Birth of a Test Factory

This post is going to the first of a series of post’s; that will relay the journey that I took together with a fantastic team in creating a world class Testing capability team.

In the making of the Test Factory I used the metaphor “you need to walk before you can run” combined with the evolutionary path that a child goes through from baby, to toddler, to angry and confused teenager, and finally, happy graduate.

Let’s begin at the beginning; A few years back I handed a fantastic challenge, It was gigantic, and exciting. I would be engaged to create a Testing Capability strategy. The objective of the Testing Capability was to support a massive transformation program that was to be executed over 1000 days with a change capital of £ 150 million. I was in awe and gobsmacked, I did not fully understand what was being asked of me, and I most certainly did not understand why on earth they wanted me..

Never the less I picked up my suitcase and travelled to the client site the first to occur of many trips over the next couple of years.

Initially, I was being asked to write the strategy that would ensure that every single change going through the program would be tested in an End2End Business process critical approach. As asked, so I did. 8 weeks later the strategy was ready with a complete manuscript, guidelines and processes. My work had finished It was time for me to go home….

About 4 weeks later the phone rang, could I please come back and help with the implementation and execution of the strategy?

Who could say no to that, not I

The Test factory was in it is making. I had never done this, but I was convinced that it could be done, others had done it before me, so why not ….

What I didn’t realise, was that building a test capability that would be able to handle 26 programs with 115 projects in an Edn2End Business Process testing method, would take a lot more organization that I had ever done. I needed to rethink my strategy and think outside the box, building the test strategy was one thing but building the capability was quite different.

I would have to put a Strategy together that would define the Roadmap for the build of the testing capability along with a Target operating model that would help me in supporting the transformation program, and get buy in from the executive team and the program stakeholders. It was essential to be involved at the inception of the change/business idea.

This organisation was not that much different than other organisations the Business test team existed, but never engaged until right at the end, and no one asked for estimates, and it was typically a place where one would be shipped off to before made redundant. The team would, based on mistrust to IT, but also to a lack of skills test everything; there was no prioritisation of the effort required.

For me that was the ultimate challenge, I would walk the mile and do what ever it takes to make it happen.

I know that some may be ticked of by the use of the terminology Test Factory, let me try to explain why I use that terminology.

We where facing a Program that would at any given time throughout the 1000 days it took to complete it, on average there was 38 projects in the making anywhere in the testing lifecycle. The Team initially consisted of 25 individuals and grew over a period of 12 months to 130 team members, some permanently employed, the majority contractors. The team consisted of 30 Test Managers and 100 Test Analysts in four different locations on- and offshore.

I needed a structure that would enable me to harness the obvious benefits of reuse and increased efficiency though scalability, but also provide complete transparency of capability required in skills and numbers. It should also provide me with the ability to see the interdependencies and touch points between the projects that provided value to me and the program director in the planning process, and finally others outside the Testing team should be able to recognize us and remember us so that we would be involved as early as possible.

When building the Test factory I used solutions that had worked for me in the past. The solutions implemented are by no means the requirements for defining a test factory, but can serve as a guideline for taking into consideration when defining a similar structure. These solutions did enable me with almost no budget to become a respected Test Management group within the organisation that would be involved in the business case development. We even managed to get paragraph in the overall business plan as well as the annual report for the company.

To be continued..