Innovation Case Study: Test Automation & Ambit Enterprise Upgrade

A business case of how technology innovation successfully integrated into the business operations an improved the way of working that supported business success.

  
Areas of Science and TechnologyData Engineering, Computer Science
R&D Start DateDec 2018
R&D End DateSeptember 2019
Competent ProfessionalRenier Botha

 

Overview and Available Baseline Technologies

Within the scope of the project, the competent professionals sought to develop a regression testing framework aimed at testing the work carried out to upgrade the Ambit application[1] from a client service solution to a software as a service solution (SaaS) operating in the Cloud. The test framework developed is now used to define and support any testing initiatives across the Bank. The team also sought to automate the process, however this failed due to lack of existing infrastructure in the Bank. 

Initial attempts to achieve this by way of third-party solution providers, such as Qualitest, were unsuccessful, as these providers were unable to develop a framework or methodology which could be documented and reused across different projects. For this the team sought to develop the framework from the ground up. The project was successfully completed in September 2019. 

Technological Advances

The upgrade would enable access to the system via the internet, meaning users would no longer need a Cisco connection onto the specific servers to engage with the application. The upgrade would also enable the system to be accessed from devices other than a PC or laptop. Business Finance at Shawbrook is comprised of 14 different business units, with each unit having a different product which is captured and processed through Ambit. All the existing functionality, and business specific configuration needed to be transferred into the new Enterprise platform, as well as the migration of all the associated data. The competent professionals at Shawbrook sought to appreciably improve the current application through the following technological advances:

  • Development of an Automated Test Framework which could be used across different projects

Comprehensive, well executed testing is essential for mitigating risks to deployment. Shawbrook did not have a documented, standardised, and proven methodology that could be adopted by different projects to ensure that proper testing practises are incorporated into project delivery. There was a requirement to develop a test framework to plan, manage, govern and support testing across the agreed phases, using tools and practices that help mitigate risks in a cost-effective and commensurate way.

The test team sought to develop a continuous delivery framework, which could be used across all units within Business Finance. The Ambit Enterprise Upgrade was the first project at Shawbrook to adopt this framework, which lead to the development of a regression test pack and the subsequent successful delivery of the Ambit upgrade. The Ambit Enterprise project was the first project within the Bank which was delivered with no issues raised post release.

The development of a regression test pack which would enable automated testing of future changes or upgrades to the Ambit platform

Regression testing is a fundamental part of the software development lifecycle. With the increased popularity of the Agile development methodology, regression testing has taken on added importance. The team at Shawbrook sought to adopt an iterative, Agile approach to software development. 

A manual regression test pack was developed which could be used for future testing without the need for the involvement of business users. This was delivered over three test cycles with the team using the results of each cycle (bugs identified and resolved) to issue new releases. 

173 user paths were captured in the regression test pack, across 14 different divisions within Business Finance. 251 issues were found during testing, with some being within the Ambit application. Identifying and resolving these issues resulted in the advancement of Ambit Enterprise platform itself. This regression test pack can now be used for future changes to the Ambit Enterprise application, as well as future FIS[2] releases, change requests and enhancements, without being dependent on the business users to undertake UAT. The competent professionals at Shawbrook are currently using the regression test pack to test the integration functionality of the Ambit Enterprise platform.

  • Development of a costing tool to generate cost estimates for cloud test environment requirements

In order to resolve issues, solutions need to be tested within test environments. A lack of supply was identified within Shawbrook and there was an initiative to increase supply using the Azure cloud environment. The objective was to increase the capability within Business Finance to manage an Azure flexible hosting environment where necessary test environments could be set up on demand. There was also a requirement to plan and justify the expense of test environment management. The competent professionals sought to develop a costing tool, based on the Azure costing model, which could be used by project managers within Business Application Support (“BAS”) to quickly generate what the environment cost would be on a per day or per hour running basis. Costs were calculated based on the environment specification required and number of running hours required. Environment specification was classified as either “high”, “medium” or “low”. For example, the test environment specification required for a web server is low, an application server is medium while a database server is high. Shawbrook gained knowledge and increase its capability of the use of the Azure cloud environment and as a result are actively using the platform to undertake cloud-based testing.

The above constitutes an advance in knowledge and capability in the field of Data Engineering and Computer Science, as per sections 9 a) and c) of the BEIS Guidelines.

Technological Uncertainties and activities carried out to address them

The following technological uncertainties were encountered while developing the Ambit Enterprise upgrade, mainly pertaining to system uncertainty:

  • Implementation of the new Ambit Enterprise application could disrupt existing business processes

The biggest risks for the programme of change, was the potential disruption of existing business processes due to the implementation of the change without validation of the upgraded application against the existing functionality. This was the primary focus of the risk mitigation process for the project. Following the test phases set out in the test framework would enable a clear understanding of all the residual risks encountered approaching implementation, providing stakeholders with the context required to make a calculated judgement on these risks.

