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The Relevance of CoE Testing in a Modern, Agile Organization

Jun 20, 2024
Wouter Ruigrok

In traditional organizations, Centers of Excellence (CoEs) were specialized units responsible for all aspects of testing, ensuring that software met the highest standards of quality before release. These CoEs were essential, providing the expertise and resources needed to conduct thorough testing. However, the rise of Agile methodologies has shifted testing responsibilities to the entire team, promoting a culture where quality assurance (QA) is a shared responsibility. This shift raises a pertinent question: Are CoEs still relevant in an Agile world?

Many organizations struggle to adapt their QA and testing practices to fit Agile frameworks. The transition often results in the loss of testing expertise, with teams under immense pressure to deliver business features rapidly. Although QA is supposed to be a joint responsibility, it often falls through the cracks, with no single entity truly accountable for it. This presents an ideal opportunity to reinvent the CoE, transforming it into a modern, Agile-compatible entity that can address these challenges effectively.

Scaled Agile organizations, particularly, can significantly benefit from a redefined Center of Expertise in Quality Engineering (QE). This modern CoE can integrate quality engineers as dedicated team members within Agile teams while also being part of the CoE. This dual role can enhance both team performance and organizational QA standards. A modern CoE in QE would have six primary tasks:

1. Managing the QE resource capacity of the organization.

2. Defining standards and services.

3. Providing expert support.

4. Enabling continuous improvement in QE.

5. Driving innovation.

6. Applying monitoring and control.

Managing Resource Capacity

Managing resource capacity at the organizational level involves identifying imbalances in QE expertise across teams. The CoE can foresee when there is either an excess or shortage of quality engineers and advise teams on hiring strategies accordingly. This proactive management ensures that all teams have the necessary resources to maintain high-quality outputs without unnecessary delays or overburdening specific team members.

Defining Standards and Services

The CoE should establish clear guidelines on quality and testing and support teams in adhering to these standards. This involves more than just dictating what teams should do; it requires actively showing them how to implement these practices effectively. The CoE can develop services that facilitate adherence to these standards, providing practical tools and methods that integrate seamlessly into the teams’ workflows.

Providing Expert Support

Agile teams occasionally require specialized expertise in areas such as test data management, performance testing, or security testing. The CoE can offer temporary expert support in these cases, ensuring that teams have access to the knowledge they need without possessing all skills internally. Teams should plan their need for such expertise in advance, allowing the CoE to allocate resources efficiently.

Enabling Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is essential in Agile environments. The CoE should focus on enhancing both people and processes, constantly seeking ways to optimize workflows and help team members develop their skills. This could involve regular training sessions, workshops, and feedback loops that promote a culture of learning and development within the QE domain.

Driving Innovation

Innovation should stem from both individual teams and the CoE. With its broader organizational perspective, the CoE can identify innovative practices within teams and scale these across the organization. This ensures that successful strategies and technologies are shared and implemented widely, fostering a culture of continuous innovation.

Applying Monitoring and Control

Monitoring and control are critical for maintaining quality standards. The CoE should integrate team-level monitoring into an organizational overview, making this data easily accessible to all stakeholders. By doing so, the CoE can identify trends, spot issues early, and provide insights that help maintain consistent quality across all teams. This holistic view is crucial for proactively addressing problems and ensuring quality remains a top priority.

In summary, while Agile methodologies have decentralized testing responsibilities, a redefined CoE in Quality Engineering can provide the necessary support, expertise, and oversight to ensure high standards are maintained. By focusing on resource capacity, standards and services, expert support, continuous improvement, innovation, and monitoring and control, a modern CoE can elevate your organization’s quality assurance practices, driving both efficiency and innovation. With the right mindset and skilled personnel, a CoE in QE can be a cornerstone of success in a modern Agile organization.

About the author

Wouter Ruigrok

Agile Quality Expert | Netherlands
Wouter is an Agile and DevOps Expert with a focus on Quality Assurance. Since Wouter start working in IT in 2011 he has been active in Agile and DevOps environments. Helping teams towards a higher velocity with maintaining quality and control. He trains people and coaches teams to get the highest value within a high demanding and changing environment.

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