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GreySpark Highlights ‘Prevention Is Better Than Cure’

Recent events have amply demonstrated the continuing need for rigorous testing and quality assurance processes within financial institutions. Current IT implementation issues affecting banks have now resulted in regulators becoming increasingly involved, onsite, in overseeing issue resolution. Last year saw another major player experiencing difficulties with payments processing. Prior to that, state-owned lenders experienced a spate of well-publicised problems.

The old adage ‘Prevention is Better than Cure’ very much applies. Perhaps It is now time for institutions to take the long-term view and ensure that quality assurance processes and testing are always baked into projects? Of course, those who are long enough in the tooth have seen all of this before. Pre-year 2000, testing was in high demand as people dreaded the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and the catastrophes that would follow. Fears were exacerbated by the fact that older legacy systems were still employed by the larger banks and it was known that in many cases date values had been hard-coded, rather than parameterised. A huge army of testing contractors and COBOL experts were deployed to find and eliminate the dangers in the event it was a damp squib. After the stroke of midnight, no planes fell from the skies and the banks operating systems continued to operate as before.

Now there is the risk that the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Testing is again seen as holding up the show in the rush to market and risk-based testing has become the norm rather than the exception. The advent of Agile style methodologies has further reduced the amount of time available to test and yet the industry is surprised when failures occur, most of which correctly targeted testing would have uncovered. Also, it is no longer enough to meet customer expectations; successful companies must now exceed customer expectations. So how can these conflicting requirements of reducing timescales and producing higher quality deliverables be met?

The answer lies in correctly identifying the actual test requirement and then properly targeting the available testing resource to meet it. This entails completing a test requirements analysis and establishing collaborative relationships with each of the stakeholders and participating functions. The primary purpose of testing is to detect as many inherent defects as possible; this process should therefore start as early as possible in the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), starting with Requirements Validation. The purpose of this form of static testing is to validate, whilst still on paper, that the requirements themselves are fit for purpose before the Development team constructs a design and produces a build. The most common element unearthed by the validation exercise is ambiguity, which will lead to different interpretations of requirements and will mean the deliverable will be different to what the business wanted, necessitating rework.

Effective Programme Test Management is required to ensure that each testing phase is properly differentiated from the preceding ones. Configuration management needs to be considered to ensure that testing does not have to be repeated due to successive builds impacting upon previously tested ones. The engagement of third parties and offshore testing needs to be effectively co-ordinated. Risk-based testing needs to accurately identify all of the ‘must do’ tests and test progress needs to be tracked against a plan and publicised via understandable MI.

The GreySpark Consultancy team has in-depth experience in maximising the effectiveness of testing. The new Programme Test Management & Quality Assurance service offering provides a stable of testing interactions across the SDLC that are specifically tailored to each clients’ actual needs.

The Programme Test Management & Quality Assurance offering includes:

  • Requirements Validation
  • Creation of Test Strategies
  • Set up of Test Environments and Test Data
  • Programme Test Management
  • Test Maturity Analysis
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