When an issue was identified through testing, a triage process was undertaken to categorise the issues as either a technical issue, or a user issue. User issues were further classified as “training” or “change of business process”. Technical issues were classified as “showstoppers”, “high”, “medium” and “low”. These were further categorised by priority as “must haves” and “won’t haves” in order to get well-defined acceptance criteria for the substantial list of bugs that arose from the testing cycles. In total, 251 technical issues were identified.

The acceptance criteria for the resolution of issues were:

  • A code fix was implemented
    • A business approved work around was implemented
    • The business accepted the risk

All showstoppers were resolved with either a code fix or and an acceptable work around. Configuration issues were within the remit of Shawbrook’s business application support (“BAS”) team to resolve, whilst other issues could only be resolved by the FIS development team. When the application went live, there were no issues raised post release, and all issues present were known and met the acceptance criteria of the business. 

  • Business processes may no longer align with the new web-based application

Since the project was an upgrade, there was the potential for operational impact of existing functionality due to differences between the Ambit client server solution, and the upgraded Ambit Enterprise web-based solution. The BAS team at Shawbrook were required to make changes to the business processes in order to align with the way the Ambit Enterprise solution now operated. Where Shawbrook specific issues could not be resolved through the configuration of the application with the business processes, changes were made to the functionality within Ambit, for example, additional plug-ins were developed for the Sales Portal platform to integrate with the Ambit Enterprise application. 

Because Ambit Enterprise was a web-based application, application and security vulnerabilities needed to be identified so that the correct security level was achieved. Because of this, performance and security testing, which was currently not being executed, needed to be introduced to the test framework. Performance testing also needed to be executed so that speed and stability requirements under the expected workloads were met.

Summary and Conclusions

The team at Shawbrook successfully developed a test framework which could be used across all projects within Business Finance. The development of the test framework lead to the generation of a regression test pack for the Ambit Enterprise upgrade. By undertaking these R&D activities, Shawbrook gained knowledge in the use of Azure Cloud Environment for testing, and increased its automated testing capabilities, enabling the transition to a continuous delivery framework whereby the majority of testing is automated.


[1] Ambit is the asset finance application operating within the business unit, 70-80 percent of transactions on all lending is captured and managed through Ambit

[2] FIS is the Ambit Enterprise vendor

Ambit Enterprise Upgrade

Sep ’19 – The latest version of Ambit Enterprise software have been deployed for Shawbrook Bank’s Business Finance division.
As Programme Director, Renier was responsible for managing the integration and delivery, software development and implementation of the Enterprise version of Ambit for 15 specialist asset-finance business units and their associated product offerings.
Ambit Asset Finance Software meets its customer’s diverse set of requirements by not only bringing to market scalable, flexible, and industry-leading software solutions, but delivering and supporting these applications in fully managed and hosted environments.
Read more about the FIS Asset Manage Solution – Ambit, FIS Ambit Asset Finance Solution.
#Lead #Direct #ProjectManagement #AssetFinance

SPHERE – Growth through M&A – Due Diligence Case Study

SPHERE – M&A Due Diligence – An Intuitus Case Study

Intuitus logo

Sector: IT Services, Healthcare
Region: UK
Date: September 2017

Summary

Organisations in the healthcare sector, including the NHS, are increasingly reliant on technology to ensure the smooth-running of day-to-day business. It’s important that costs are reduced wherever possible, including within technology and IT operations, to help alleviate the financial pressure faced by businesses in this sector.

West Middlesex University Hospital Trust was acquired by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in 2015. IT service provider SPHERE, which is co-owned by Chelsea and Westminster, will be incorporating the IT infrastructure of West Middlesex into their existing IT service provision. Intuitus was approached to provide M&A IT due diligence on West Middlesex in order to identify potential synergies and key risks ahead of the integration by SPHERE.

The Client

SPHERE (Systems Powering Healthcare Ltd) is an IT service provider delivering IT service management and shared IT infrastructure services to the healthcare sector.

The company is jointly and wholly owned by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trusts – SPHERE represents a collaboration and pooling of resources between the Trusts to deliver improved IT services to its members.

Challenges

The management team at SPHERE required full visibility of the current status of the IT services currently in place at West Middlesex, including data centre management, network and communications, computing infrastructure and storage, end-user computing, IT service management, and IT security. This would allow management to plan for the integration of the IT infrastructure at West Middlesex into the existing service offering provided by SPHERE.

