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Building an Automated Testing Platform for a Financial Services Provider

Financial Services | QA and Testing



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TEKsystems guided a niche financial provider through an automated testing initiative, presenting a customized and flexible solution that can evolve as the organization matures.

The client, recently designated as systemically important to the U.S. financial market, is the leading commodities derivatives clearing organization and serves more than 100 broker-dealers, U.S. futures commission merchants and foreign securities firms. The client’s annual volume for contracts was nearly five billion last year.

The fast pace of technology and the increasing complexity of regulation have driven an unparalleled amount of change in business and the IT systems that support it. Business models must evolve to help drive profit and stand up to increased government scrutiny.

As new systems are acquired, modified or retired, testing is required to compare expected and actual results. Manual testing of work flows and system processing is time-intensive, costly and can potentially lead to increased human errors.

Test automation offers a solution. Automation allows high risk test cases to be executed repeatedly, cost effectively and without human intervention. Organizations that desire to automate testing must evaluate the scope of their testing needs to include business priority, data volume, complexity and technical feasibility. Industries such as IT or finance, characterized by high volumes of data running through highly technical systems, often turn to automation to optimize processes and aid management in decision making.

Agile
The client operates in a niche segment of the financial services industry and uses highly technical front- and back-end systems to complete transactions for its customers. Due to the high level of manual processing involved in their internal systems, testing was a time-intensive and expensive process that required significant time and resources to complete. The client sought to achieve process optimization via automation and initially worked with a third-party vendor to evaluate their systems and develop a test solution.

Unfortunately, the vendor presented a highly technical program that was expensive and hard to maintain. In addition, the client found they had limited visibility and control of the proposed solution, and they struggled to identify the return on investment. The client ended the relationship with the vendor and brought the testing initiative back in-house with the goal of creating a modular and maintainable framework for testing.

Although the client was hesitant to engage another outside vendor for assistance, TEKsystems’ proven track record in supporting the client with a multi-year initiative to rewrite their risk management engine yielded client confidence in our abilities. Our existing relationship with the client, paired with our experience using their systems, made TEKsystems uniquely positioned as a partner. This partnership gave us insight into the client systems and presented an opportunity for TEKsystems to help the client develop a consultative solution to address the following needs:
  • Technology. The complexity of the current systems and the ambiguity surrounding the testing needs of these systems meant that the client didn’t have a clearly defined automated test strategy and platform.
  • People. The client had limited internal resources with expertise in test automation or quality assurance (QA) testing. To support this engagement, TEKsystems introduced QA and Testing practice architects to drive the testing efforts, as well as a delivery manager to serve as a bridge between the client and TEKsystems.
  • Process. TEKsystems proposed to deliver an in-depth analysis of the client’s data and application platforms and a QA roadmap including best practices and areas of improvement. The overall solution would create a software testing life cycle with a focus on mentoring their internal resources.

Given their previous attempt at automated testing, the client wanted a hands-on solution to enable them to take more ownership of the engagement and to ultimately own the process. Based on this need, TEKsystems suggested an Agile approach that would drive communication, collaboration and continuous feedback. Although the client traditionally utilized a Waterfall approach to project management, they embraced the Agile methodology.

In addition to leveraging the Agile methodology, TEKsystems’ delivery manager drove PMBOK® standards throughout the engagement, ushering the project through a series of five development stages: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing.

  1. Initiating
    TEKsystems conducted a six-week analysis of the client’s technical and functional requirements as well as reviewed their existing implementation framework ideas.

  2. Planning
    Using Agile principles, TEKsystems created a program that accommodated the client’s desire for more ownership of resources and systems. This was accomplished by integrating TEKsystems and the client team, allowing TEKsystems to respond faster to inputs from the client. This plan addressed the client’s people, process and technology needs by analyzing the following key process areas:

    Technology proofs-of-concepts
    : After reviewing 12 different technologies utilized by their systems and their corresponding interactions, the TEKsystems team completed 20 proofs-of-concepts. TEKsystems collaborated heavily with the client for information on their systems working with the client's development team, business subject matter experts and management teams. This consultative approach ensured the client had full visibility into their systems and requirements.

    Development and integration activities
    : Next, the team built a tool to manage the development activities and processes needed by the client. This step required cooperation and assistance from the client and ensured all processes were accounted for and evaluated.

    Process and test implementation
    : TEKsystems introduced an implementation plan to test development iterations. After each new development, the client would run a pilot program to train existing QA staff on new processes, identify gaps and risks, and review the technologies utilized.

  3. Executing
    TEKsystems coordinated the resources needed to initiate the implementation plan, including the designation of a test architect to work with the client to reduce risks through increased training and process improvement. We also provided a recommended governance plan, continuous process improvement plan, implementation schedule and resource breakdown.

  4. Monitoring and Controlling
    TEKsystems provided detailed documentation and best practices advice on potential risk identification. The test architect continually reviews and assesses risk throughout the process implementation plan described in the pilot program. Additionally, the test architect acts as a liaison to the TEKsystems QA practice and keeps the team apprised of challenges and general milestones at the client site.

  5. Closing
    During this retirement stage, TEKsystems developed a closeout plan that utilizes industry best practices for transitioning knowledge, responsibilities and materials.

Based on TEKsystems’ insight and guidance, the client implemented a comprehensive plan with a standardized methodology to support their testing needs. The new test automation solution was built from both new and existing software and business automation tools. These interfaces allowed the client to conduct testing activities between previously non-interconnected systems and technologies, lowering the overall cost through business automation.

The client is able to leverage test automation against every stage of the software testing life cycle and throughout their organization, allowing their test automation teams to utilize a single test framework leveraging a common technology.

TEKsystems presented a collaborative solution to meet the client’s needs. The following factors were critical to the success of this engagement:

  • Consultative Approach. The client’s prior attempts at test automation had not been successful, largely due to the complexity of their systems and the technical challenges of building an automation solution across multiple platforms. TEKsystems met with the client to fully understand the intricacies of their systems and potential compatibility issues, as well as the client’s goals for the project. TEKsystems leveraged a strong project management approach to develop a customized solution based on utilizing the client’s internal resources and existing technologies.
  • Agile Methodology. TEKsystems introduced Agile principles and credits the team-oriented, collaborative approach for the client’s satisfaction with the final solution. Agile relies on an iterative, continuous delivery method, which gave the client greater insight and understanding of the automation platform.
  • Management Support. Due to TEKsystems’ prior experience and history of partnership with the client, we were well-positioned to help the client approach their test automation challenges. We had full support from client leadership to gather input from various stakeholders and share knowledge across the organization.
  • QA Expertise. The client did not have a test automation background or the experience necessary for taking on this initiative in-house. TEKsystems was viewed as a trusted partner that could deliver automation expertise through our QA practice while mentoring their existing staff for long-term support.