While working on a project or work program, how often were you informed at the 11and hour that your dependencies are going to be late, however, the launch date is not moving, with the hope that the test team will adapt to the delays?
Having worked in different delivery and testing roles, I have personally experienced both sides of this. Most of the time, the duration of the test teams is reduced, which requires more resources and longer working hours for the entire project team to take the project beyond the line, and then to move directly to the next project.
From a project delivery perspective, your goal is to deliver this unique set of requirements within the agreed time, cost and quality. However, since a project is a unique set of requirements that are planned to deliver a defined result or benefit, change is almost inevitable and happens regularly in all projects. QA&Test teams must plan to accept this risk and adapt quickly to change.
My advice for success is to educate your project team on your role and requirements as early as possible. Regularly provide clear communication, have strong stakeholder management, use risk management in place, plan to provide alternative options if necessary and drive continuous improvement for all your releases.
early education – take the whole project team on your journey and sell them your requests. Clearly articulate and share the proposed test strategy and test plan. Highlight your dependencies, entry and exit criteria, plan risks, and assumptions you have made. Make sure those responsible understand this, and particularly highlight the impact of any delays or changes to any of these.
Check your assumptions and make sure they are realistic with the extended team. Don’t wait until the last minute to track progress, continuously check each addiction’s progress, keep reporting risk, get PM support to help drive addictions.
Regular communication – after clearly articulating your requirements for success, be proactive and make sure people recognize they’ve got what you’re calling, don’t just assume they get it. Communicate regularly at each stage of the project. Nine times out of ten, the QA&Test team has to deliver bad news that people don’t want to hear, test entry criteria haven’t been defined, code quality is lower than assumed, dependencies have not been met, environments are down, the product, service or change is simply not ready to go.
Have a communication strategy for the project, make sure there are no surprises by keeping the whole team informed and make sure everyone understands the risks from a QA&Test perspective. If you must deliver bad news, be sure to clearly explain what went wrong, offering options to mitigate the issues or next steps to review what can be done.
Delays may not be caused by the testing team, so be sure to work with the delivery partner that caused them and work out recovery options together.
Strong stakeholder management – You need to be able to influence stakeholders and your delivery partners to deliver what you need when you need it. Other partners may need to adapt during the project to accommodate unforeseen changes or delays to meet your requirements and it is essential that you work together to achieve the required result.
You must have a strong and open relationship, where you can ask for anything you need to ensure the success of the project. It has to work both ways, so be prepared to support each other.
Risk management – There are only 4 options to manage risks; Mitigate, To avoid, Transfer, Where Accept the risk. You must ensure that the project team understands the potential impact on the project of each QA&Test risk and agrees on the correct way to manage each of these risks. Ensure that risks are recorded in the project program or portfolio risk register and are regularly reviewed and updated.
Don’t just pick them up at the start of the project and forget about them. Risks will change over time, so be sure to continue to monitor and track any risks that may affect you, even if they are held elsewhere, check regularly that everyone understands the impact on your test plans and takes ownership of the risk where appropriate.
Plan alternative options – always have a plan B, don’t just report a delay or a problem, offer a solution or options to solve the current problem. Be proactive and plan for change, you can only add so many contingencies before you get pushed back to deliver faster. You will need to adapt to change as the delivery happens, which will require you to be flexible and adjust your own plans.
These can be risk-based approaches, staggered deliveries, different working models, or a completely new method of delivery. Keep asking yourself what if?
Continuous improvement, always take lessons learned from previous releases and use them. We have recently transformed the way we deliver our projects and programs through our QA&Test strategy to ensure the success of all our deliveries. Our strategy is to deliver quality at speed, on demand, through intelligence, efficiency, and ultimately delivering that quality experience to our customers. We did it through our people, our processes and our technology
- People – previously, we were working on a project-by-project basis, creating this unique team based on resource availability and scheduling only for the project outcome. Now we work in portfolios, aligning teams across the business, sharing resources, providing better visibility for future deliveries, ensuring we are efficient in our planning. Working in this way has helped build strong business relationships, allowing us to further influence future delivery strategies and drive change that benefits the entire business at scale.
- Process – we really focused on the data, clearly identifying the gaps we had and changing the behaviors of our teams to ensure we had the right data. We then use them to drive data-driven improvement plans with our delivery partners to get the quality right the first time.
- Technology – working as a portfolio across the business allowed us to test a number of concepts to make broader improvements and support our overall delivery strategy. Previously we struggled to gain ground for technology implementations if the individual project did not benefit, now by looking across the portfolio we can justify the approach and more easily show the broader benefits, which makes us helps drive technology-driven change.
In conclusion, you will need to be flexible with your addictions and have a backup plan. If you can take a longer-term view of your delivery strategy and figure out how you can deliver quality, quickly, you have the ability to quickly adapt when that delay eventually hits.
Article written by Stuart Makin, QA&Test Manager for O2 Telefonica