Defining and Implementing a Center of Excellence for Standard Life

CASE STUDY: Financial Services | QA and Testing

Executive Summary

Due to significant business growth, Standard Life established a QA center of excellence and required the expertise of an external partner to properly define, transition and implement the new center to ensure it was successful at increasing productivity and efficiency.

Profile

Founded in 1825, Standard Life provides long-term savings, investment and insurance solutions to six million individual and corporate customers around the world. Through its extensive portfolio of solutions, Standard Life offers pensions, protection, savings and investment products as well as investment-linked life insurance products, mutual funds, and asset, investment and wealth management services.

Project Overview
Quality assurance (QA) teams and work processes should function seamlessly across any organization in order to achieve consistent, quality outcomes. Today, in the IT space, many companies are developing centers of excellence (COEs) to safeguard and uphold effective QA principles and practices.

An IT organization can leverage its center of excellence to introduce, assimilate and implement best practices and methodologies. Companies can also utilize the COE to promote the transfer of knowledge and delivery of consistent processes across different teams and business units within the enterprise. Within a centralized COE where the entire QA team is centrally located, common IT challenges—including time to market, expertise, skills development and cost management—can be tackled more efficiently.

Situation

Impacted by several key factors, Standard Life had determined that the business needed to embrace new technologies and enable better capabilities within its existing systems by establishing a QA COE. These factors included:

Market Forces
External forces within the technology marketplace have caused businesses to accelerate the development of their IT infrastructures to remain efficient. Standard Life was behind this curve and as a result was also behind in terms of the services they were able to offer clients and the mechanisms used to supply those services.

Technology Architecture
In addition to the competitive IT market landscape, Standard Life was also feeling architectural pressures from the technologies already being used; there were numerous different technologies communicating numerous different answers.

Resources
Standard Life had a limited number of professional testers; these resources did not receive formal training.

Rapid Growth
The client wanted to consolidate its numerous technologies into a more holistic infrastructure. In a push to revitalize its QA efforts and sustain increasing IT demands, the client went from a $5 million to $25 million budget within one year. Yet, the QA organization was built to handle one-fifth of this volume. Making no people, process or technology changes, Standard Life’s testing resources were undersized, overloaded and overextended.

Given these factors, Standard Life sought a partner to support the implementation of a new QA COE and enhance its people, process and technology strategies. A third-party partner with QA expertise would guide the center in leveraging best practices and methodologies; in turn, this would help the client achieve its goals for having a center by optimizing its productivity and efficiency and ultimately enabling it to keep pace with the speed of business growth.

Solution

To improve Standard Life’s people, process and technology strategies and ultimately maximize the potential benefits of a QA COE, the TEKsystems team recommended implementing a multi-staged program consisting of an executive assessment and a regression pilot project:

Executive Assessment

1. Baseline – The TEKsystems team would evaluate Standard Life’s current QA and testing practices and assess existing enterprise partners that were already conducting testing activities.

2. Findings and Recommendations – We would present our observations and findings as well as recommendations developed based on our initial baseline learnings. Our recommendations would include a resource model, delivery process goals and technical vision needed for supporting the optimal QA COE for Standard Life.

3. Executive Roadmap – Utilizing the client’s mission and mandate for the COE, we would craft a plan for its implementation.

Regression Pilot Project

4. COE Discovery and Analysis – Standard Life would then identify a target application(s) for TEKsystems to utilize during the QA regression pilot.

5. COE Planning and Scheduling – TEKsystems would develop a plan, QA COE test framework and schedule for the regression pilot project.

6. COE Framework Development and Deployment – The QA COE test framework would be created in alignment with the people, process and technologies required to perform testing activities necessary for maximizing testing efficiency (e.g., test planning, test case design, test automation, execution, defect remediation and reporting). TEKsystems would fine tune the test framework as necessary and deploy against the pilot application(s) selected by Standard Life.

7. COE Documentation and Knowledge Transfer – TEKsystems would document the processes required to implement the COE. We would also provide a structured training program to bring resources up to speed on its operations, clarify roles and responsibilities and empower the QA team.

