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Testing transformation project of the year — UST Global
Schroders, the £400 billion investment manager, chose UST to drive its Agile programme forward. It's a project that illustrates how improved quality assurance and faster app delivery can help major financial firms compete with market disrupters on their own terms.
For Melinda Chapple, the Singapore-based head of Schroders' global quality assurance practice, Agile software development is an important part of the response to a new competitive landscape. In the US, the so-called robo-advisers -- low-cost, automated retail investment platforms -- have already grabbed a substantial market share of the retail market. The two largest robos there, Betterment and Wealthfront, now manage assets of more than $7 billion and $5 billion respectively. While European robos are lagging behind that growth curve, the pattern of technology-led disruption for the longer term is just as clear.
“We are no longer a firm with technology on one side and business on the other,” Chapple told QA Financial. “The two requirements are increasingly aligned, and being Agile allows us to provide our business community with the tools they need to better serve our clients.”
Schroders' collaboration with UST dates back to 2012, when UST began supplying developers for application delivery. But when Schroders embarked on its Agile transformation project in 2016, it chose UST as its core advisor.
Sanjai Balachandran, the Schroders account director at UST, said that the project started with both firms investing in the retraining of Schroders testers in Agile working methods, in addition to hiring 60 new testers. “All members of the quality assurance department underwent a basic ‘Agile concepts’ workshop, and testers were trained to become high-level Agilistas,” said Balachandran.
The end result, said Schroders' Chapple, was a unified team approach. “UST had skin in the game, and I knew that if I had a problem that I could not solve, I could trust them to take care of it.”
It was also a mutual commitment to the continuation of a separate software testing function. Not everyone was convinced about such a need. “There were some Agile purists who believed that testers were obsolete, that what we needed were developers that test,” said Chapple. Those doubts have now been put to rest, she said, now that all the retrained testers are embedded in Agile teams.
Waterfall testers were retrained to become automation experts and new test technologies were implemented throughout the enterprise. In the first six months of the programme, UST expanded its on-site team of testers with automation skills from six to 30.
To additionally support training, UST helped Schroders implement an Automated Readiness Tool -- an application that records individual test processes in a video file that can then be reused as a training module.
New technologies delivered savings as well as agility, with automation projects on track to yield around £500,000 of annual efficiencies by the end of 2017, Chapple says. It's an amount derived from a specially constructed return-on-investment calculator that integrates with HP’s Application Lifecycle Management, which Schroders uses to manage and execute tests.
According to UST’s Balachandran, the key focus of the testing team going forward will be innovation. For example, one area under investigation is the use of natural language processing to build test requirements. "It is still in the initial discussion phase, but it looks promising so far,” said Balachandran.