I was recently approached about starting a testing organization for a company in the Midwest. The task is a large initiative, and one that not many people get an opportunity to partake in. Most managers are asked to re-organize, maintain, or grow a previously existing organization, and very few have the privilege to start from the ground up and build an organization. It is not only an incredible privilege to build a testing organization, but an extreme challenge in today’s fast paced, ever-changing market.

Through documenting the plan for comprehensively building the organization, it occurred to me that the concepts employed can be extrapolated to apply to re-organization initiatives, or growth analysis, and can provide a thought structure for analysis of any testing organization.

The framework to build a testing department uses a step-by-step approach, which begins with gaining an understanding into a multitude of facets the fledgling organization will encounter on a regular basis. Overall, the test manager needs to gain an understanding of key components of the business and IT organization, and develop a strategy for testing within. These concepts vary in size and complexity from company to company, but an understanding of the details directly feeds into building a strategy for success.

First, the test manager must become familiar with the projects that his or her team will be responsible for testing. This starts by gaining an understanding of specifics related to the project and the project management processes. These elements are crucial for developing the shape the testing organization needs to take. In order to move forward with organizational creation, a test manager needs to ask some critical questions. Who are the stakeholders? How much custom code is being developed? What are the project timelines and what is the current project budget?

Second, test managers must work to understand the IT organizations objectives, its role within the company, and the management team. When building an organization that falls within the overarching IT organization, it is important to fit in appropriately. This does not mean that the test manager’s ideals and concepts always need to adhere to the IT organization’s wishes, but rather that the team, and testing organization as a whole blend well with the missions of the IT organization.

Third, the test manager must understand the business organization, and its culture. Much like striving to fit into the IT organization, the testing department will ultimately become a part of the business, and therefore must align with its culture and mission. To build this understanding, the manager can review information pertaining to the business processes employed by the company, and details about how the company earns its revenue. Additionally, gain an appreciation of what the market looks like for the company, how it competes, and who its top competitors are. To understand where the company is going in the future, review its mission, goals, and strategies set forth to meet those goals.

An additional aspect to consider when building a testing organization is resourcing. Managers should understand what the hiring constraints are, and what additional options exist for staffing your organization. Re-using internal resources does help reduce hiring costs, but project initiatives may call for more advanced skill sets. Determine whether it makes sense to utilize call centers or the business staff to test certain projects, or if the application complexity will require an additional skill set not available inside of the company. If necessary, create a hiring profile to document what skills a resource will require to be able to perform the daily tasks associated with the job.

After the understanding phase, the test manager must develop a test strategy for testing within the organization. This is the time to incorporate everything learned during the understanding phase of the organization creation process. Develop a strategy for testing the projects within the project constraints, resource availability, and in the timelines established by the business.

Additionally, the test manager needs to determine how the testing department will be measured by both the business, and the IT organization in terms of success or failure on a project. Clearly defined success criteria allow the manager to monitor his or her organization appropriately.

Next the test manager must decide what testing processes the organization will utilize. These items include test plan creation, test case/script/charter creation, execution processes, reporting procedures, metrics capture, etc. The key idea of this step is to create processes that are agile enough to allow for the team to be efficient, but cover the necessary outputs defined by the industry standards. This is a tricky line to lead, which leads us into the next step…

Ongoing improvement has shifted into focus for businesses everywhere as a necessary step to increase efficiencies and reduce unnecessary costs. To align with this trend, it is necessary to develop a plan to capitalize upon and improve test team efficiencies. Process improvement initiatives allow the test manager to monitor the performance of each process, and identify its inefficiencies. Upon that identification, the manager may rewrite the procedures to allow for added agility of the test team. The plan may consist of key indicators of performance of the team, performance of individual test team members, and process measurements to identify improvement opportunities.

Finally, after much consideration to the above mentioned areas, the test manager has to acquire and train the resources for the team, and ultimately implement the strategy he or she has created for building the test organization.

The process of creating the organization is complete, but the test manager’s work continues as a cycle of monitoring, identifying, and continually improving upon the test team through engaging with employees and project teams to add value to the IT organization and the business processes.

This article was written by Daven Kruse, Senior Consultant at Fusion Alliance, a technology solutions consultancy. Fusion strives to help business leadres identify and capitalize on technology-enabled business opportunities.

About the Author

Daven Kruse My background consists of 8 years of IT experience in varying roles. Most recently, my time spent as a software testing consultant has lent itself to experience with various industry verticals. Whether it is the pharma industry, the energy industry, the insurance industry, or anything in between, the value of software testing throughout organizations continues to grow. I have a passion for test management, and feel great accomplishment when a team I am part of delivers a completed project.

I strive to help customers realize their needs, and communicate that into a buildable solution. I enjoy developing test strategies, and incorporating continuous improvement techniques to improve test team efficiencies.

I am a lifelong learner, and continue to educate myself through conferences, workshops, online courses, discussion forums, and formal classes. I am a high energy individual whose flexibility and drive help me succeed.