August 10, 2023

The Benefits of Agile Testing vs. Center of Excellence: Which Approach is Right For You?

Continuous Testing

Software development is the key pillar of modern organizations, and the choice of testing methodology is a defining factor in development success. Two testing methodologies that often stand in contrast are agile testing and a Center of Excellence (CoE). Agile, known for its flexibility and responsiveness, emphasizes continuous collaboration and adaptation to customer needs. CoE, on the other hand, focuses on standardization and processes. While both approaches have their unique strengths and challenges, the choice between them can significantly impact the development process and your customer experience. Which one should you choose?

This blog explores both concepts and compares them. Whether you're a seasoned developer or just starting in the field, understanding these methodologies can provide valuable insights into creating more efficient and effective development processes. And if you’re an engineering leader, this article can help you determine the right methodology for your organization and team.

What is Agile Testing?

Agile testing is a flexible and iterative approach to software development and testing that emphasizes rapid and incremental changes. These changes are made based on immediate customer feedback. By embracing the agile approach, organizations can improve the quality of their code, accelerate time to market and quickly meet customer needs.

Agile testing is a subset of Agile. The premise of agile testing is “test early, test often”. This means that agile testing should be a continuous process that goes hand-in-hand with agile software development and takes place early in the SDLC. It is also known as a “shift left approach”, i.e testing is shifted left in the development process. This is unlike traditional testing (aka the Waterfall method) where testing is often a separate, disconnected phase in the development process, closer to releasing the product.

Agile Testing and Agile Development

Agile testing is often carried out as part of agile development sprints. Sprints are short development processes, usually one to four weeks long. During sprints, cross-functional teams (scrums), which include developers, testers, DevOps, and product teams, collaborate to complete predefined work. Testing is conducted concurrently as part of the sprint to ensure that the product is evolving as intended. This is how “shifting left” testing is often carried out.

Agile Testing and Automation

Agile testing often involves the use of automated testing tools. This enables frequent testing based on pre-defined triggers while eliminating the reliance on manual work and reducing the risk of errors. Automation also allows integrating testing into CI/CD pipelines, which enable integrating testing as part of the delivery process.

Agile Testing and DevOps

Agile testing and DevOps are complementary and related practices in modern software development. DevOps is a role and culture that emphasizes iterative development, continuous feedback, and collaboration between development and IT operations. DevOps are responsible for streamlining the development process, ensuring that code is continuously developed, tested and released. As such, agile testing is one of the pillars of DevOps.

Benefits of Agile Testing

Agile testing provides multiple benefits, including:

  • Prompt implementation of customer feedback
  • Expedited time-to-market
  • Improved code quality, by identifying bugs and issues earlier in the development process
  • Receiving continuous feedback from customers through a feedback loop
  • Cross-departmental collaboration
  • An improved used experience
  • Ensuring the product is aligned with customer needs
  • Democratizing innovation and testing
  • Eliminating the risk of error

Agile Testing Drawbacks

Some of the drawbacks include:

  • Requires coordination between multiple team members
  • Lack of focus on long-term goals
  • Lack of standardization between teams

What is a Center of Excellence?

A Center of Excellence (CoE) is a centralized hub within an organization that focuses on standardizing software testing practices. It brings together experts, tools, and methodologies to create an official, unified approach to testing across various projects and teams. 

By establishing these processes and setting common KPIs, the CoE is meant to ensure consistency and quality in testing. In some cases, the CoE might even include specialized testing teams that execute specific or complex tests, particularly if they require unique expertise or tools.

In large enterprises, a CoE can help create alignment between teams, ensure consistency, and support coherence with business goals. It can also eliminate redundancies between teams since the CoE provides teams with repeatable processes and frameworks.

That being said, a CoE is a centralized approach that can add complexity to the organization, slow down development processes and stifle scale and growth. By the time the recommendations reach the teams, they could be irrelevant. Therefore, a CoE was more commonly used in the past, when organizations implemented a waterfall approach, and before technologies like the cloud and microservices required a more modern approach to development and testing. 

Benefits of CoE

Some of the benefits include:

  • Enables strategic planning
  • Promotes organizational standardization
  • Encourages research and large-scale initiatives

CoE Drawbacks

Compared to agile testing, the CoE has multiple disadvantages. These include:

  • CoEs are resource-intensive, in terms of human resources, the budget they require and the time they consume
  • CoEs create organizational silos
  • CoEs may stifle innovation
  • CoEs create complexity through processes, which lead to employee frustration and professional slow-down
  • CoEs delay time to market of new features
  • CoEs are typically not aligned with customer needs
  • CoEs hinder growth and scale
  • CoEs might create internal conflicts 

Comparing Agile vs. CoE

Should organizations choose an agile testing approach or build a CoE? Here’s how it breaks down:



Agile Testing



Continuous testing at frequent iterations

Centralizing expertise and resources that dictate testing methods

Team Structure

Cross-functional teams working together

A separate team working disconnected from engineers

Testing Frequency

Continuous, e.g every release or every week

Usually after the development phase is complete, could be every few months or even years

Tools and Technologies

Automated tools that are easy to use, like JMeterSeleniumBlazeMeterJenkins

Legacy tools that require high-level expertise and can only be used by a few skilled experts


Highly responsive to changes and feedback

Less responsive to individual project needs, focusing on organization-wide standards


Frequent and open

Formal and limited

Popular Adoption

Organizations with a growth mindset

Legacy organizations with traditional processes

Recommended Use Cases

Projects that require frequent releases, cloud development, projects that require flexibility, projects that aim for automation

Edge cases and extremely complex testing scenarios

Bottom Line

Agile and CoE are both valuable methodologies, but they cater to different needs. Agile's flexibility, iterative approach, and emphasis on collaboration and customer feedback often make it a more suitable choice for dynamic development environments. On the other hand, CoE's focus on standardization and expertise can be beneficial in specific contexts.

For teams looking to be nimble, responsive, and closely aligned with customer needs, agile testing is the recommended approach. Its adaptability and focus on continuous improvement align well with the ever-changing landscape of software development.

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