The recent transition and merger of the two Trusts, coupled with SPHERE’s planned acquisition of the IT infrastructure at West Middlesex, meant that the merger of the two IT teams had to be handled with sensitivity. This had to be taken into account by any third-party consultant brought in.

How we helped

Intuitus was approached to undertake M&A due diligence on the IT infrastructure and associated service contracts and service provisions at West Middlesex, and advise on how these services align with the service proposition provided by SPHERE. The Intuitus team included Alan Lorimer, who has 20 years’ experience in IT, including many years reviewing the processes and operations of managed service companies in order to provide investment advice.

“Intuitus brought a wealth of experience, wisdom and knowledge to the engagement,” says Renier Botha, Managing Director at SPHERE. “It was a sensitive situation and we needed to get an expert, unbiased, impartial opinion. The Intuitus team was respected by everyone involved because they had been in similar situations many times before and knew exactly where to look and which questions to ask.”

The result was a comprehensive report that clearly outlined what actions were required to ensure the successful integration of the West Middlesex IT infrastructure. This report was then converted into a project initiation document, which acted as a foundation for the entire project. SPHERE was also able to use the report findings to compile a full remediation project scope with costings, which was presented to the senior management team. This clearly outlined the key risks and remediation required to successfully onboard the new infrastructure environment.

Results, Return on Investment and Future Plans

In the short term, SPHERE is focusing on delivering the IT services as they are outlined in the SLAs, and meeting the service expectations of the West Middlesex staff.

The major strategic benefit of the incorporation of the West Middlesex infrastructure in the longer term is in the economies of scale, as Renier Botha points out: “With the onboarding of West Middlesex, the scale of the service delivered by SPHERE has increased by 27%. As a result, we’ve been able to reduce the cost per user by 12%. Furthermore, the cost of running the service is 24% lower than what it would have cost the trusts individually were they to run the IT service without SPHERE. If SPHERE can successfully identify additional trusts to work with then there will be an opportunity to further drive down the total cost of providing a shared service.”

About our M&A Due Diligence

Intuitus’ M&A due diligence is an independent, bespoke assessment on behalf of an acquiring company (or strategic buyer) of a target company’s technology and/or IT operations and, where required, either an assessment or production of the technology and/or IT integration strategy and plan, including potential synergies and key risks. The buyer gains commercially focused, pragmatic insight in the form of an actionable report. Our findings and recommendations form an important part of the (integration) plan going forward and overall value enhancement strategy.

http://www.intuitusadvisory.com

 

Testimonial

“Intuitus brought a wealth of experience, wisdom and knowledge to the engagement. As a result of the M&A due diligence we’ve been able to make significant cost-savings, without compromising the quality of the IT service offering.”; Renier Botha, Managing Director at SPHERE

Original Case Study – intuitusadvisory.com

Allegiant Air Loyalty

Consulting to Cloud Troopers as the Interim Head of Loyalty Products & Programmes – Renier directed the design, software development and implementation of the points based Allegiant Airlines Loyalty and Rewards Programme to fully leverage the Allegiant services and brand strength to provide new revenue streams and increase the effectiveness of others. The Allegiant Rewards programme is based on a co-branded credit card provided by an American Bank.

 

Guest Blog by Brian Sumers – 1 Sep 2016

Allegiant Air knows less about its most loyal customers than it would like. Its new co-branded credit card could help change that. But will anyone apply for it?

Despite being among the world’s most consistently profitable airlines, Allegiant Air knows relatively little about its customers, though it has learned, through surveys and from Mastercard that they have an average household income slightly above $100,000 and prefer to eat at Olive Garden and shop at TJ Maxx.

The problem is that Allegiant’s customers fly the airline infrequently, with about 80 percent booking one or two tickets per year. And since Allegiant has not had a frequent flyer program, it has fewer opportunities than other airlines to learn about its customers.

But Allegiant, which has reported 53 consecutive profitable quarters, believes it has finally solved its problem. Almost two decades after its first flight, the airline on Thursday launched a co-branded credit card — a Bank of America Mastercard — the first for Allegiant, a niche carrier that prefers routes other airlines avoid, such as St. Cloud, Minnesota to Phoenix, Minot, North Dakota to Las Vegas and Belleville, Illinois to Jacksonville. Allegiant will enter a market saturated with travel-themed cards from nearly every airline and hotel company, but it is hopeful the new card will give it more insights into its passengers.

“I am surprised it has taken them this long,” said Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks Company and an authority on airline ancillary revenue schemes. “But what is unique about Allegiant is their base of business is probably very distinct from the traditional airlines. It is an interesting position.”

