature organically as you gain competency in test automation.
Perhaps you’ve been testing manually for a while, and know you need a change. Maybe your workload has become overwhelming, or the budget is under pressure. You may have even completed a project and experienced a major software glitch or critical business outage.
Regardless of what led you to consider the TCOE model, the experience of others can be helpful. Worksoft has seen many companies move along a proven path to establishing testing as a competency and achieving enterprise adoption – along with the dramatic business benefits that follow.
Step 1 Set up a solid foundation
The first step is to understand how your organization is ensuring the quality of business processes today. When and how are systems being tested? How are end-to-end business processes validated? When new technology is deployed, how does your organization know that critical processes will continue to work as intended? What type of testing talent is in place?
The following assessment focuses on four aspects of preparedness:
People – How can you establish and nurture automation skills in your organization?
Process – What processes should be added or altered as you establish a formal testing competency?
Technology – What tools and technologies should be deployed as a part of this competency?
Enterprise Landscape – What unique challenges, projects, and initiatives is your company facing?
- SAP S/4HANA® or major SAP® upgrades
- Other major enterprise application changes (Workday, Salesforce, ServiceNow, SuccessFactors, etc.)
- Acquisitions, mergers, reorganizations or consolidations
- New digital, mobile, cloud or custom web apps
- Recent business process disruptions caused by technology failures
- Issues with the adoption rate of specific technologies
- Project delays or budget overruns
Also consider: What are your most important objectives for a TCOE?
- Lower technology risk, Faster projects and on-time, on-budget execution
- Increased business process quality; catching more defects before they impact production
- Enabling Agile DevOps and “Shift Left” methodologies
- Faster required legal, HR, and compliance documentation
- Increased ability to execute new innovation
- Lower resource costs, systems maintenance costs, and increased staff efficiency
- Lower stress, increased staff job satisfaction, higher retention, and greater productivity
Step 2 Start with a project, learn, prove and succeed – incrementally
Most large companies want to prove a new approach before making a big investment or significant organizational changes. So start with a small project to demonstrate the value of end-to-end business process testing. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to demonstrate the value of the TCOE model – and today’s automation solutions make that a straightforward proposition.
For the typical starting project, you should be prepared to:
- Install and configure the updates, enhancements, or new technology that you plan to test using an automation platform, like Worksoft Certify®
- Identify the critical business processes to be tested
- Educate and train your team on the selected test automation platform
- Capture identified processes in the automation system and design functional tests
- Validate processes again and again over the course of the project
- Use business process documentation (automatically generated by Worksoft Certify) for staff training, regulatory compliance, and other purposes
Typically, one successful project is all that is required to demonstrate the value of test automation – and to gain widespread organizational support for investing in testing as a competency.
This Fortune 500 manufacturer releases critical changes and enhancements to its SAP® system once per year. After a recent release, its largest international distribution center could not ship product for 12 hours. The problem was traced back to poor and inadequate testing of the international shipping business process. Awareness of the issue quickly reached both the CIO and CEO.
The manufacturer has since developed a TCOE. Error prone manual quality assurance processes have been replaced by comprehensive end-to-end business process testing. This approach has dramatically expanded coverage of their quality assurance activities to more than 700 global business processes. The time required to test processes has been reduced from 14 days using 55 testers to about one day with one tester. Today, the company is well prepared for continuous software release cycles, and has dramatically reduced its risk of future technology related business disruptions.
Step 3 Build a TCOE Program
Establish automated business process testing as a competency
Organizations that build a competency in end-to-end business process testing can expect to maximize ROI from QA initiatives, increase the efficiency of critical resources, minimize unplanned disruptions, accelerate innovation, and promote a culture of continuous quality throughout the enterprise.
The work of the TCOE must be managed like any other significant business asset – as an integrated set of repeatable activities focused on producing positive outcomes. Implementing an effective TCOE undoubtedly requires the adoption of the right set of tools. But software alone isn’t enough to guarantee success. Selecting – and effectively managing – the right people, processes, and technology is essential.
Here are the most important factors for ensuring TCOE success:
Establish a leadership structure with an executive sponsor, steering committee, IT and business subject matter experts, and team members dedicated to the project.
Select a top ranked automation platform for business process testing, such as Worksoft Certify®.
Manage the TCOE like a project with an established charter, carefully defined success criteria, clear role definitions, and objectives.
Identify target automation initiatives. After completing an initial project, you will have a library of tests to work with. This test library can easily be leveraged for re-use, and may help determine future quality initiatives.
Establish an organizational structure. Most organizations elect to centralize some element of the competency through a TCOE, and then deploy some degree of an Agile methodology. When will the TCOE enable other teams to develop independent test automation proficiency? When will the TCOE actually build and execute automation for the business?
Develop best practices. As TCOE talent gains experience, document and communicate best practices for naming conventions, change management, and the design and execution of tests.
Step 4 Enterprise level adoption
Establish executive sponsorship. The single most important success factor in enterprise adoption of test automation and the TCOE is strong top level sponsorship and an execution champion. Broad enterprise success can be difficult to achieve without strong leadership.
Prioritize key projects. The best way to evolve from a single project into a program with broad adoption is by selecting the right projects for automated testing.
Develop a roadmap. Make sure your entire organization is aware of the TCOE’s capabilities. Develop a roadmap of work that can be addressed with the testing competency. As this stage you should be ready to prioritize and develop an organizational talent map.
Measure results. Many companies fall short in measurement, analytics and metrics. Are you keeping track of defect rates and KPIs? Is your coverage of business processes increasing?
Communicate your success. Nothing speeds adoption like success. Cost savings, efficiency gains, stories of on-time projects, faster innovation, and technology land mines identified and avoided are just a few of the benefits you can expect to achieve. A steady stream of successful projects will ramp up the momentum, recognition, and ultimately, adoption of the TCOE approach.
Organizations that adopt the TCOE model typically realize these benefits:
- Significant cost savings, sometimes in the millions of dollars annually when used alongside automated business process testing
- Lower technology risk, less chance of business disruption with technology changes, and fewer defects in production
- Shorter project timelines, fewer project delays, and faster deployment of innovation
- Higher staff job satisfaction and greater talent retention through the elimination of highly repetitive tasks
The window of opportunity is now open for operating companies to seize the benefits of a TCOE built on automated business process testing. The window of competitive advantage will likely close in the medium term, as automation and Agile methodologies continue to become more broadly adopted.