What is a testing center of excellence (TCoE), and what are its benefits?

Testing Center of Excellence Standup

A testing center of excellence is a structure that allows software testing services to be maintained centrally and shared within a company. This core unit includes expert professionals, standardized testing processes, formal metrics, and required tools. 

TCoE is a combination of tools, QA procedures, and human resources that allow businesses to implement test automation correctly and boost productivity and results. A TCoE can help an organization improve quality, have a shorter time to market, and lower ownership costs. A well-integrated TCoE is able to decrease redundancies and support risk mitigation. It can also help control IT expenses.

Benefits of a TCoE

Why should a TCoE be set up?

When properly set up, a QA center of excellence will help cross-functional groups collaborate, reduce redundancies, streamline various testing processes, and accelerate software testing. A Disys case study found an 80% increase in efficiency by streamlining the implementation of testing cycles.

What benefits will a TCoE bring?

 Organizations can achieve excellence and growth with a well-integrated, complete TCoE strategy. The most striking benefits are:

  • Greater job satisfaction and testing competency.
  • Project timelines are shorter and experience fewer delays.
  • Technology risk is reduced and mitigation plans are better.
  • Spend more time on activities that add value.
  • Standardized assets, such as Test Case Management Systems and test automation frameworks.
  • Better focus on customer experience.
  • A Test Center of Excellence can help foster testing industry best practices.

When are Testing Centers of Excellence useful?

This can be beneficial for many companies with complex organizational structures, which sometimes lead to testers being spread across multiple testing teams and project goals not aligning. There are many other situations in which a QA CoE could be helpful for an organization.

A TCoE could be the perfect solution if you have any of these conditions:

  • Your organization structure is complex: It can be difficult or impossible to standardize the QA process and systems across the organization if testers don’t report to the same manager.
  • You want to track trends and identify common KPIs in software testing: Quality assurance can be challenging for multiple teams, especially when there isn’t one person or a testing team that has this primary focus. Teams can track different KPIs while some do not track any. It can be used to define common metrics across your organization and measure quality, which could help reduce or eliminate problems.
  • Defects are a problem: It can reduce the number of defects throughout your SDLC by standardizing practices and tooling.
  • You want a standardized QA process and tooling between teams: The main purpose of a TCoE is to standardize QA process across testing teams. Normalization reduces the functional testing time required to define and implement multiple variants. It enhances cross-team collaboration about testing best practices and guidelines in test case writing, leveraging specialized automation scripts, and test scenario execution.
  • There is pressure to shift leftWriting, scripting, and executing test cases is a large part of the software development cycle (SDLC). The TCoE eliminates repetitive work across teams and allows them to focus on the most pressing tasks.
  • Your company finds it difficult to hire and onboard testing industry experts: It will establish solid onboarding, recruiting, and hiring protocols. This creates strong testers within your organization who all work together with consistency and improve human resources. Thus, your business increases its software testing competency.
  • You want to encourage innovation and perseverance: The tester’s day is filled with How to Write Test Scriptswriting or scripting test scenarios, executing tests, and reporting on defects. It’s not easy to innovate and improve the way they work in this environment. An Agile Testing Center of Excellence is a way to ensure your company has someone who is dedicated to this important component.
  • You find your testers moving between priorities and projects, which causes them to have to change their deliverables or testing teams often: Customer feedback loops can sometimes lead to constantly churning priorities in agile environments. The key to success is having optimal utilization of your QA team with the ability to move software testing resources quickly. 

What is the Traditional TCoE Structure?

Structure of Testing Center of Excellence

Before jumping into the details of how traditional TCoEs can help or hinder agile testing efforts, let’s first look at how the typical TCoE is structured. The top of the structure has a TCoE Head, followed by a few test architects and managers. The test architects and managers report to the TCoE Head.

The managers and test architects will also be directly responsible for managing three additional roles:

  • Specialists in test design: This role helps the organization plan and determine the best set of test cases. This is a proven way of increasing test efficiency. However, it is rare for organizations to have experts in this area.
  • Manual testers: These individuals manually perform the test scenarios, test planning, functional testing, regression testing, test execution, and other testing functions. This role is held by most employees in the TCoE but is sometimes outsourced to testing services.
  • Test Automation engineers: These individuals are responsible for defining and maintaining automated scripts in organizations. This role creates scripts that automate repeatable tasks and perform automated regression testing.

