From quality control to quality assurance at the Bank of England
“People will have an impression of what the Bank of England is like – but that impression is probably out of date,” Jordan Daniel, Head of Testing and Enterprise Release Management, told QA Financial. “It’s becoming a very dynamic and forward-looking environment.”
And one domain where this is particularly prevalent is within data collection. The Bank of England, the UK’s central bank established in 1694, receives data from every financial institution approved by the PRA to accept deposits. “The data collection team is looking at how they can streamline and modernise the process – not just for the BoE, but for every firm who submits their data, like retail banks and insurance firms,” explained Jordan. “The team is looking at new technologies and new ways of working, and how we can leverage these to make things easier and more cost effective for everybody.”
In an environment of increasing regulatory change, financial firms are under mounting pressure to have more, better and newer data. “As more and more regulation is enforced, it does behove us to look at the way we do things and ask ourselves how we can do it better – it’s a big driver for change,” he said. However, there were two other angles driving the team at the BoE to revise the data collection policy. “We want to be seen as providing thought leadership in this area,” said Jordan. “We are also listening to what financial institutions want from a user perspective.”
There’s a whole mini revolution going on in this area, Jordan continued. The bank has made the decision to use XBRL, a global language standard for exchanging business information, to collect data, and will use the language to facilitate the creation of data taxonomies and make them reusable. “Effectively, it will give those that we are taking data from an easier and much better way to pass us information. So there is less error and less uncertainty.”
From quality control to quality assurance
Daniel, whose 27-year career in testing includes working within banks and building societies on large-scale QA transformation projects, joined the BoE five years ago and now leads a team of over 60 testers, release managers, QA analysts and consultants. During this time he has built the Test Practice out across all of the bank’s business areas and expanded its remit to cover test enablement and release management.
With areas of the bank innovating and changing, testing teams are having to keep up. “From a testing perspective, the bank has historically been set up to test in a certain way: very manual, very time-consuming and very much based on being risk averse and protecting the reputation of the bank,” said Jordan. “This doesn’t necessarily support the direction the data collection development team is going, for example, who want to deliver more quickly. They want to see more automation through increased technology, and that jars very much with the fact that we have been very manual in our testing.”
Last year, Jordan’s team completed a three-year plan where they established a standard process for manual testing, as well as introduced some test automation and began building toolsets. But once they saw what the data collection team and others were doing, they decided they needed a new target operating model said Jordan. “We are now one year into a five-year plan which is designed to transform all people, processes, and technology in testing within the bank. We want to evolve; just like the data collection domain is doing.”
Maintaining the same level of quality and protecting the bank’s reputation remain the key priorities for Jordan as the team moves away from manual testing to a tool-based environment. And although the bank is not subjected to the same kind of financial pressures as commercial organisations, challenges do arise around available resources and cost control. “We are working within a very tight framework. Sometimes we have to be creative in our solutions in order to achieve our goals. Also, other domain leads are trying to achieve an equal if not greater amount of change, so we are all having to work together to find the correct path where there’s a scarcity of resources and knowledge.”
Taking a manual tester and turning them into an automation engineer is also a major challenge Jordan will be tackling. And undoubtedly this will limit the amount of change the team can effect in the initial stages, he said.
However, there are milestones in place for each year of the plan, and the team will be measured against these. There’s a certain amount of applications that will have an automated regression test pack in place and there’s a certain amount of benefits that this will bring.
“We now have senior management excited about the possibilities that automation can bring. There’s a buzz around moving towards a quality assurance model and away from a quality control model,” Jordan added. “These changes will have a very significant and positive benefit, not just in raising quality, but doing so at a reduced cost. We have created this buzz, now we have to keep communicating, delivering and keeping people excited about what we are doing.”
[Picture: Copyright Bloomberg 2017]