Transforming with SAFe and the importance of test leadership

SAFe is all about delivering value at speed. Test leadership and end to end testing was questioned having a place in this new world. Here is how we learned its importance and some key principles.

Test leadership is the glue weaving business value across the delivery cycle and a critical piece to deliver enablers needed for continuous testing

The range and nature of applications in most large enterprises can be very diverse and complex. Similarly, we have mainframe systems, huge monoliths, micro-services and a whole variety of front-end platforms. All these products in conjunction create customer value and therefore must synchronize with one another. Delivering value at speed was therefore a challenge.

In a drive to improve time to market and product quality, our transformation to scaled agile began. Focus was put on building enablers to help teams implement continuous testing. While this could be called a DevOps transformation, it wasn’t just that. New ways of working and a new leadership style was being introduced.

For all these different products to deliver value, release trains were formed stitching together many feature teams to delivering new features on the same cadence. Among the new cultural values was ‘autonomous teams’, which meant agile teams should be empowered to operate independently. To some this meant there was no need for test leadership and the feature teams could do without them.

As new release trains came up and they started to operate, gaps started appearing. System level tests at the release train level, and across release trains absence could be seen. Also, testing enablers to help feature teams within release trains to deliver at speed required an overarching leadership looking after these needs. Creating synergies between test automation frameworks across, again, required a common platform.

While forming the test leadership, we learned a few things and caught on some key principles. These principles along with how the leadership was formed helped in giving us a holistic view of quality across the enterprise and most importantly, the ability to demonstrate business value to the end user instead of individual pieces of working software.

While the journey is going on and we will keep on evolving our strategy. Few gems we learned thus far have certainly been very valuable and can be of immense help to organizations looking to transform how they deliver software.

Some key things audience would learn:

- In a nutshell, how SAFe delivers value at pace in an Enterprise

- A sample structure of release trains

- Why test leadership’s position can be a bit confusing

- What problems you may run into without test leadership

- Key principles we have learned in our quality transformation journey so far

o Less focus on defining processes, more on implementing and learning from the execution

o Build synergies, that’s the only way automation delivers

o Create super teams by building phycological safety


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