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How To Develop An Effective Enterprise Test Strategy At Any Organization
Insufficient testing and QA can lead organizations down a dangerous path plagued by silos and wasted time, money, and effort. A decentralized testing strategy breeds inconsistencies that can grow over time and rack up thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs. Organizations that don’t have an Enterprise-level Test Strategy (ETS) are finding that they’re paying a steep long-term price for even minor strategical inefficiencies.
Rolling out an ETS has many advantages. At a minimum, it helps standardize test operations, creates common goals and success criteria, ensures the establishment of industry best practices, and lays out a vision, policy, and general testing principles.
However, rolling out an ETS in a multi-vendor, multi-technology, complex business process landscape has many challenges. In a worst-case scenario, organizations often ignore the need for enterprise-level strategy; and in a common scenario for many organizations, they have begrudgingly adopted an ill-fitting strategy that doesn’t truly address its needs.
5 Tips For Developing an Enterprise Test Strategy
Despite these challenges, there is a better way to roll out a successful, scalable Enterprise Test Strategy. Here, I’ve compiled a list of my best advice for developing an ETS from the ground up based on past experience. Consider these the “steps to success” to help your business develop a fail-proof strategy:
1. Form your team and treat it as a regular client-facing project
Treat the ETS as a product, the teams and vendors as stakeholders, and encourage continuous adoption, compliance, and improvement of the strategy as it is developed and deployed. Go through the process of identifying stakeholders as you would for a normal product development plan. The team of stakeholders should always own its own ETS, from initial build all the way to implementation and maintenance. Work with outside consultants or test specialists to help develop perspective, as well as standards and best practices, but ownership of the strategy should remain with the enterprise itself.
2. Get organized with EPICS and user stories
EPICS, also known as the “big chapters,” will be the overarching roadmap for the project. This step should not be overlooked or done half-heartedly. Examples of EPICS could include:
- Defining the enterprise’s mission, policy, and goals of creating an ETS
- Outlining the operating model, roles and responsibilities, governance model, scope, etc.
- Defining the testing methodology, approach, automation, and other focus details
- Addressing non-functional testing – such as performance, security, usability, etc.
- Test process management
- Advanced techniques as part of vision
Once you’ve created your EPICS, create user stories for each of the chapters, and identify the right stakeholders needed for each chapter. Create a sprint backlog and prioritize the user stories that can be implemented and rolled out every 2 weeks or so, and identify the dependencies. Focus on a detailed roadmap for releases as well as a communication plan for the ETS. The ETS strategy team should work on releasing the user stories completed in the sprint to the larger organization.
3. Follow a workshop approach with stakeholders
For example, a sprint in the first EPIC would focus on setting the quality mission, vision, policy, and goals, and would ideally include a workshop with senior leadership to identify the challenges and define these criteria. The workshop would ensure that the stakeholders have agreed upon the common applicability of objectives. The takeaways from the workshop could be used by the team to outline the measurement criteria for training and adoption/compliance within the organization.
4. Allow for customizations. Standardization is desirable, but not at the expense of team individuality, productivity and innovation – so ensure that the mandatory elements are included at a minimum, along with customized features that address your enterprise’s specific requirements.
5. Follow the same process for rest of the EPICS and user stories, and for some of the finer details
Details like design, execution, customization, etc. should include input from the actual practitioners. Scheduled workshops should focus on addressing why the process needs to be standardized and nailing down the specifics. Important questions to ask include:
- What aspects of the testing process should be mandatory?
- How will the new process be implemented?
- Who in the organization will be held accountable for implementing and evangelizing the process?
Ideally, the target timeframe should be one chapter per two weeks. Keep a support line open, conduct periodic trainings, track change requests, and publish improvement plans as needed. Continuously measure the strategy’s effectiveness, and make sure someone owns reporting feedback to the rest of the team. Update the test strategy regularly and at pace with the evolving needs of the enterprise.
Remember, quality is a continuous process. Though it may seem like a daunting undertaking, organizations should be eager to implement an ETS as soon as possible if one is not already in place. The long-term benefits far outweigh the consequences, as IT failures can be very harmful to your organization. An ETS can significantly improve an organization’s alignment with its business goals and vision, as well as improve customer satisfaction with efficient and effective software solutions.