Setting up Testing

I came across a blog post on the web about setting up a testing department and took inspiration to write my own piece based on my past experiences and what I would do if I get the opportunity again. (I must add that I blogged about this earlier though in bits and pieces).

"You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality" - Walt Disney

This is comprehensive in my view and this is how will I go in a step-by-step manner to set up a revenue-generating testing unit from the ground-up.

  • Understand the ethos of the organisation to gauge the level of willingness to accept testing as a new contributing function.
  • Have a series of meetings with impacted (non-testing) managers and influencers:
    • to inform about the testing function and how it will mesh in (eg. speak about the Agile way) to shape up application behaviour;
    • Assuage any feelings about testing trying to ‘steal the thunder’ or testing being a roadblock;
    • Make a best effort to nip the power-tug-of-war in the bud by demonstrating and speaking words that echo team spirit, maturity and pragmatism. Display a chest-out, no-nonsense attitude.
    • market the capabilities sought to be added to the table and how it will benefit all in the ultimate analysis.
  • As per the budget and need, start hiring people keeping capability, diversity and team structure in mind.
  • Hire uncompromisingly those who will assimilate into the testing culture sought to be ingrained and keep deterrents out, however brilliant they maybe. Keep the tester attribute checklist handy.
  • Create and mentor an interviewing team upfront into interviewing/shortlisting/hiring aspects and related. Refer Cem Kaner’s article on ‘Hiring Software Testers’ and other good practices.
  • Build a team that throbs passionately and build brick by brick from day 1.
  • Form a core team upfront comprising of test managers, self, leads and bright upstarts to deliberate on functioning, issues, infrastructure, tools and resourcing needs of the test team. Meet regularly upfront and periodic later as per need. Prepare status report comprising discussion points and actions. Distribute to Management and key stakeholders.
  • Form a team to deliberate, decide about testing servers, tool for logging bugs, etc. This team would self-destruct after procurement and implementation.
  • Begin assigning testers to projects understanding need & fitment. Monitor & mentor.
  • For new projects begin work in earnest from estimation to delivery and related expectations setting as the project progresses. It is expected that there will be feet that will feel being treaded on and territory trespassing feelings. Listen, understand and straighten out matters unemotionally and professionally. Ensure that results speak louder than words at the end of day for that will linger more than the ‘pee-squirts on the trees’. Monitor and Mentor continually drilling into your team about test team being hard-working investigators and fearless journalists rather than  gatekeepers.
  • Begin the task of reusing, renovating or creating generic artifacts for test planning, estimation, test cases, reports, tools, etc keeping the standards and delivery timeline in mind. Deviate where necessary with ready justifications with highest priority accorded to testing, progress and results (information sharing).
  • Profile the team and identify gaps in knowledge and skills (technical & soft).
  • Enlist testing thought trainers who are practitioners first and last to mend & remedy the gaps and elevate capability levels.
  • Start building a library of books, videos, 5-starred web articles of testing masters (stored within EverNote) and so on to lend credence to the importance of coninued learning.
  • Encourage people to share and present snippets from real life testing experiences which brought cheer, new learning and won credibility of the customer. This would not only help knowledge percolation but also inflame team bonding and development to new levels.
  • Set meaningful and mutually accepted performance measurement criteria for testers. As per this ensure the feedback is given not as a ritual but driven by circumstances and need to help the individual and team growth. At the same time accept suggestions for improvement and feedback from the reverse direction showing willingness to listen and remedy if justified.
  • Meet the team regularly keeping an open door and motivate, compliment and reward achievements in monetary and non-monetary manner. Create events to meet the team in an informal manner to let the hair down so to speak.
  • From the testing success stories identify 2 things – stories that will sell and actors within it who starred – who would be superstars come the prospect/customer (in plain speak make case studies of them to help your sales).
  • Once levels of testing capabilities assumes both depth and breadth then start building a team of mavens across testing fields (say Automation, Non-functional testing areas, Manual testing etc.). Preparing collaterals like fact sheets, case-studies, presentations etc. is a logical next step.
  • Whilst the team grows and in the light of new customers coming in, never lose sight of delivery to existing customers which remains top priority.
  • If required and driven by the P&L – hire resources to document, market and sell your capabilities to add teeth to your team which would thence throb with more exciting possibilities.
  • Continue to mentor, monitor and build.
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