De-risking your Transaction Banking Implementation

Banks have never been under more pressure than now to release more features faster on their transaction banking systems. Faced with competition from peers and all forms of third party processors, the pressure on fee income is being felt across banks. Build vs. buy…to customize or not to…outsource, co-source or in-source…quality vs. stability; this list can go on. The bottom-line is that these are turbulent times for the technology initiatives of most banks. As I travel and speak to banks of all sizes, here is what I see emerging as a model to mitigate risks across implementations.

A typical implementation of complex transaction banking solution is painful. The average program lasts 18-24 months, takes up majority of the technology program resources and costs millions of dollars. Even with all of this money and time, most banks ‘Go-Live’ with quality, stability, integration and user experience issues. Just QA spends can be in excess of US $3 million+ with at least 3 iterations to the original budget.

All of this is not due to a specific product, but because of the nature of the beast.  It is evident across products, projects and banks. Some facts that I have observed and validated with customers:

  • A typical QA program for implementation of a transaction banking system lasts 18 months and costs approximately US $3 to US $4 Million. This is total cost of ownership that includes all activities such as user migration, data migration, test management etc.
  • An average transaction banking system implementation can have anywhere between 6 to 10 vendor code drops depending on the size, complexity, quality and stability.
  • For each vendor code drop, internal development teams will usually match with a code drop of their own.
  • A typical transaction banking system implementation will have a minimum of 3 full rounds of regression testing across the implementation. Smaller selective rounds are also run.
  • Most product vendors bring a set standard of quality and stability of their applications to the table. Banks tend to over engineer with too many customizations, underestimate the complexity of their programs and are not always ready for projects of this size and complexity.
  • Single Points of Failure and managing scope in these projects are some of the primary causes for many cost and schedule overruns.
  • Quality and Stability of these applications are most vulnerable in customizations, integrations, environment and data variables.

In my next post I will further explore a possible solution where an up-front assessment of quality, stability, integrations and user experience can lead to a faster implementation for a better product with optimal ROI.

Hari Raghunathan | ‘Go-Live’ Faster !

Optimizing Test Design

Boris Beizer, a definitive guru in the world of software testing, famously said “More than the act of testing, the act of designing tests is one of the best bug preventers known.”  Proactive test design can help you build quality into the system instead of testing for defects towards the end of the software development lifecycle. It allows testers to identify and eliminate defects before they are coded.

Test case design is also a powerful tool for risk analysis and optimization since it decides which parts of the system are to be tested. More often than not, the number of test cases created is far greater than the time and resources available to execute them. In such cases, good test design can be used to select the right number of tests that provide optimum coverage. Test design is also a huge factor in the success of any test automation project, even more so than tool selection and scripting.

However, a single test case design technique cannot be adequate to fully test a product. It is advisable to use a combination of these techniques because the value of each technique depends on the context of the functionality being tested. At Zentest, we use a combination of traditional and advanced test case design techniques to produce an optimized set of test cases that provide maximum test coverage. We have outlined these techniques below (click image to enlarge):

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Advanced techniques such as Classification Tree are also immensely helpful in optimizing test cases. Classification Trees identify test relevant aspects which are called classifications and their corresponding values which are referred to as classes. The different classes from all classifications are then combined into test cases. Test design becomes visual through Classification Trees which makes communication and understanding easy. This technique provides the bare minimum test cases in a way that every ‘classification’ is covered at least once.

In the example below, a maximum of 12096 (2 X 8 X 7 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 3 X 3 X 3) test cases are required to test every possible combination. With Classification Trees, a minimum of 8 test cases and an optimal of 128 are enough.

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Designing test cases is as much an art as a science.  At the core of good test design is a combination of test design techniques backed by creative and critical thinking.  The objective of good test design is to create reasonably sized tests that are aggressive enough to find defects. Reducing test design to a dull, mechanical activity will result in shallow and obvious tests that are unable to break the system and find defects.   In our experience, more than a specific technique, a combination of test design techniques backed by creative and critical thinking can lead to optimal results.

Zen Test Labs | ‘Go-Live’ Faster !

Deterministic QA: Optimal De-risking of Treasury and Cash Management Implementations

Banks invest in treasury and cash management applications every 18-24 months (includes replacements for outgrown or old systems or specialized functionality that bolts onto a current system). This not only means more work for the banks but also for their corporate customers that need to keep pace. Banks spend millions of dollars on these systems and implementation is complex. An average cycle ranges from 6 to 12 months based on the complexity and banks struggle with spiraling and unpredictable implementation time, costs while trying to keep up with increasingly frequent releases primarily because of QA and testing.