What is the structure of a Digital Testing Center of Excellence?

The Digital Testing Center of Excellence managerial structure does not differ from the Traditional TCoE team structure. There is however one structural difference. You no longer have manual testers within the centralized TCoE. Testers are now operationally embedded in agile teams (ideally two testers per team of six developers), while still reporting to the TCoE architects and managers to ensure proper alignment and governance. The QA CoE continues to support the testers in all aspects of training, tooling, and technical customizations.

Although this colocation is a significant change for testing resources, it pales in comparison with the changes in the type and level of testing efforts they perform. Automated scripts are now essential for meeting business demands for faster delivery and continuous quality monitoring. This means functional testing must be an integral part of getting every user story and not something that is added on at the end of the development process.

As a result, the core digital testing center of excellence structure has made it a priority to enable rapid and efficient test automation. Automation engineers play a critical role in training manual testers about how to automate testing. Test design specialists aid in identifying the most important test cases to create and automate repeatable tasks. This allows the QA team to achieve the expected test coverage without losing their domain expertise.

How To Set Up a TCoE?

Planning a Testing Center of Excellence

While applying quality management principles, a TCoE framework must consider all aspects of an organization, such as procedures, tools, and people. The best approach for a successful implementation considers the following steps:

  • Define the problems: What you will need to account for in your TCoE. Standardizing test processes and applications should be included at the minimum. Your TCoE can be customized to include the discovery and implementation of new technologies, fostering tool improvement ideas, defining KPIs, and hiring highly skilled QA staff.
  • Identify the people who will be the leaders: Your QA Center of Excellence should consist of a dedicated group of people who represent your software testing practice. Some companies choose to work with outside partners specialized in TCoE services while others do it in-house.
  • Describe your TCoE plan: Each organization has its own needs and desired outcomes. Prioritize the most important areas for your testing centers to focus on.
  • Define the relationship between this group and other teams. This will require leadership buy-in from all levels of your organization. You should consider how the TCoE plans to roll out new tools, tool improvement ideas, or best testing processes, and how they will ensure the protocol is followed. Also, what level of guidance can they give teams if they don’t follow the protocol. This upfront definition will reduce future missteps between your QA team and the TCoE.
  • Document all current methodologies, KPIs, tools, and practices: There will already be a set process that has been agreed upon before implementation. For future reference and onboarding, it is essential to document expectations and have a permanent document repository.
  • Get your teams involved in understanding starting issues: You might have testers not following the pre-established process or using unapproved tools. It is important to engage each QA team in order to validate you understand their needs and any gaps.
  • Communicate within your company: At this stage in your implementation, most people will be familiar with the TCoE. But, don’t assume they know. Everybody in your company should know about the existence of the TCoE, its purpose, and benefits. A great way to spread the word is by holding a lunch and learn on your testing centers of excellence.

What are the Pros & Cons of a TCoE?

You must consider all pros and cons when evaluating whether to create a TCoE framework. 

What are some benefits of implementing a TCoE?

  • All testers will obtain a higher core skill set: Implementing Testing Centers of Excellence will help you develop your testers’ skills through training and innovation. This will lead to higher quality products for customers.
  • Standardization and reduction of complexity in test automation frameworks: You can ensure all QA team members follow the same basic coding standards by having an established automation framework. This allows for shorter scripting cycles and faster execution, reduces time when onboarding new performance testing talent and improves testing quality & coverage. Incidentally, your organization will recognize cost savings. You should check out AccelaTest as it combines manual test lab management tasks and API automation under one tool to simplify and streamline QA processes.
  • Greater agility: Each tester should be required to follow a set framework to allow for priorities to shift quickly. This allows testers to focus on their work and not have to learn new QA processes or tooling. A scaling-up model that uses outsourcing allows individuals to be easily and consistently hired.
  • Continuous Improvement: Modernizing the tooling and QA process is the key component to a comprehensive TCoE. This is why it is important to have a dedicated team focused on this goal. Continuous improvement will ensure your organization operates in a modern testing environment.
  • Save Money: A TCoE consolidates tooling which leads to business units saving a significant amount of money over time. Your business units can save even more time and money by using AccelaTest.
  • Testing costs can be reduced: HCL, which offers testing services, published an article detailing their implementation journey. This resulted in an 11% cost savings.

