Sreeram Gopalakrishnan, Cognizant Technology Solutions
Large IT programs, such as ERP implementations, are massively impactful long-term initiatives that pervade multiple departments of the organization including IT, business, infrastructure, security, training, PMO, third-party services and the like. Large programs are unique in several other ways too, such as the high amount of executive visibility they carry, the number of different vendors and the consequent dynamics involved, the sheer amount of interdependencies among the different parts of the program, and the vast amount of changes that the interdependencies spawn. In short, a large program is much bigger than the sum of its parts.
Administering Quality Assurance (QA) for such large programs calls for a vastly different approach vis-à-vis for medium or small projects. The QA Program Manager, as the person responsible, will need to be well-versed with the uniqueness of large programs. Despite QA fundamentals remaining the same, the integrated nature of large programs are bound to stretch the QA processes to their limits. Hence, any attempt to straightjacket QA as a bundle of processes, methodologies, tools and strategies is most likely to fail.
The key to QA’s success, will be how well the QA Program Manager can manage the integration aspects of QA, over and above managing the customary technical aspects of QA. The integration aspects cut across areas such as team organization, team building, communication, test processes, test planning and test management. Examples of a few integration items would include (1) org structure balancing QA’s integration and independence needs (2) integrated dependency planning, tracking and reporting (3) common set of testing processes and nomenclature that merge the vendor-specific differences (4) strong governance model to control process adherence and deviations (5) framework to manage multivendor dynamics and promote a badgeless team (6) integrated test environment landscapes, their conflicts, and data refresh strategies (7) defect fix turnarounds and defect aging in a multi-vendor / multi-team scenario (8) Regression scope and ownership and (9) Performance testing integration.
The paper elaborates on the management of the above listed integration aspects for large programs, and discusses some of the better practices to deal with them effectively.