Organize Test Activities under a Test Center of Excellence: STARWEST 2015 Interview with Wim Demey

[interview]
Summary:

In this interview, TechWell speaks with Wim Demey, a solution architect working for CTG Belgium. At STARWEST, he gave a presentation titled "Take Your Test Center of Excellence to the Next Level with ITIL."

Jennifer Bonine: We are back with our interviews for the virtual conference, and I'm excited that Wim has joined us for our first one of today. Welcome.

Wim Demey: Thank you.

Jennifer Bonine: We're glad to have you. We were just chatting before we started about the fact that this is your first STARWEST.

Wim Demey: Yep, it's even my first time in the States.

Jennifer Bonine: First time in the States?

Wim Demey: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, wow.

Wim Demey: It's really first time…

Jennifer Bonine: You embarked on Mickey, so… We're here at Disneyland.

Wim Demey: Indeed. It's a very funny time, very interesting time as well.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Now, we were talking about, for some of you that aren't familiar, there's conferences obviously that go on similar to the ones here in the US around testing. You've been involved in those and have been involved in other conferences, just not ones here in the states then?

Wim Demey: Yeah, it's more in Europe-based conferences, like EuroSTAR conference, the Dutch Testing Days, the German Testing Days, Belgian Testing Days, all similar conferences, but more in Europe based.

Jennifer Bonine: Perfect. Maybe, for the folks out there that didn't get a chance to see your talk, or didn't know what you were talking about, give them just a little background on your area of focus right now and what you were speaking on.

Wim Demey: Yesterday I had my talk about the Center of Excellence, and using concepts of ITIL, which is IT service management process framework. How we could use concepts on setting up and making your Test Center of Excellence better, because in my experience, and what I saw at customers, having such a Test Center of Excellence, is that once they are at that level they become a little bit lazy. They think, "Okay, we will keep the shop running" and they don't go for the extra mile.

If you take a step back, and have a look from a distance, then I see typically four kinds of issues. The first issue is what I call "Do we really know each other?" meaning do we know who is really our end customer. If you are working at Test Center of Excellence after a while you are working more on a routine, making your own assumptions instead of checking with the real customer expectations.

Jennifer Bonine: So you are kind of treating yourself as the end customer, as opposed to the true customer.

Wim Demey: Even visa versa, as the end customers do we know what kind of service you offer? I have overseen projects where a project leader was just going on the market looking for a performance consultant while the guys were sitting at a Test Center of Excellence while nobody knows it. That's the first issue.

The second issue is the Test Center of Excellence is a group of people, but often it's just a bunch of people and often they don't know each other because they are working each on their own project, and they are not sharing expertise, knowledge, tooling. I have a funny anecdote about this. At the current customer, we are with forty people working at Test Center of Excellence, one colleague was passing by, another colleague was asking, "Hey, is that a newcomer?" No, this guy is already for five years working in our Test Center. Because he is sitting in another building, working on a another project…

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, you don't know.

Wim Demey: So that's a second problem. Third problem is how do you deal with resources. Did the manager make up his planning? He planned all the resources at once? He made up his planning, then somebody comes in tell, "Hey, by tomorrow I need two testers because we have an emergency fix." Then you can reshuffle the whole day, and tomorrow you can redo this section.

A fourth issue I see is that next to the fact that you have to keep the shop running, think of how could we improve our services. How could we think of new methodologies? How could we adapt the methodologies? Maybe, do we have to investigate new tooling in our Center of Excellence? I think by using concepts of ITIL, if you apply it, then you can tackle these kinds of issues, and use, for example, ideas like Service Portfolio Management, Service Catalog Management to make it very clear to your customers can be internal in your organization, can be external. That's things we are offering. That's the way you have to request it. That's the way you can help it, and that's the cost. The project leaves no upfront.

I need a test coordinator, it cost me so much a day. I need a performance test consultant, I need… and that stuff. By combining several of these ITIL processes, I think you can make it more richer. You can get more glue between the resources by, for example, applying the idea of the roles and responsibilities, like you have in ITIL. You have the role of a service owner, role of a process owner. If you just attribute it to, for example, a test coordinator, and saying, "Hey, you guy, from now own you will be responsible for the process owner methodology." Another guy on your team will be the service owner for test automation. That will be the guy that will explain to other teams what is this service about. By combining things, and that's a little bit thinking out of the box and we have to do it in our centers, that's the way how we could make it richer, and bringing your Test Center of Excellence to the next level.

Jennifer Bonine: Have you seen, from that talk and those topics, you've obviously talked about some of this in Europe and then having the talk yesterday here, were the questions similar? Different? Were people grasping the concepts of what you were talking about?

Wim Demey: Yeah, definitely after my talk people came to me and they said, “We are more confident” because they have the feeling that they are working already on this kind of Test Center of Excellence, but they were not sure. Somebody asked me a really funny question. "When do you decide that you are working as a Test Center of Excellence?" There is no kind of stamp or certificate.

In my talk I give a definition. I say as long that the name doesn't matter because you can speak of a test factory or a shared services center. As long as it matches the definition I gave in my talk, that's okay for me. Then you can really say in your organization, we are a Test Center of Excellence. The benefit of doing this, it will create a kind of responsibility to your team, because they know we are acting, we are presenting our Test Center of Excellence. If we do our job, we have to do it right and in a quality way.

Jennifer Bonine: Very good. You really saw them grasping the concepts and wanting more information around it. For folks out there that are listening saying, "We want to know what the definition is, and if we're in one, and how it's working," the best way to get a hold of you or get more information regarding Test Centers of Excellence and ITIL and some of how that works together? What's the best way for them to…

Wim Demey: I'm on Twitter with the @VersatileTester. My email is [email protected]

Jennifer Bonine: Okay, so a couple of places that you can find Wim. Thank you so much for being here with us. I'm really glad that you made the trip over. You got your first experience with the US and also with Disney. You're getting it all, so thanks for being with us.

Wim Demey: I'll definitely come back.

Jennifer Bonine: Good! Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

Wim Demey: Thank you very much.

Wim DemeyWim Demey is a Solution Architect Testing working for CTG Belgium. He started his career in 1997 and has extended his knowledge and expertise over the years by working in several areas (pharma, utilities, telecom, non-profit, social security) and roles (test manager, test tools specialist, coach, presales). Driven by an eagerness to learn new things he is always looking forward where he can cross the borders of testing with a special interest for technical topics (infrastructure testing, test tools). This allows him to get not only a good helicopter view on a project but also being able to discuss with customers and project teams about the low level details.

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