What hurdles are encountered when implementing a TCoE?

A TCoE may not always be the right choice for your organization. There are a lot of issues that can occur when organizations attempt to use a TCoE to meet critical business processes or demands. Before commencing this transformation, you should be aware:

  • Testing can be delayed due to latency: In traditional methods, testing commences once the feature is complete and delivered to the QA department. It means developers won’t see feedback for weeks or months once they’ve finished a development task. This latency can complicate defect resolution, increased rework, and delay time to market.
  • Testing is slow: Agile builds the application at least daily, and new functionality can always be tested within a few days. Traditional QA testing simply isn’t able to keep up with the rapid pace of technology change. Once developers move to two-week Agile sprints, long test cycles can no longer be feasible.
  • Timezone Challenges: Agile methodologies demand developers and testers to collaborate closely to provide quick feedback. Without the ability to collaborate in cross-functional teams, testers are unable to get a full understanding of each user story’s business and technical aspects. Further, testing from faraway locations can lead to delays in answering and reproducing problems, as well as delays in getting answers.
  • The TCoE can make things more complicated: There is a good chance you have some teams with static Quality Assurance testers. You might have overachieving teams who find standard working methods a hindrance to their success. In either case, adding an extra layer can lead to frustration, compromising quality, and a delayed software release.
  • Inadequate support could cause burnout and lead to failure: If your organization does not support the implementation of a TCoE properly, members could feel discouraged or burned out.

Testing Centers of Excellence Pitfalls

There are certain dangers to be aware of when you start a new venture. These are the pitfalls you need to avoid.

  • Not aligning TCoE targets with organizational outcomes: It is a central group of people working together to promote quality in the organization. All other teams will have to adhere to the TCoE’s outputs. It is only logical your organization’s goals align with the goals of the TCoE.
  • Inadequately defining TCoE’s authority: There will be a Quality Assurance tester or team that fails to follow the process outlined in the TCoE. Failure to give the Test Center of Excellence the ability to enforce guidelines can be counterproductive, leading to low adoption rates, and compromising quality.
  • Insufficient feedback circuits for communication in both directions: A group of people defining testing processes or implementing new tools without the support or guidance of other teams will lead to a failed implementation. All testers should be involved and contribute to the driving of decisions. Early involvement by testing teams is not only important in the beginning but also over time.
  • Building a TCoE of poor communicators or collaborators: The group needs to include people who have a deep understanding of the testing principles. They must also be open to collaboration and communication and freely share knowledge. 
  • Not giving adequate time for implementation of the TCoE: Implementing an Agile Testing Center of Excellence takes time to identify, plan, and execute. You will reap the rewards of planning and ensuring you’ve completed all the steps.

KPIs For a TCoE

You can use a solid set of KPIs to assess whether the TCoE has been adding value to your critical business processes. KPIs are a great way to track your progress as you implement new procedures or improve on existing ones.

Each organization has its own unique set of KPIs, so it is not easy to choose the right KPIs. Consider the size of your company, distribution, and culture of your employees as well as current gaps and challenges when setting your testing center’s KPIs.

Conclusion for Testing Centers of Excellence

A TCoE allows organizations to apply a standard testing process and tooling across multiple teams while ensuring application quality is always a priority. It also helps define and measure KPIs to ensure consistent quality products to customers.

Analyzing your current situation and understanding your gaps are key factors in determining whether a QA CoE is a good fit for your organization.

When you decide to go forward, take the time to outline the specific goals and objectives of your Agile Testing Center of Excellence. Also, ensure people chosen for the job are qualified.

A successful TCoE implementation will require testers with good communication and collaboration skills. These soft skills are in addition to having a solid understanding of Quality Assurance.

AccelaTest offers a completely Free for teams Test Case Management Tool designed with TCoEs in mind. Hurry and claim your free account now and make AccelaTest your testing center’s centralized testing platform and API Testing tool.