Though many agree that testing is a necessary and valuable piece in the payments landscape, more consideration is still needed when it comes to how new technologies and migrations are tested. Anthony Walton, CEO and founder of Iliad Solutions, recently joined PYMNTS to share why testing is more important than ever before and the power that comes with that new mindset.
“Up until now, testing has almost always been a necessity undertaken at the end of a project. Decision makers and leaders want their test teams to give them the thumbs up and the reassurance that the new technology works and is ready to go,” Walton explained. “Yet, with the industry’s rapid evolution, we need to reconsider the role of testing and our approach to it. Put simply, testing is definitely more important than ever before, and people need a new perspective.”
Launch And Migration Complexities
Modern payment systems are increasingly complex and have evolved to contain more interdependencies, which all need to be tested in different combinations and must still be resilient should one of their components fail, Walton noted.
Increasing the safety, speed and efficiency of transactions is the common goal. However, Walton pointed out that the fundamental problem is the transition from the legacy systems to new technology.
“I’m sure many appreciate the complexity involved, but the problem is that, without scrapping what they already have and building on new foundations, it is hard to adopt the changes they want quickly,” he explained. “As a result, the deadlines for implementation keep getting moved back, which can only increase project costs.”
The Role Of Consumers And Disruptors
It’s no surprise that consumers today are much less tolerant and will no longer put up with poor quality products and services.
They are also better able to change allegiance quickly and more easily than ever before, which puts pressure on established players to improve their offer, Walton noted. To make matters worse, disruptors everywhere are feeding on this dissatisfaction and focusing on the most profitable areas of the banking industry.
According to KPMG’s global analysis of FinTech venture funds, noted in The Pulse of FinTech Q3 2016 report, the average level of global investment in the FinTech sector has been running at about $6 billion per year since 2011, reaching a peak in 2015 of $14.5 billion. While global venture capitalist interest in FinTech companies remains high, investors have recently begun to hold back on making major investments amid ongoing uncertainty in the global economy.
“Even so, the sector is well enough financed to revolutionize the market and provide it with new bespoke services,” Walton said.
Management Process Changes
Since the late 1970s, Walton explained, the computing industry has relied on waterfall development patterns to provide the structure around which software is created and deployed. This linear approach to project management provides a robust framework in which each element in the sequence largely depended upon the completion of the one before, which dictated a testing approach that has persisted perhaps longer than it should have, he noted.
As the computing industry evolved, driven by the demands on development teams born out of aggressive commercial change across all industries, the waterfall has been superseded.
Instead, Walton pointed out, the computing industry began to use Agile, DevOps and Continuous development.
“[These are] all well and good, but these new ways of working have massively increased the number of releases and code drops, and this now necessitates a new way of testing,” he added.
The Rise Of Regulation
The increase in regulation means there is a constant and evolving cycle of mandatory changes. As this grows, it is more important to create an easily accessible audit trail to document what has changed and why the change was necessary, Walton said.
“With the seismic shift in the political landscape as a result of Brexit and the election of President Trump, it’s increasingly likely that more changes are on the way,” he explained. “This makes compliance testing critical.”
According to social media specialist Hootsuite, 2.8 billion people were using social media at the end of 2016, up 21 percent from 2015. In the past, news of a problem within an organization would be distributed via the broadcast media, but it is now first made public through social media, which accelerates and compounds the impact of failure and allows people to make jokes and disparaging remarks.
Quite simply, the effect on a brand can be catastrophic, Walton pointed out.
This means companies really can’t afford the risk to their reputation that can happen if testing is overlooked or not deployed properly.
Changing The Perception
“Too many organizations focus on proving that software works, and yet, the focus should be on trying to break it,” Walton said. “It’s too easy to be self-satisfied right up to the point that Twitter goes into meltdown because your customers can’t get at their money.”
Modern-day testing tries, therefore, to identify the weaknesses in the systems under test. The test is only complete when it is clear that those systems are problem-free.
What’s Next For Payments Testing?
“Within your organization, you’ll be able to identify which of these factors have the largest impact according to your own unique set of circumstances and experience,” Walton said. “As the payment ecosystem evolves, so should the process that companies employ for testing new releases.”
He noted that the answer isn’t to throw more people at the problem. The law of diminishing returns governs manual software testing in the same way that it rules so many people-dependent functions — the future has to be automation and platforms that drive and enable this fundamental change in approach.
“Too often, adding people simply adds confusion, cost, inefficiency and management overheads and rarely achieves the intended results. The effects of getting testing wrong are now greater, so the approach to it needs to change. The costs of adopting new test platforms and techniques will always be lower than the cost of a single significant system outage,” he said.