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Enterprise-wide Quality Assurance Strategy: The First 100 Days

Congratulations. You and your senior management team have developed a quality assurance strategy that spans across your entire organization. This is quite an accomplishment. It means that you successfully chose the right time to roll-out the strategy, addressed ownership of the strategy, and tackled the complex task of assessing the degree to which your organization will benefit from such a strategy.

The First 100 Days: An Overview….It’s about change

All the hard work that you have completed to date, and the potential benefits of implementing the strategy, however, hinge on the ability to demonstrate that the strategy truly delivers. In truth, it’s the first 100 days of rolling out the strategy that will dictate whether it is a resounding success or a disappointment. So, in this blog, the final instalment of the series, I outline what you can expect, and should accomplish, during this critical period.

To ensure that the first 100 Days are successful, keep in mind that there are two types of activities that you need to address: 1) activities that are common to all major organizational change initiatives; and 2) activities that are unique to major change initiatives aimed at systematically improving software quality assurance processes and outputs.

Activities common to all major organizational change initiatives

There are dozens of different frameworks for introducing and sustaining meaningful change in organizations. Whichever one(s) you adopt, you will find activities that create a strong foundation for your enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy. These ‘building blocks’ of successful change must be planned, resourced, and executed during the first 100 days of rolling out your enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy:

  • A change-related communications plan. Change, by its very nature, raises people’s anxieties, calls into question what is truly valued by the organization, and disrupts current ways of operating. As a result, leaders of any significant change initiative need a communication plan that acknowledges these realities and demonstrates that planned changes are worth the ambiguity and discomfort it creates. Without a well-orchestrated communications plan, people will: be more susceptible to rumours; lose their commitment to the organization; look for alternative workplaces; and unintentionally suffer from reduced productivity. Of course, these consequences run contrary to the purpose of change initiatives and, in particular, change initiatives aimed at assuring a higher level of quality output.
  • Clearly defined governance, priority and ownership of change-related projects. With any significant change, responsibilities, accountabilities, and current/future project resources are bound to shift. To manage the expectations of those people/teams affected by the change, it is vital for leaders to explicitly identify key project priorities, project deliverables, key metrics, and the owners of the change-related projects. These should filter throughout the organization and be injected into RACI charts or any responsibility assignment format that is commonly used throughout the organization.

Improve Software QA Processes and Outputs

Perform activities unique to improve software quality assurance processes and outputs.

During the first 100 days of rolling out your enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy, you need to layer on another set of activities on top of the change-related activities identified above. Specifically, you must tackle activities that are unique to rolling out a change initiative that is focused on systematically changing the way an organization thinks of, plans for, and approaches software quality assurance. These specific activities include the following:

a.) Evaluate the capacity to support an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy

It is critical for your organization’s structure to support the implementation of a quality assurance strategy. To that end, you need to evaluate the roles and responsibilities of those individuals/teams who will be implementing your quality assurance strategy. While conducting this analysis of how jobs and related responsibilities are structured, you need to identify gaps or overlaps of project/job responsibility and address processes that cause confusion during executing tasks or making decisions. At the same time, you need to identify processes that are impeding productive communication and collaboration between individuals/teams that are responsible for implementing the software quality assurance strategy.

b.) Evaluate the skills required to implement an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy

In addition to having a structure that supports an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy, you will need to determine whether you have the right combination of skills that are required to allow a strategy to take root. As such, in addition to getting a sense of individuals’/teams’ comfort with the software systems in place, you need to evaluate their working knowledge of the following:

  • Domain expertise – which reveals the degree to which team members can identify the areas that are most important to the business and how they affect the ability of the organization to meet its obligations. This knowledge helps to prioritize testing activities, create realistic test data and test cases, and verify/create use cases.
  • Software development lifecycle process – which reveals whether team members have insight into how errors lead to the introduction of defects, where defects can be found, and how to prevent the introduction of defects.
  • Non-technical skills such as giving and receiving constructive criticism, influencing, and negotiating – which reveals whether team members can work effectively together towards a common objective or during stressful situations.

c.) Improve the defect management process

Having conducted the above evaluations, you should be well-positioned to take actions that will see your enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy yield noticeable improvements within the first 100 days.

To ensure that is the case, make sure to target improving your defect management process. In doing so, you will need to establish a defect reporting standard – specifying what needs to be tested, what corrective needs to be taken, and the impact of taking different corrective actions. The benchmark you establish will naturally evolve, however, doing so allows you to track progress for KPIs such as ‘Quality Debt’ across different types of releases.

d.) Leverage defects for continuous improvement

During the first 100 days of implementing your enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy, you should be looking for (and documenting) ways to take the lessons gained from identifying and tackling defects and rolling them into the software development and/or management processes to avoid repeating errors. This approach, which focuses on leveraging defects for continuous improvement consists of the following activities:

  • Establishing a team specifically to identify and monitor defects
  • Sharing defect reports with the team responsible for defects
  • Reviewing defect reports (regularly and/or ad hoc)
  • Applying ‘root cause analysis’ methodologies to identify the origin of the defects
  • Partnering with champions to resolve performance lapses caused by defects
  • Tracking and investigating trends in defects to meet reduction targets
  • Continuously monitoring performance data

e.) Adopting a risk-based approach to software testing

Finally, during the first 100 days of implementing your enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy, you should be laying the groundwork for adopting a risk-based approach to software testing. This approach prioritizes testing activities to those products/processes where there is the greatest potential negative impact on your business.

Your first 100 days of rolling out an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy will be at times exciting, frustrating, and inspiring. If you have any questions about implementing an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy, please reach out to me by email (dnikolova at Desislava Nikolova is a Director within QA Consultants’ Strategic Advisory practice being led by Gabriella Szasz.