Funding the test automation team

First I’d like to thank all of you that read and responded to my last post. As this was the first post in this blog, it was great to follow up on the great replies and read your points of view. I specifically enjoyed reading your replies, George and LaBron – I think it is interesting to see how many flavors there are for the model I wrote about and the trick is finding the right one for your organization while keeping the eye on the ball and making sure the critical things that apply across the board are still kept. In a way my post this week will touch upon some of what you wrote LaBron, regarding passing on responsibility to SMEs from the business units.


 

 This week, I want to continue along the same lines of discussion but focus on a problem that every CoE manager or a manager of a centralized functional testing team struggles constantly – how do I scale up and support more and more projects and business units while working within a given budget (or let’s face it, in this economy – maybe even a shrinking one). Basically I see 3 main funding models among our customers and users:

  1.  Full service based model where any activity of the centralized FT (functional testing) team is funded by the project it supports and needs to convince it to fund and invest in automation, rather than keeping the existing manual test suites as they are.

  2. Fully self funded automation team where all activities of the FT team are funded by the team itself (which manages its own budget) and the team can scale up only up to its available budget

  3. Somewhere in the middle – the FT team has some budget to work with but not enough to carry on a full service to a business unit. At a certain point the testing project needs to be convinced and fund the rest of the investment in automation in order to get the ROI. 
Using quotes is always a bad sign for someone who thinks he has something to say but it’s still fun…J – Andre Gide said “Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.
As always, each of the 3 ways above has it’s pros and cons and it is up to us to understand them, consider the differences and choose which is best for our organization. Here is how I see it: 

Full Service Based Model


Pros:

  • Projects need to be proven as worth the effort with positive ROI before investing. This allows the organization as a whole to have a process that makes sure evangelists are not running mad and building their empires but invest their time where it is most beneficial to the organization.

  • Quantification of ROI usually improves and becomes much better when it’s the team only way to receive budget. This gives management better visibility.

  • The centralized automation team and its automation projects are fully scalable – a new project drives new budget to the team to expand its activities.

  • Once a project is on its way, the business unit getting the service is fully committed.
Cons:

  • Making change is hard. A project that might benefit a whole lot from automation might be missing it if the project manager has a hard time taking risks or creating change. This does happen.

  • There is very little innovation from the centralized FT team since projects want to pay only for clear deliverables.

  • Very hard to maintain a growing centralized infrastructure that is owned by the FT team – an activity which is usually hidden from the day to day project’s life.
Fully Self-Funded Centralized Automation Team

Pros:



  • The team has enough budget to innovate, maintain its infrastructure and invest a lot in convincing a project they want to port to using automation (sometimes automating large parts of the project as a POC)

  • The team can grow its knowledge and constantly try out new supporting tools which allow it to improve.
Cons:

  • The centralized automation team has a very hard time to scale – a fixed budget and growing number of projects will create a problem and the FT team will become a bottleneck for the organization’s move to automation.

  • Automation might grow where things are ‘cool’ to work on but not the most critical to the business.

  • There isn’t clear ROI business case unless someone chooses or instructed to calculate it and report on it

  • Even if a POC was positive and the project is ongoing with success, the business unit might never actually be totally bought-in and might decide to let the effort die, too easily, in the future.

Somewhere in the Middle

Pros:

  • The FT team can decide where is the best place to invest its own budget in convincing a project to invest in automation (best ROI for the POC) but once the POC is done the ongoing automation work is funded by the projects which allow to scale and redirect FT resources to the next new project.

  • Innovation within the FT team is possible but needs to be managed closely.

  • There is a clear point where the business unit that receives the service commits and takes the lead in terms of funding and interest in the automation effort.
Cons:

  • Very difficult to find the middle ground without hurting the centralized automation team – too small of a budget for a large organization will create failures and negative momentum for automation in the organization which is hard to fix sometimes.

  •  This approach can sometimes create frustration among managers of centralized automation teams – they are expected to push automation as they do have the budget for it but since it might not be enough they might feel the organization is expecting them for deliverables that they cannot actually deliver on. 
Choosing is hard and it really depends on the size of the organization you are in, its nature, its management style and more… 
There might be more than these 3 flavors and probably more pros and cons to the ones I listed. I am eager to hear from you which ones you think I missed and which you find best for you…and why. 
Till next time… 

Roi.

 


 

Comments
| ‎02-11-2009 12:42 AM

Interesting post.

Having been through some of these scenarios, I do agree that it is difficult - if you find a "magic formula" let us know.

Full Service: Difficult to achieve as the project that will need to fund it often has a short term focus, meaning they end up automating "quick wins" only.

Self-funded: Easier to get involvement in projects, but often the FT team will suffer from the fact that there is a lower level of committment from the project staff and sponsors.

Middle ground: You are right in that there can be a bit of an identity crisis in the Automation team as they switch from strategic to tactical activities.

My personal belief is, the higher the source of the funding, the better chance of the organisation succeeding with automation. This allows you to calculate the ROI on the orgnisational impact, within the strategic planning timeframe.

I have wondered whether it is possible to have something like funding credits that can be given to projects for their strategic assets, but I haven't got my head around how to operate this, let alone work out how to sell it.

| ‎02-25-2009 11:19 AM

sincomentarios.

| ‎03-22-2009 10:47 PM

Hi Roi,

Nice to see your blog (and thanks to Tzvi T. for forwarding it to me).

The main thing I think you are missing in both this post and the previous one is the role of senior management in the creation and support of an automation CoE. We both know that management support (or lack of it) can make or break automation, however much proof of ROI you bring them. This is obviously true about any CoE, but with a lot of up-front work required before you reap the fruits of automation, there will always be  those who don't believe it will work.

| ‎04-21-2009 08:01 PM

We are currently evaluating QTP 9.5 for testing our web applications. We are getting close on making a decision for a tool but what we need at this time is licensing and pricing information.

We’d like to know different pricing with following seat options:

1 seat license (for most recent QTP version, or QTP 9.5 )

1-10 seat license (for most recent QTP version, or QTP 9.5 )

1 -100 seat license (for most recent QTP version, or QTP 9.5 )

My contact info is listed as below. Please forward this quote inquiry to the right sales staff and response to us back asap because we will make our decision soon.

Thanks

Henry Qian

Quality Assurance Analyst

Certicom Corporation

Phone: (905) 501-3825

Main: (905) 507-4220

Email: hqian@certicom.com

Website: http://www.certicom.com

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