(Photo credit: Lauren Harnett, NASA.)
Editor’s Note: The following essay is the result of our asking author Chuck Ruzicka to share with IIR readers some insights from the new Novarica report, “QA and Testing in Insurance: Expansion and Key Issues.”
The application development and support process requires quality assurance (QA) to function. As time-to-market becomes more important, as more systems are exposed to customers, and as application portfolios grow in complexity, QA is more critical than ever.
Most insurers today have implemented some form of QA procedure, though particulars vary by company. It is common for insurers to focus on elements of quality control activities (e.g., testing) without instituting a full QA program. Likewise, manual functionality testing remains the principal method of quality control at regional and specialty carriers in both P/C and L/A.
But manual testing can create a bottleneck to improving product agility and ability to respond to business needs. Carriers are now looking for different processes to improve business responsiveness.
A Stitch in Time
Quality assurance programs have a demonstrated capacity to prevent common defects. QA programs can also detect defects earlier in the development cycle and reduce the number of introduced to the production environment. In turn, fewer production defects can improve customer experience.
It is a prerequisite for carriers that already have a strong QA program to continue investing in shortening test cycle times to achieve higher throughput through an IT organization. Test automation plays a critical role in augmenting test scalability, improving test coverage, and in shortening release cycle times. Elimination of rework due to defects can reduce overall project cost and free up critical resources.
Quality assurance and quality control practices take time and resources to develop and implement. Establishing a QA program requires high-level organizational support, well-thought-out communication and measurement programs, as well as ownership, education initiatives, and metrics to achieve expected benefits.
Challenges to Modernizing QA Capabilities
CIOs can face organizational resistance from above when requesting funds and resources; it is important to focus on defining and measuring business benefit and to build out capabilities as part of a broader framework rather than for a specific project. Date-driven deadlines can limit investments for longer-term process improvements, and legacy system architectures and technologies can inhibit emerging tools and create barriers to full test automation.
Full coverage requires multiple QA tools and robust test environments; it is not easy for smaller organizations to support this level of complexity. QA vendors often overstate their experience and capabilities—many are still in the process of learning effective QA practices for DevOps and cloud deployments.
Quality assurance programs are adapting to new technologies and new consumer expectations. QA positions are increasing and now require a more technical background. CIOs can expect more compensation pressure and retention challenges as this discipline increases in importance.