To be able to formulate the strategy, I required to find the focus areas for us to work on. After some thoughts, I identified the following as the focus areas for our department.
- Organisation (i.e. Mobily)
- Products (i.e. all involved systems under QA purview)
- Customers (i.e. all interfacing departments)
- Work (i.e. the business of Quality Assurance and Quality Control)
- Team (i.e. QA Team)
- Individuals (i.e. QA Team Members)
- Management (i.e. QA Team Leaders/Managers)
To put the above in perspective, I present a brief description of the above.
- Organisation: Mobily is in the business of providing Mobile Telephony services in Saudi Arabia. We are the first Private Sector Telecom Operator in Saudi Arabia and have been in business for a little over 7 years. We have spent the earlier years of our operations focusing on acquisition of subscriber base and have now attained a subscriber base of 25 million. So, while we continue to focus on further expansion of our subscriber base, now we also need paying attention to consolidation of the acquired subscriber base.
- Products: There are 67 different IT systems required for the operations of Mobily. Not all of these systems come under the purview of Quality Assurance. This is because some of the software like Revenue Assurance system is actually deployed for ensuring the quality of our Billing and Charging solution, Mediation System, Customer Relationship Management System, etc. There are other systems like ERP which undergo very little changes and thus do not need elaborate set up for Quality Assurance. Then, there are some system like mPay system, which are used by our Dealers to sell Vouchers, which are supplied by proprietary vendors and thus maintained and tested by them. In summary, QA is involved completely with 33 IT Systems and partly with 9 systems. These products include COTS like Siebel, BRM, etc. procured from product companies and in-house developed systems like BMS (Business Management System – a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system), Provisioning System, etc.
- Customers: Mobily IT department has 3 main divisions – IT Development, IT Operations and IT Strategy and Planning. IT QA comes under IT Strategy and Planning. So, IT Development and IT Operations are the main customers within Mobily IT for IT QA. Besides, IT QA is responsible for ensuring the business requirements are met by the products developed by the Mobily IT and is thus answerable to the Mobily Business Teams in terms of providing evidence of the same.
- Work: IT QA is responsible for Quality Assurance and Quality Control. So, major aspect of IT QA activity is to offer testing services for all the products developed by IT Development Team and testing for all the bugs fixed by IT Development Team as identified by IT Operations. Only after certification by IT QA, IT Operations deploys a software in the Production Environment. A relatively smaller part of the work, whose significance is much more far-reaching, is verification of the requirement, design and architectural decisions for all the development to be conducted by the IT Development Team. An even smaller aspect of the work is implementation of consistent processes across the Mobily IT.
- Team: This is self-explanatory. This is a vital focus area. I always understand that unless the team is taken care of, none of the other focus areas can be addressed to any level of satisfaction.
- Individuals: This is also self-explanatory. I understand that focusing on Team is utterly useless unless every team member is given adequate attention.
- Management: I understand that teams and people do adequately if the right form of leadership is provided. Unless the Leader have the essential authority and the right attitude and essential attributes, they cannot give the right kind of leadership to drive any of the other focus areas.
This list was quite enormous and thus I did not even want to think if I was missing out on anything. Now, it was essential for me to articulate our approach to the focus areas. I thought of everything I had learnt all through my career and I listed the following as our approach for the focus areas. To make it attractive for the team, I recollected all the fancy statements I had every come across.
WHAT IT MEANT FOR US?
||We made it clear to ourselves that we are a support department. We also we found that, under most circumstances, we do not have the knowledge of the big picture. So, we gave advantage of assessing priorities to the Business departments making them aware of risks perceived by us. However, we made an underlying agenda to gradually try to get to know the big picture as early in the life-cycle as possible.|
||Success of Mobily products and systems in view of the Mobily customers is the only thing that matters and nothing else matters.|
||We realised that IT Operations was a customer who was not getting adequate attention, same as IT Development.|
||We exist because of the Customer & Customer is always right. Even if Customer is not right, we do not gain anything by proving the same. Also, conflict always causes damage which would cost the organisation and thus affect us.|
||Test as much as possible given the constraints and report the residual risk which enables Business to make decisions.Document and Report all defects without any compromise.|
||Do not test anything without a Test Plan, no matter what is the level of urgency.|
||Automate as much as possible to increase volume of tests and decrease time taken to test.|
||Increase the use of Quality Center to greatest level to justify the existing investment.|
||Define our goals and develop strategies to meet the same. Then, start to carry out the strategies and have mechanism to measure the same through regular reviews.|
||Treat every team member as a Customer (Internal Customer) and again “Customer is always King”. Let us not look for any personal glory. If the team succeeds, we all automatically become successful.|
||Try and find patterns in every job that one does. Once pattern is identified, mechanize the same and make it a periodic routine. Do not think too much while conducting mechanised activities. Instead, put thoughts on how to mechanize more and more work items.|
||Ultimately, the world is just and we work in a great organisation where everyone is just. So, if we indeed contribute effectively, the organisation will reward when it is appropriate.|
||If we make a mistake, we will own it up and make amends. This way we will never have to manipulate.|
||Get all work items reviewed by peers.|
||Identify data items to analyse. Device mechanism for data generation and data collation. Make any statement based on facts depicted by available data.|
||Make achievements of the team known to key stakeholders without making too much noise.|
||Include new areas of responsibilities even if it means stretching ourselves.|
||Treat the vendors with respect and be fair with them.|
||Evaluate the strengths of each person and assign an appropriate task and allow him/her to own the same.|
The foundation was ready. However, the strategy was not complete unless I could explain the above precisely to the team members. So, I elaborated each of them first through statements. I will present these elaborations in the later chapters. These elaborations were followed by explanations in weekly meetings and subtle remarks to people or groups at appropriate instances.