We have put together a whitepaper will help you understand common challenges faced in implementations, learn optimal approaches that minimize risk, balance requirements, customizations, quality, cost and time and understand risk mitigation strategies.This whitepaper will help you:

  • Understand common challenges faced when implementing a new or changing your existing cash management or treasury management application
  • Discover approches to balance quality, cost and time for such implementations
  • Learn optimal approaches that minimize business risk of a new technology
  • Understand high risk areas and risk mitigation strategies
  • Ensure the implementation and QA become predictable
  • Understand lessons learned from implementations

Download the whitepaper today!

Automating Without Access To The Application

I had the opportunity to be a part of a Corporate Banking project recently. I was involved in leading the functional automation testing part of the project. I found it to be a very exciting and challenging form of testing since our automation engineers did not have access to the application under test.  I wanted to share my experience in this post.

How can one automate an application without accessing the application? Confused?

The problem was that the client did not want to provide application access to the offshore team because of security concerns. We suggested setting up an isolated environment offshore, but unfortunately, that could not happen.

The deadlines were looming closer and we still did not have access to the application, so here’s what we did.

  1. We arranged a WebEx session with our onsite team member and asked him to record the functional flow using HP Unified Functional Tester (HP UFT) with the “record active screen” option “ON”.
  2. The recorded scripts were then transferred offshore.
  3. We opened these scripts offshore and started identifying objects with the existing recorded repository and also captured objects using active screen.
  4. Thus, our Object Repository was ready.
  5. After this, we started creating functions using the object repository and created test flows.
  6. After completing an automated flow, we transferred it to our onsite team member and ran the flow (without accessing the application).
  7. We were surprised that our entire flow executed successfully in a single run without any errors.
  8. We understood exactly what we needed to do in order to complete the project on time.

Completing this task was very easy for us since we already had a corporate banking repository of 4000 automated test cases and our own framework (ZenFRAME). We created Object Repositories and functions, attached those to the framework and updated the test flow in the framework …that was it! We delivered and deployed the framework in the client’s environment, setup the application URL and were ready to run our complete test suite.

The execution of our first test suite for a specific module in the onsite environment was very smooth. All the test cases executed successfully, and the result log was created in the framework.

So, this was the issue I faced and the solution I came up with. Please feel free to share any other solutions you know of for the issues mentioned above. Also, please feel free to share other issues that you faced and if possible provide the solutions that you came up with. It would be great to know other people’s experiences. Happy Testing! :)

Hemant Jadhav | Zen Test Labs

How to Setup an Automated Reminder in Tick Spot

Misplaced my timesheet

Timesheet is a mandatory implementation in every organization and implementation of timesheets definitely helps in reducing the frequency of disputes between employees and supervisors/employers. It is also a very effective way to track cost, making business accounting more accurate and error free.

Incomplete timesheets slow down our business. Employees spend longer trying to recall their jobs and hours, managers spend time chasing down incomplete timesheets, and accounting gets delayed. I understand your problems, and that is why I came up with this technique for setting up the automatic reminder feature in Tick Spot to complete timesheets on time. Follow some simple steps to set it up on your PC/Laptops.In one of my projects at Zen Test Labs, I implemented the automated timesheet reminder in Tick Spot. This helped not only the individuals working on the project, but also helped business in making correct effort calculations.

Setting up an Automated Reminder in Tick Spot:  

Every evening (you can specify your EOD), your browser opens up with the Tick Spot login screen.

Step 1

  • Create “timesheet.bat”
  • Open Notepad and type the following:
    • echo off
    • start /max iexplore.exe
  • Save the file as “timesheet.bat”

Step 2

Copy the file “timesheet.bat” to your preferred location

Step 3

Open the Run window and type “Task Scheduler”

Task Scheduler

Step 4: Add Batch Action

Select the Action tab, Click on “New”

Add Batch Action

Step 5: Add Batch File

To add the batch file, click “Browse” and select “timesheet.bat” from the stored location

Add Batch File

Step 6: Setup Trigger

To add Trigger tab and follow 5, 6, 7 & 8 actions

Click “New” –> Add the “Daily” radio button –> Add time –>Check “Enable” Check Box –> Click “OK”

Setup Trigger

Your automated reminder has been setup! The great thing about this feature is that it does not require any manual intervention and causes no overhead on system resources. You can extend this technique to other reminders too.

Mukund Wangikar | Zen Test Labs

OpenSTC, a CSR Initiative

OpenSTC..! What a memorable learning experience it was..! OpenSTC (Open Software Testing Course) is a CSR initiative by Zentest to train students in Software Testing regardless of their IT / Non-IT background. The course which is conducted free of cost is open to everyone who wishes to learn software testing. This three month course consists of a lot more than just theoretical training.

