SunTrust Automates IT Testing to Spot Possible Problems Early

By Adams, John | American Banker, February 1, 2012 | Go to article overview
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SunTrust Automates IT Testing to Spot Possible Problems Early


Adams, John, American Banker


Byline: John Adams

Like most banks, SunTrust is tasked with upgrading its technology quickly on multiple fronts to meet myriad IT mandates, with a quick time to market and manageable expenses.

That means improving the testing it does to ensure the hastened development pace don't adversely impact systems that are in place. SunTrust, which is already in the midst of a multi-year reorganization to standardize IT testing, is expanding its tests to include progressive automation. Progressive automation spots the negative impacts of programming or updates on existing systems much earlier in the development cycle. It's a strategy that enhances traditional regressive testing, in which new code is tested near the end of a project to locate errors.

Richard Gilbert, the senior vice president at SunTrust who is responsible for enterprise testing, this week spoke with BTN about the new testing techniques, which grew out of the bank's Test Center of Excellence. The unit was first formed three years ago at the $185 billion-asset Atlanta-based bank to bring maturity and standards to cross-enterprise testing, which had been siloed and owned by individual units. As the center braces for more software updates to adhere to new regulations and new applications to enable customer-facing innovations in mobile banking, payments and other areas, progressive automation and centralized testing standards will take on a much greater role.

BTN: What are you testing right now, and how has that changed over the past couple of years?

Gilbert: We have put together a centralized organization to test our application landscape known as a Test Center of Excellence (TCoE). We focus on ensuring the quality of our applications and changing technologies that impact internal [staff] and external clients, everything from the core banking system to online banking to mobile applications. Over the past three years, we have worked to build a centralized testing practice as opposed to a distributed organization model. The focus has been on transforming our people, processes, and tools to enhance our testing results.

How does centralization improve testing?

We can ensure standards in testing, which drives both consistent and predictable levels of quality for our applications. A lot of banks are moving toward centralizing testing. Under the old [distributed testing model], teams do their own testing for each line of business and the results vary widely based on the skills of the practitioners and the focus on quality. Our centralized model standardizes processes and tools across the enterprise and trains practitioners on the fundamentals of testing software applications. This enables us to resolve issues with inconsistent delivery and changing IT complexity and make our test process more effective.

How is progressive automation different from other methods of testing?

With progressive automation, you write automated test scripts while the development code is being written, for faster testing and identification of problems and quicker fixes. You are essentially writing scripts to test new software. It takes two or three days to run a progressive automation suite, but we can execute hundreds of test cases, where it would have taken weeks to run manual tests. Progressive automation is different from regression automation in that you are writing automated test cases to validate new functionality [in progressive testing], where in regressive automation, you are validating that existing functionality does not break with changes.

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