User training should begin before the system is implemented and therefore must be planned during the design phase. Deciding when to conduct training is tricky. While training must be conducted before implementation, it cannot be too much before or trainees may forget what they learned. Training materials, user manuals, and the system used for training must also be consistent with the system actually implemented.
Technology Application 7.1
Visa cannot afford any glitches or downtime in its charge processing software. Yet it must accommodate approximately 2,500 system changes monthly, resulting in yearly modifications to 2 million lines of code. The company recently spent three years upgrading its clearing process, which settles 50 to 100 million transactions nightly. The development team tested individual modules and systems, and then 50 quality assurance specialists in two groups conducted extensive testing of the software. The first group selected 600,000 transactions from their existing event data store to try out the new system. The second group recreated five days of processing, including 70 million daily transactions, to check the results against the old system. Member banks then conducted user testing. All told, more than 40% of the project budget was spent on testing efforts. Once the system began to be used, a command center helped users with problems and assisted business partners with adapting their own software to interface with the new Visa system.
Until recently, test planning and execution was typically a manual procedure designed and executed by a group of quality assurance experts. Companies have only recently recognized the advantages of adopting automated software quality tools. Rapid e-business advances were the impetus for the growth of this software market. Companies realize that they cannot recover losses of business partner confidence once their online reputations have been damaged due to inaccurate Web processing or excessive downtime. Because development time for Web applications is far shorter than for traditional systems, companies need to focus on their testing efforts to ensure that module, system and user volume tests have been completed prior to installing the system on the Web. As an example, one dotcom, Guild.com Inc., typically encounters 10,000 visitors to its site daily. A popular advertisement might cause that number to increase by up to 600%. The site was especially stressed when it was named a top Internet art site by Time magazine, resulting in twenty times the traffic. It used this experience to justify the expense of testing tools, quality assurance staff, testing hardware, and testing consultants.
Sources: Gary H. Anthes, “Change Control,” Computerworld (October 8, 2001); Billie Shea, “Software Testing Gets New Respect,” InformationWeek (July 3, 2000).