Center of Excellence Concept Strategy Case Review.
Many have asked the
question, what needs to happen to build a successful Center of Excellence
for Quality Assurance? Call it a CoE (Center of Excellence), call it a lab,
call it a quality center. Whatever you call it, the concept can be as simple
as the nose on your face, or as complicated as a Rubik's Cube. I'm always
taken back a bit when people ask my "to set up a CoE how long does
it take and what's it cost?".
Over my last six years at a prominent European investment bank, I was tasked
not to build a CoE in the beginning, but it certainly ended up that way.
It was a mission I had to prove that it can work, and it can return big
benefits. It was just a logical choice.
A little background first. The CoE
program teams, supporting approximately 500 test engineers, functioned
with a tech and process core team of 6 and a annual budget of less than
EUR2 million. It was a global virtual lab, meaning there were multiple
centers around the world, all connected via Citrix/VM Ware tunneled
environments on a totally shareable test management repository. Test
automation tools and performance tools were packaged, deployed, hosted,
version controlled, and distributed from multiple centers. Virtual
installations were installed and managed via SMS, WebEx, and Timbuktu
sessions. Boy that's a mouthful wasn't it.
It was a stunning achievement for the
team to have this program offering so much benefit with such a small
core team. Oh, did I mention that we had seven partner offshore vendors
to integrate and support as well? The premise was to use logic, common
sense, and a lot of sweat equity.
Common sense? Common scene coming from
an investment bank is not common. Everything is made complicated,
(because they feel it should be-another story for another day). Call it
spiritual, call it soul searching, I did learn lot's about Hindu
religion along the way, particularly about
Saraswati. I also referred back to a great book for inspiration,
Good to Great. Might be a few things to look into if you're on a
The European Bank CoE project took
approximately one month to design, six months to implement, and another
six months to tune. I estimate that we had a fully functioning
enterprise CoE from concept to reality up and running in less than a
Each of the topics that I'll cover are
fairly straight forward and are listed in no particular order. Just like
building a CoE, be prepared to be flexible, you need to review/adjust
your thinking, management, monitoring, and tinkering with the plan.
There are two ways to
get buy-in. Either the CEO funds and dictates it....or you need a pool of
Program Managers willing to create the mini-center that can eventually be
sold as the model to the rest of the enterprise. There's challenges in both
models. Those who have the "top-down" environment argue that middle
management won't buy in (and they fight it). The
suggestion: make them an offer they can't refuse. I have one word for
that....pressure. No seriously, the word is subsidize. Get senior
management to underwrite portions of the program so that the project
managers will be enticed to join. Then offer pieces of the QA process
that they'd normally have to spend themselves. It's a great carrot. A
bonus is always better than a bill.
Being a global IT organization with people literally
everywhere, the model needed to have a strong infrastructure
(secure/scalable) . this is why the
software packing platforms are so important. There's nothing worse than having
desktop issues burning Support Desk time. Whether you're
concentrated on one floor, or in 50 buildings in 15 countries, we found
that one of the most important aspects of the data movement was the
network itself. Make sure it's monitored regularly because there's going
to be a lot of finger pointing when your automated tests start failing
due to the timeouts going way beyond those set on the scripts. And it's
usually a bandwidth issue.
Are you a big into outsourcing? Outsourcing was
masive for this engagement. 80% external, distributed all over the
world. One issue that we couldn't control, was that we needed to
integrate any/all vendors that Program Managers requested (another case
study in it's own right). Not a problem as long as they're dealing with
the same process guidelines as everyone else. So we had to build those
guidelines, train them, and support them as well.
Don't even try to build a CoE without tools.
There are lots of tools out there to choose from and you might have your
favorites. If you have to support automation, performance, test case
management, defect tracking, map to configuration management, time
management, and Process Management systems, you better have a common
platform of tools that integrate (that was our core competency of the
CoE). No one did it better than this team did! It was pure pleasure
having a team of guys so dedicated to making this concept come to life.
And to be honest, a globally virtual CoE is not an easy task. Mercury
Interactive certainly was challenged on a regular basis by the team. Not
to mention VM Ware and Citrix. They also got some heavy lumps during the
process. Also, I can't tell you how many free meals I had to give to the
Technology and Infrastructure groups that I didn't control. Take care of
them! They're your life blood!
Very simple point on ROI. Manage it. Dissect it. Keep on top of it. Make
sure that your always know where your money is, interpret it, and get
this information into measurable financial information. ROI is based on
the efficiencies you're creating. Not just the actual savings, but there
are tremendous intangible cost savings that need to be recognized. Your
not performing QA, you're in the BUSINESS of QA! Never forget that this
is a business and you have to run it like a business.
Take for example using one set of tools. If you have one
central tools group managing, deploying, and integrating common tools
across the CoE, then think about how many man-month Proof of Concepts
(PoC's) you'd prevent.
Enough said. The program was a tremendous challenge, but
it went global, went live, built to expectations, and was a program that
each of the team members could be very, very proud.
Best of luck to you if you're
venturing out to create a CoE of your own.
I couldn't have done it without you all.
Special thanks go out to the entire team...
Muhammad Khan - SocGen
Leslie Moore- Accenture
Shaun Abrahams- European Bank
Oded Sapir - Retired
Jason Taylor - European Bank
Sandhya Patangay- RelQ
Ameur Djaffri - CSFB / Cresta
Chris Masino - HP/Mercury New York office
The entire Mercury Israel Development Team
The entire European bank Infrastructure Team
Enterprise CoE Designer/Program Manager
T3 Consortium LLC is a specialist in global Quality Assurance Center of Excellence (CoE) design and
implementation. Let us prove it for your business.
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