CU Times Technology Correspondent
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The back shop at Arizona Federal Credit Union is now using the services of a company it says is helping make its powerful set of core processing tools do their job better.
The $1.8 billion CU is using TestPartner, an automated testing solution from Compuware that it said has helped sharply reduce the amount of time needed to test and deploy quarterly releases from its core processor, USERS Inc.
Arizona Federal is a complex operation, with 27 branch locations and more than 750 employees serving some 221,000 members, including 26 working in information technology.
One of those employees' full-time jobs is being the software tester, a position created when Arizona Federal began using TestPartner about a year ago, said Kevin Bingham, the credit union's assistant vice president of IT.
"We receive quarterly releases from USERS and had been testing everything manually before we started using this automated testing software," Bingham said. "We now can run tests multiple times so we know there aren't any issues, and we've been able to reduce the amount of time it takes to put new releases into production."
By analyzing core applications and finding ways to reduce the resources required to perform testing and which application functions are the most time consuming, the credit union has been able to reduce its test cycle from 60 days to 25 days, among other measurable improvements, Bingham said.
Such progress doesn't happen in a vacuum. Front-line staff, the managers and tellers involved in the daily use of the software, are involved but don't have to be the guinea pigs, either.
"They're able to serve their members and help other employees instead of worrying about testing new functions," Bingham said.
The vendor said that experience is typical.
"This tool can really wrap around individual business needs," said Jim Brennan, product manager for TestPartner at Compuware, a suburban Detroit provider of computer testing services and software with about 7,000 employees worldwide.
"It's like any business effort," Brennan said. "If you don't focus on your goals and get the business behind you and supporting your efforts, the best software in the world is not going to help you.
"But when you get that, you can actually achieve very good return on your investment."
At Arizona Federal, ROI was reached in about five months, Bingham said.
"Now that we've actually used it for a number of months and have a level of comfort with it and not having surprises," he added, "I can tell you that for either a large or small credit union, this can really affect your operations significantly."
"I know that we've been able to increase the number of products and services that we can offer to our members," he said.
Currently, Bingham and his colleagues are working on new account-opening tools, a process that can involve as many as 55 workflows when combining all the delivery channels and account types.
That followed an initial effort to get branch services fully automated. Next up is automating testing functions in Classic Manager back office functions and soon testing and launching Lending Navigator. The testing is not limited to USERS' solutions, either.
"We're looking at automating a product from Akcelerant, a collections solution," Bingham said.
Brennan at Compuware said most of his customers have their own quality testing teams and that his operation's focus is on helping them do it better.
"We don't do any real testing from a software-quality perspective," he said. "We go in and work with companies to enable them to mature their own quality processes, because at the end of the day, those particular applications need to be implemented on time and provide their intended business value."