With this proposed approach in mind, Standard Life selected TEKsystems for this engagement. From the client’s perspective, TEKsystems related as a local partner that could scale to meet the needs and expectations for the COE. We differentiated ourselves as the partner of choice given our QA and testing expertise and top quality people we bring to the table.

Results

Utilizing our recommended solution, TEKsystems successfully provided the foundation for a mature testing program on behalf of Standard Life and its new QA COE. The executive assessment was completed in four weeks, and the regression pilot project was completed in the 10 weeks after. Throughout the course of this engagement, TEKsystems provided highly skilled QA resources including an MSC QA practice manager, an executive consultant, a QA practice manager, a project manager, senior automation engineers and senior test designers.

Executive Assessment
During the executive assessment, TEKsystems conducted interviews with Standard Life executive sponsors, enterprise partners, business vertical owners, project managers and business end-users/customers. We evaluated enterprise practice partners and initiatives including systems development life cycle, network/operations, release cycles, Tier One support and current enterprise initiatives. Based on findings from these interactions, an executive summary was delivered. TEKsystems then developed and delivered recommendations for enhancing its people, process and technology strategies. These recommendations were reviewed by TEKsystems senior consultants as well as Standard Life’s project sponsor.

  • People – TEKsystems delivered a QA COE resource model which outlined roles, responsibilities, job descriptions, a QA COE onboarding process and career pathing

  • Process – We established testing capacity/velocity goals for the center.

  • Technology – We also prepared the vision for the technical infrastructure of the center, in alignment with Standard Life’s overarching corporate strategy and business goals.

To conclude the executive assessment, TEKsystems crafted a QA COE mission statement, mandate and implementation roadmap of immediate and long-term initiatives necessary for maturing the client’s testing practice.

Regression Pilot Project
With TEKsystems’ ongoing project management, the regression pilot project consisted of:

  • Selecting target application(s) to pilot the COE test framework against

  • Securing Standard Life subject matter experts to participate in the project

  • Reviewing software development life cycle processes

  • Assessing target application(s) functionality, technology platforms and deployment architecture as well as requirements, specifications, existing tests and defects

  • Performing a gap analysis against TEKsystems’ prior parallel experiences

An executive summary and gap identification was delivered to Standard Life which included our recommended candidates for immediate test automation and application of the test framework. TEKsystems then defined fundamental test processes, scope, activities and milestones as well as established key performance indicators, quality metrics and success criteria for the regression pilot project. We provided an evolving enterprise test strategy, and test and implementation plan. TEKsystems also designed an integrated testing process supported by exploratory, manual and automated testing. We deployed our BPT accelerator test framework to address test management, design, automation, execution and implementation of best practices for manual and automated testing.

Finally, TEKsystems helped cultivate and support the transfer of knowledge and best practices via:

  • Custom materials encompassing a test designer guide, test automation engineer guide, test architecture guide, test workflow, defect workflow and supporting training materials

  • “Train-the-trainer” five-day training sessions offered to test designers and automation engineers

  • Documentation of technical knowledge and processes

Standard Life was provided with a final enterprise test strategy that incorporated the knowledge gathered and processes implemented throughout the course of the 10-week pilot; TEKsystems also delivered our suggested approach for test environment management to enable the client to effectively create and manage test environments moving forward.

Key Success Factors

  • Project Management. Throughout this engagement, TEKsystems maintained open communication and collaboration with Standard Life. A dedicated project manager ensured clear guidelines, and issue escalation hierarchy and procedures were established at the onset. Daily and weekly status meetings were held to ensure transparency and keep Standard Life abreast of our progress. The nature of this relationship helped garner and build the client’s trust.

  • Collaboration. Standard Life aimed to have its QA COE speak to the vision of its senior executives, executive sponsors and partners, as well as align with its corporate strategy. Without input from these difficult-to-reach audiences, our implementation strategy would have been off the mark. Effective collaboration with these parties guided the development of a roadmap to a COE that supports the client’s mission and mandate.

  • Time. Critical to the success of this engagement was TEKsystems’ attention and careful use of time. We managed to our deadlines and were able to provide all deliverables within the timeframe allotted, enabling us to achieve client satisfaction.

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