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During the CityIQ conference at the Museum of London, the subject of project governance was reviewed in detail. Attendees, drawn from the investment management and financial services sector, reported their top three challenges in managing a portfolio of change are: managing resources; doing too many projects at the same time and the increasing level of regulatory work.

They also stated the most likely cause for project failure was not defining the scope adequately. We have worked on many projects where the requirements were approved but not understood or completed. For example, on one programme a senior BA asked “What on earth does this mean?”, only to be met by a colleague’s response of “I’ve no idea, but you signed it off.”

Despite the high risk of failure in these situations they are far from unrecoverable. You can implement techniques where, without interruption to the schedule, key requirements are clarified in a precise, yet concise, form. If these are then reassessed and risk assessed by the stakeholders the project can progress on the delivery a service of known scope.

The attendees were also asked if “Testing gives me all I need to decide whether to make a release into production”. More than half of those who expressed a view at the conference disagreed or strongly disagreed. This is interesting because the extra effort required to provide the information to support this decision is very small.

While in part, it is related to the question of scope (if you don’t know the scope then testing can’t help inform a go/no-go decision about releasing to production) a much greater part is about the governance of the testing process and management of the testers. Generally, decision makers find that information from software testing teams is geared more for the testers than for the stakeholders. This is similar to not defining the requirements adequately, where, in this case, the information requirements of the decision makers are not understood by the test function.

This is not difficult to change. Test management reports can be set up from the perspective of the customers or key stakeholders, showing what works or otherwise from their point of view. These can be produced throughout a project, so that programme management have daily reports showing status and progress towards going live. Testing produces a huge amount of data and with a little effort this can be turned into clear management information.

If you’d like more information on governance or test reporting, please contact us.

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