A Testing Knowledge Management System optimizes New Recruit Productivity
To achieve efficient on-boarding, Qualitest introduced a SharePoint-based Test Knowledge Management System (TKMS). This consists of 3 main elements: training around best testing practice, modules covering the client’s systems under test, and self-assessment exams.
Qualitest’s client is an Israeli-based international company, engaged in a wide range of programs throughout the world.
Business Needs and Objectives
Qualitest provides Managed Test Services to this major client and has budget responsibility for all testing and test deliverables. Qualitest’s local employment scheme introduces highly motivated young people to Quality Assurance and Testing for 2 years after they have completed their obligatory national service and prior to moving into university education. This presents the challenge of on-boarding these new recruits as efficiently and effectively as possible to ensure that their productive time at the client is optimized.
The Qualitest Solution
To achieve efficient on-boarding, Qualitest introduced a SharePoint-based Test Knowledge Management System (TKMS). This consists of 3 main elements: training around best testing practice, modules covering the client’s systems under test, and self-assessment exams. New recruits are taken through simplified real-life case studies where they can develop test analysis and test design skills while learning through the case study material. This is then followed by a self-assessment using the exams. This approach allows the recruits to practice in the training environment and then apply it on live projects, with support and coaching from their seniors providing on-the-job training. This combination has been highly successful with an adoption rate of over 50% of around 150 testers using the TKMS as needed.
The implementation of the TKMS had a number of challenges to overcome:
Knowledge acquisition: Qualitest’s knowledgeable senior resources were busy on projects and needed to be encouraged to participate. To achieve this, they were empowered to provide their client systems knowledge in a form that they found most convenient: text, audio, video or presentation. The Qualitest TKMS owner categorized the information to ensure that searches would find the relevant content.
Best practice learning: An appropriate way of providing best practice material was required. Formal courses were thought to be too long and provide too much knowledge at once, drowning the new recruits. Relying on internet research was considered to be risky with highly variable quality of content. To overcome these challenges, the TKMS team created specific modules where appropriate and provided links to trusted material for supplementation and extension. This was modularized so that recruits could learn as needed as they work through the case study material.
Assurance of learning: A way of determining whether recruits had in fact understood and applied what they had learnt was required. Typical examination material was considered to be too generic so the test leads and technical test leads developed exams based on the specific case study material. These are designed to be taken gradually as learning progresses, building the recruits’ confidence and providing an assessment for line management.
The client had been concerned about the level of turnover of the recruits, perceived limited productivity and felt that recruits needed too much of their staff’s support. Additionally, for Qualitest it was clearly evident if a new recruit was not performing. These concerns helped initiate the TKMS project. Initially the client was uncertain about the success of the project and did not want their own staff to participate as this would be a further draw on their time.
However, as the project progressed, the effectiveness of the learning became apparent to both Qualitest and the client; fewer questions were asked in day-to-day working, resulting in less dependencies on both Qualitest and the client staff. The client’s perception of the new recruits changed positively and their own staff now proactively engage in review of new training material, improving and assuring the content to everyone’s advantage.
As a result, knowledge is now shared in a very effective way, mitigating the churn of staff. New employees are ramped up more quickly and cost effectively, increasing their value to Qualitest’s client. Extending the knowledge base and associated learning is now straightforward with a well-established system.
The creation of material was undertaken as a specific exercise and creating material for new areas is working well. The challenge of maintenance has now come to the fore. Once the level of participation reaches 70% (a level at which staff engagement is assured) the Qualitest team will undertake a program to embed maintenance activities in day-to-day workings to ensure that the TKMS continues to provide value for the future.