Banking on IT

When it opened for business in 1936, Arizona Federal Credit Union had only 50 member-owners with an average account balance of $5. From those humble beginnings, the institution has grown into a regional financial powerhouse with more than $1.9 billion in assets from 232,000 member accounts in 27 branch locations with more than 750 employees.

Vice President of Information Technology Kevin Bingham attributes Arizona Federal’s steady growth in the competitive Phoenix market to a combination of responsiveness, convenience, flexibility and value. So it’s not surprising that when rolling out software updates threatened to slow down the business, Bingham and his team looked to test automation and structured application delivery to keep their competitive edge. Here, in his own words, is how they did it.

In 2007, Arizona Federal credit union was deploying application updates through a process of manual testing that met our goals for application quality, but clearly left room for improvement in several areas.

We had relied heavily on our core vendors to develop, test and release software updates. However, we found that in order to assure quality consistent with our processes and organizational goals, we had to spend significant time making sure each software release, update and patch was of sufficient quality to deploy without impairing operations.

Next came the opportunity to improve time to market. Usually, software releases provide customers with new features, added functionality and enhanced usability. By improving time to market for each release, we could enable our business segments to quickly provide new products and services to our members.

Of course, when you’re delivering software releases, updates or patches, there’s always the risk of introducing some defect that affects mission-critical aspects of the business processes. As a result, we turned our focus on ways to mitigate the risks associated with updates.

Beyond critical issues that could bring the business to a halt, we consider typical software defects, loss of functionality, and improperly documented procedures that could adversely affect our internal staff and our members. This requires more work and additional data cleanup activities, causes missed service levels and reduces members’ confidence in the credit union.

We took a hard look at the testing process, knowing that there are great benefits in simply being able to test more of an application in the same amount of time. The challenge is finding a way that enables you to do so without adversely affecting the business.

Even with a dedicated qual-ity assurance team, most companies need to call on internal resources to document test cases and verify that the right things are being tested. But as organizations add more responsibilities to existing resources, they squeeze the time available for internal resources to participate in testing.

Given our current business situation, my team and I brainstormed several options that might help us achieve our goals. We could limit application testing to the time available or extend the testing period. Alternatively, we could add more dedicated resources to create and execute manual tests, so that we could run more tests without involving our business partners.

Unfortunately, none of those choices allowed us to achieve our business goals. The status quo wasn’t acceptable, nor was having a greater resource and time impact on the business.