Test process improvement

One of the never-ending tasks is test process improvements. After every project (or sprint!) retrospectives gives you valuable information on where to improve your test process.testmanagement_article_5_1
(on that note – never ever – I mean it! – skip the retrospectives)

In the following are some of my reflections on test process improvements.Choose a model for improvements that fits the needs in your organisation or invent a model that fit your needs. Tell your organisation about the model!

A lot of models already exists: Simple models like IDEAL (Initiating, Diagnosing, Establishing, Acting, Learning) or W. Edwards Demings PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act).  Also Advanced process models like TMMI, CMMI, TPI Next (R), CTP can be used.

If you don’t want to use a known model, at least do something like this:

  • identify activities
  • estimate the activities
  • make a plan
  • set milestones
  • allocate resources
  • follow-up and make adjustments if needed
  • report
  • retrospective and closure

maybe even just a kanban board is enough for your needs. Your choice.

My point is: make sure that your improvements are properly managed – otherwise they will not happen!

It sounds simple enough – right?

However in real life there will be obstacles to overcome. I will just mention a few examples from my own experiences.

Do not try to change everything like a big bang implementation. in my experience this will only cause confusion and frustrations. Make a road map where changes are divided into smaller implementations (but not too small!) and identify dependencies. You need the right order in the implementation. Tell everybody about the road map and remember to update it.

The resources is not always full-time allocated to work on the improvements – in fact this is rarely possible. Since process improvement is not something you will earn money on from day one it is often seen as low priority projects. Your manager will surely remind you of how important it is to attend to your customers needs first. In my view this is narrow-minded and wrong. Process improvement helps your to keep and expand your business and hopefully improvements will make you happier when working! So in my view improvements should be high priority.

It takes time to implement improvements often a lot more than you expected. Whenever you change an existing process everybody in the organisation needs to learn about the new changes and adopt them into their work. This can cause all kinds of human reactions from joy to resistance. Hidden agendas, politics, control freaks and others can cause serious delays on when you finally can see the benefits of the improvements. Be sure to get important stakeholders involved or at least get them to support your improvements.

In test process improvements I have often seen different test beliefs clashes and prevent a sensible process improvement. The different test backgrounds we come from has a great impact on how we want things to be carried out. I find that it is important to speak your mind, listen to others, reflect and learn – basic stuff, really. Remember everybody must to live with the new process when it is implemented!

Some final words comes to mind. Test process improvements are hard work. IT TAKES TIME. A quote from some project manager – I forgot who – “Failing to plan is planning to failure”.