Firstly, let's look at what a TCoE is. A TCoE is a team model where multiple teams come together to work in a 'shared' mode to share knowledge, best practices and resources. It is a model that retains the core specialization of individual teams, yet offers room for cross-team collaboration.
The ideal operating model to be implemented for a TCoE will be one that leverages the strengths of the TCoE setup and at the same time does not add too much overhead and bureaucracy to the overall setup. It will be setup as a model that promotes end-to-end collaboration, yielding:
Individual silos with core teams will be set up for specific projects so as to have focused test efforts to meet the quality needs of each of the projects. These individual teams will be managed by lead-level resources who will manage daily project deliverables. Virtual teams will be set up with specialists to handle specialized testing needs such as performance, security, globalization, accessibility/usability across the TCoE projects. Given that these testing needs do not span throughout the Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC) and these resources are expensive, they will work as a virtual team to address the specialized testing needs of all the projects in the TCoE umbrella, rather than just one project. All these leads, their respective teams and the virtual specialized teams will report to a test manager, who will manage the overarching TCoE. He/She will ensure:
Such a test manager will work closely with the stakeholders from the product team and conduct quarterly reviews reflecting the work done under the TCoE umbrella helping everyone on the product team understand and be on the same page about the project and product status and health, from a QA standpoint. This review will not be just a retrospective/backward-looking meeting, but will be proactive in focusing on the road ahead to practically implement an objective QA effort. A visual representation of this model is seen below:
The test manager should encourage monthly meetings of the entire team, inclusive of all projects in the TCoE umbrella. During such meetings, the following could be discussed: project accomplishments, challenges, workarounds, presentations made by team members on specific products/new technologies. Such monthly meetings could also set aside 15 to 30 minutes for cross-group bug bashes, allowing testers from other teams to test cross-group products. This promotes cross-product knowledge as well as helps to find bugs that the core team may have missed. Such meetings bring in good team bonding, which plays a major role in the TCoE's success. Email aliases should be set up for intra-project and inter-project communication, helping to share useful information to the required set of people on time.
Dedicated training should be conducted periodically either during monthly team meetings or outside of such sessions. Depending on the size and scale of the TCoE implementation, the test manager should determine the size of the buffer team to be maintained. Such a team will be trained and ready to work on any of the TCoE projects within a very short lead time. Typically, a 10 percent shadow/buffer team of the overall team size is a good size to have providing the flexibility of the shadow team, while not being an expensive overhead to maintain.
Thus, a TCoE has its own nuances for a right implementation. A test manager plays a very pivotal role in its successful implementation. As a first step, the test manager should get buy-in from the overall product team in educating them about the model, how it works, etc. and then carefully implement the TCoE as a step-by-step process. Such a planned approach, along with the test manager's objective mindset open to feedback, will help make the overall model a success and well received by the entire product team.