At OpenSTC, emphasis is placed on practical knowledge, which a candidate would require, not only to secure a good job, but throughout his/her career in the field of software testing.

The key technical areas covered in the course are:

  • Software Testing Life Cycle
  • Software Development Life Cycle Models
  • Principles of Software Testing
  • Test Case Design Techniques with a case study for designing Test Cases
  • How to Write Precise Test Cases (with ample case studies and examples to practice)
  • Writing End-to-End Scenarios
  • Decision Tables and Classification Tree
  • Defect Life Cycle and Defect Reporting

Trainers encourage students to extensively practice test case writing for multiple test scenarios, after which the team is introduced to the concept of Test Case Optimization. Identifying and logging defects is what excites testers most during the initial phase of learning. Defect Reporting and Writing End to End Scenarios are taught in such a manner that beginners would easily be able to write precise scenarios when they start working as software testers

The course teaches testers to be tactful explorers and to exercise good judgement. Memory and creativity based exercises are taught to improve thinking and analytical skills. After completion of the course, participants are offered a chance to work on live projects wherein they get to play the roles of Team Lead, Tester etc. and get an opportunity to apply their knowledge. The course also includes:

  • Seminars by senior members of the testing fraternity
  • Interview sessions with tips and mock interviews conducted by industry experts with feedback to participants
  • Improvement of communication skills
  • Self motivation exercises wherein participants learn about the deeper science of the mind, laws of attraction and how our thoughts shape our future. Participants are encouraged to channelize their thoughts, guided with ways to handle stress and live life with a positive attitude.

A crowd testing event was also hosted by Zentest which provided participants a chance to work on a real application in the testing environment. This day long activity was initiated by the team testing the application at Zentest and it comprised of understanding the application, exploring the application, testing and logging defects.

After completion of the course students can volunteer to be a part of the OpenSTC team. Volunteering at OpenSTC is another memorable experience wherein you can manage course activities and guide participants during live projects. Taking an initiative, communicating with the people at OpenSTC, co-ordinating and solving their queries helps one grow as a person and evolve as a leader.

Sonali Edake | Zen Test Labs

Test Automation is Not the Only Answer

I have worked on several test automation projects over the past few years. I also conduct test automation trainings as a part of our company’s CSR initiative and actively participate in online discussions about testing.  Since my work is centered on test automation, a lot of people frequently come to me with questions, some of which I would like to address in this blog post.

Question: “I recently graduated with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science. I am interested in pursuing software testing as a career. Can you recommend an automation tool that I can take up?”

Question: I am interested in software testing and have 3 years of experience in the BPO industry. I also underwent a 3 month QTP and Selenium training. Will this help me get a job as a tester?”

Question: “I have been working as a tester for the last 6 months. I want some growth in my career, so I am planning to move towards test automation. Which tools do you recommend I should learn?”

Question: “I have been working in manual software testing for over 4 years now. I think this has been a great mistake as far as my career is concerned. Most of my colleagues and friends are in test automation and it drives me up the wall .I also want to shift to automated testing; can you guide me as to how I should start?”

These and many similar questions have been asked frequently. All of these questions have a common line of thought: Test Automation. It makes me wonder if automated testing really is more important than manual testing!

Most testers I spoke to wanted to learn test automation only for the following reasons:

  • Knowledge of test automation tools can help their testing career and get them better job opportunities.
  • Some of them wanted to learn test automation just because their colleague was learning it!
  • Adding an extra point in their resume to make it stronger.
  • Highlight the fact that they learned automated testing in their performance appraisal meeting! :)

I am not against these testers but want them to realize that automated testing is not the only choice they can make to advance their testing career. Manual testing also offers a lot of growth. Knowledge of automated testing is definitely beneficial, but manual testing is also a very lucrative career path to pursue.

What I’m trying to say is that each of these roles – Manual Testing and Automated Testing have their own very unique challenges. Someone well versed with one role might not necessarily be well-acquainted with another. Treat yourself as a tester; not a manual or automation tester. Think of yourself as a tester with a set of skills, specialties, abilities and domain expertise.

Assuming that automated testing can replace manual testing and using automation tools without understanding testing & the underlying application can be very dangerous. Manual testing is not simple. It’s an art and requires high intelligence, creativity, judgment and skill with domain knowledge.

Finally, remember that human brains cannot be replaced by automated robots. :)

Any comments and suggestions are welcome.

Hemant Jadhav | Zen Test Labs