Aligning your QA strategy across multiple teams, suppliers, platforms and processes is difficult but non-technical integration is key.

With the ever-growing complexity of the system landscape in all areas of industry, the multiple integrating technologies, applications, hosting solutions and accessible devices, test planning can seem an overwhelming task. The identification of the integration risks associated with the introduction of a new system, interface or even the most minor change to an already complex set of interdependent components, and then trying to test against any downstream impacts is one of the challenges making the testing industry a very interesting place to be.

But the technology is the least of our worries. QA functions and teams need to organise themselves and adapt to the people and process side of change. Large projects or programmes need to take into account the overall QA role, the responsibilities of all to deliver quality is one thing, but primarily organising the test deliverables across multiple test phases, differing supplier processes and methodologies, onshore and offshore teams, whilst minimising duplication must result in a highly optimised coordinated approach. But how?

Never has the formulation of a comprehensive, overarching test strategy been so important for deliveries of these types. Multiple methodologies, supplier processes, differing deliverables can be combined into a highly effective strategy, but not without a desire from all parties involved to contribute, collaborate, compromise, and accept that a level of pragmatism is likely to be required. In our experience however this does not need to result in a quality reduction, but if planned and managed with skill and co-ordination a highly effective hybrid solution can be turned into a benefit.

Taking into account that the domains can be extremely varied we still recommend you consider the following when defining your strategy and approach.

Test Definition Workshop (TDW)

Identify your key contributors across the business, across your suppliers, and key stakeholders and schedule a Test Definition Workshop. Don’t expect to define everything you need in this session but use it as a fact building exercise. What are the delivery methodologies? What do contributors feel is their test delivery scope? What are the key test deliverables and agree common naming conventions? What are the key test inputs for each test supplier? If you can agree at this stage then great, if not at least agree who holds the baton when it comes to delivering the overall test strategy. Explain the overall objective of doing so, and most importantly agree that a collaborative, pragmatic approach will be the one that gives the greatest chance of success.

Test Strategy

Treat this as your key document, ensure it clearly identifies the boundaries of each team. Agree the test phases, (Unit Test, System Test, UAT etc) and agree the RACI matrix identifying who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed for each element within those phases. Share resources, scripts and data sharing can prove invaluable to each connected phase sometimes resulting in the identification of defects prior to execution. Take time to understand where communication is key for example, at handover points between phases, delivering release notes, or during defect calls.   Our experience shows that agreeing these key themes up front makes for a smooth transition between teams and encourages the collaboration we need across the teams.

ScrumFall

Recognise the benefits of each contributing methodology but recognise the needs and requirements of differing delivery workstreams and teams. Working within a Waterfall environment where all work packages are delivered into a full end to end UAT phase we recognise that other supplier methodologies can be more Agile. Treat this as an opportunity, shift left testing can improve the quality delivered into later ‘Waterfall’ test phases, discovering bugs early must be encouraged as long as the key stakeholder recognise the need for full end to end coverage. However optimise, at all times optimise, do not cover scenarios unnecessarily if they have been covered previously in phases.  Be confident in your extended teams, maintain focus on the agreed scope and prioritise the areas by risk.

Defect & Release Management

Do not underestimate the value of effective defect management across multiple streams of activity. Consolidate defect management SLA’s, and co-ordinate defects across all teams.  For external teams agree how defect information will be logged, how defect details (screenshots, logs) will be shared, and agree the SLA’s associated with both investigation analysis, and resolution. It is also key to agree terminology so that when teams discuss a Severity One defect, everyone understands the meaning of this. Defect Managements can only work well when effective release controls are in place. Agree that all releases are defined in a release note, containing a standard set of details across delivering parties. These help teams understand the impact of the changes/fixes, and articulate the risks associated with any release.

Collaborate

Above all else collaboration, open communication, and transparency are the key to successful complex deliveries across multiple suppliers, teams, geographical locations, and timezones.

The technology integration is one thing, but experience suggests this can be controlled more predictably than disparate teams of QA specialists.  Crack the integration of people and teams and the journey will be a successful one.  If you would like any further information then please Contact Us we would love to hear from you.