Whilst working on a project or programme of works, how often have you been informed at the 11th hour that your dependencies are going to be late, however, the launch date is not moving, with the expectation the test team will accommodate the delays?
Having worked in different delivery and test roles I have personally experienced both sides of this. The majority of the time it ends up with the test teams having their duration squeezed requiring more resources and longer working hours for the whole project team to drive the project over the line and then move straight on to the next project.
From a project delivery perspective, your focus is to deliver this unique set of requirements to the agreed time, cost, and quality. However as a project is a unique set of requirements that are planned to deliver a set outcome or benefits, change is almost inevitable and is a regular occurrence across all projects. The QA&Test teams need to plan to accept this risk and adapt to change quickly.
My advice for success is to educate your project team around your role and your requirements as early as possible. Provide clear communication on a regular basis, have strong stakeholder management, utilise the risk management in place, plan to provide alternative options when required, and drive continuous improvement for all of your deliveries.
Early Education – take the entire project team on your journey and sell them your asks. Clearly articulate and share the proposed test strategy and test plan. Highlight your dependencies, your entry and exit criteria, your risks to the plan and the assumptions you have made. Ensure people who are accountable understand this and particularly highlight the impact of any delay or change to any of these.
Check your assumptions and make sure they are realistic with the wider team. Don’t leave it to the last minute to track progress, continually check the progress of each dependency, keep calling out the risk, gain the support of the PM to support driving the dependencies.
Regular Communication – having clearly articulated your requirements to be successful, be proactive and ensure that people acknowledge that they have understood what you are calling out, don’t just assume they understand things. Communicate regularly through each stage of the project. Nine times out of ten the QA&Test team have to call out the bad news that people don’t want to hear, entry to test criteria has not been set, the code quality is lower than assumed, the dependencies have not been met, the environments are down, the product, service or change is simply not ready to launch.
Have a communication strategy for the project, ensure there are no surprises by keeping the entire team up to date and ensure everyone understands the risks from a QA&Test perspective. If you have to provide bad news make sure you clearly articulate what has gone wrong providing options to either mitigate the issues or next steps to look at what can be done.
The delays may not be caused by the test team so make sure you work with the delivery partner that has caused them and work together on the recovery options.
Strong Stakeholder Management – You need to be able to influence the stakeholders and your delivery partners to deliver what you need when you need it. Other partners may have to adapt during the project to accommodate unplanned change or delays to meet your requirements and it is essential that you work together to deliver the required outcome.
You must have a strong, open relationship, where you can ask for anything you need to ensure the project is a success. This has to work both ways so be prepared to be to support each other.
Risk Management – There are only 4 options to manage risks; Mitigate, Avoid, Transfer, or Accept the risk. You must ensure that the project team understands the potential impact to the project of each QA&Test risk and agrees on the right way to manage each of these risks. Ensure the risks are logged on the project programme or portfolio risk register and are regularly reviewed and updated.
Don’t just raise these at the start of the project and forget them. Risks will evolve over time so make sure you continue to monitor and track all the risks that may impact you, even if they are owned elsewhere check in on a regular basis ensuring everyone understands the impact on your test plans and is owning the risk where appropriate.
Plan Alternative Options – always have a plan B, don’t just call out a delay or an issue, offer up a solution or options to resolve the current issue. Be proactive and plan for change, you can only add so much contingency before you get a push back to deliver quicker. You will need to adapt to change as you go through the delivery and this will require you to be flexible and adjust your own plans.
This could be looking into risk-based approaches, phased deliveries, different working patterns, or a completely new method of delivery. Keep asking yourself what if?
Continuous Improvement, always take lessons learnt from previous deliveries and use them. We have recently been transforming the way we deliver our projects and programmes through our QA&Test Strategy to ensure that all our deliveries are successful. Our strategy is to deliver Quality at Speed, On-demand, through intelligence, efficiency and ultimately providing that quality experience to our customers. We have done this through our People, Processes & Technology
- People – previously we worked on an individual project by project basis, creating that unique team based on resource availability and planning for just the project outcome. Now we work in Portfolios, aligning teams to the business, sharing resources, providing better visibility for future deliveries ensuring we are efficient with our planning. Working this way has helped build up strong business relationships, allowing us to influence more on future delivery strategies and drive change that benefits the wider business on the scale.
- Processes – we have really focused on data, clearly working out what gaps we had and changing behaviours across our teams to ensure that we had the right data. We then use this to drive data-driven improvement plans with our delivery partners to get quality right the first time.
- Technology – working as a portfolio across the business has allowed us to trial a number of concepts to drive wider improvements and support our overall delivery strategy. Previously we struggled to gain momentum for technology implementations if the individual project did not benefit, now looking across the portfolio we can justify the approach and show the wider benefits more easily allowing us to drive technology-led change.
In conclusion, you will need to be flexible with your dependences and have a backup plan. If you can look longer term at your delivery strategy and work out how you can deliver quality, at speed then you have that ability to adapt quickly when that delay eventually lands.
Article written by Stuart Makin, Head of QA&Test for O2 Telefonica