Credit card deals can be lucrative, and when American re-upped deals with Barclays and Citi in July, it said they could produce $1.5 billion in pre-tax revenue over two and a half years. Allegiant is tiny compared to American — the discounter had 85 aircraft at the end of June — but its deal should be lucrative, too.

“We think it is going to be valuable piece of business,” said Brian Davis, Allegiant’s vice president for marketing and sales, declining to give exact numbers. “We see our peers and the revenue generated from programs like this.”

The card comes as Allegiant, long an iconoclast in the U.S. airline industry, starts to look more like its competitors, all of whom have long had co-branded credit cards and loyalty programs. Allegiant, which had bought only used planes, recently placed its first order for new aircraft from Airbus. And, despite mostly flying between small and medium sized markets for most of its history, Allegiant is expanding at larger ones, including Newark, New Jersey. It is even starting to compete with larger airlines on some routes after having long avoided direct competition.

Still, with its co-branded credit card, Allegiant is trying something different. Unlike every other U.S. airline, Allegiant will not award points for travel. Instead, only card-holders, who will pay a $59 annual fee, will earn them. They’ll receive three points for each dollar they spend on Allegiant, two for spending on dining, and one for all other purchases. They can use points for discounts on travel, and the 15,000 points that come as a sign-up bonus can be redeemed for $150 off the price of any ticket. As sweeteners, cardholders receive a free drink when flying Allegiant, as well as discounts on hotel packages. (Allegiant hopes this will help it sell more packages.)

There’s no chance for travelers to redeem for business class airfare to Asia, but Davis said Allegiant’s customers have little interest in complicated redemption schemes.

“Those are built around travelers who travel a ton, and it is worth their time to learn about the rules,” he said. “If you only travel once a year, you’re not going to tolerate a lot of rules and conditions.”

Monitoring customer habits

When card members start spending, Allegiant will have access to more data about its core customers. Bank of America will not share information about individuals, but it will give the airline macro-level insights it does not have today.

“To the extent that people use it as their primary card, you have opened up the window to a lot more data,” Sorensen said. “That data can include, ‘Are they buying products from your competitors? And where are they using the card?”

This is a big deal for Davis. If a customer books a ticket using any credit card on Allegiant, he can learn some details about where else those customers shop, but a branded credit card will give Allegiant access to more aggregate data about what key customers want.

“If through this card, we learn our customers have a really strong affinity for a particular chain of restaurant, then I hope in the next year or two I would hope we would reach out to that restaurant chain about a [tie-in,]” Davis said.

Sorensen said an airline can use data to tailor offers to customers. Allegiant makes considerable revenue on vacation packages, but presumably many of its customers buy hotels independently on Orbitz or another site. If Allegiant can learn more about where its card-holders are staying, it will know more about which hotels to show in prominent positions on its website.

Allegiant also expects to use the card to maintain a year-round relationship with its most loyal customers. Today, it emails customers with deals, but it wants to have other reasons to contact them.

“For the first time, many customers will have a reason to stay connected with us for the other 51 weeks of the year,” Davis said. The goal is to “expand the company’s relationship” with customers, he said.

A challenge to attract card members

Many airlines first start a frequent flyer program and then add a credit card. They create the programs in this order because a carrier with millions of customers in a database has a natural market for its cards.

“It will be a handicap,” Sorensen said. “A general rule of thumb is that once you have a million or more people in a frequent flyer program, then you can start talking to a bank.”

But Allegiant expects to have something other airlines do not — motivated flight attendants. On every flight, they will make announcements and give out paper applications. They will ask passengers to fill them out and will collect them before landing. The on-plane collection is important, Davis said, because the airline fears customers will forget to mail them in.

With the card, Allegiant expects to the same people who buy the bulk of the airline’s tickers — the female head-of-householders. The airline says its core customer is Christie, 48, a married former school teacher with two kids living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Her husband is co-owner of the local insurance company. “Christie has always been in charge of booking vacations for the family and hates wasting time and money,” Allegiant says in internal documents.

Ultimately, though, the card’s success may on how aggressively flight attendants sell it. Other airlines also ask flight attendants to promote cards with limited success, but Allegiant is optimistic its employees, who already earn commissions for other on-plane sales, will be motivated. The flight attendant responsible for each credit card approval will receive a $30 commission.

“At legacy airlines, there is almost always pushback,” Sorensen said. “Flight attendants say, ‘We’re not sales people.’ Hopefully, Allegiant is an airline where the flight attendants understand they are sales people.”

Original Article from Skift click here

GHA Discovery – Loyalty Programme

GHA ICLP GMS Case Study

“GHA Discovery is an innovative program created to recognise and reward guests who embrace our dynamic collection of hotel brands across the globe. We require communications that reflect our unique position, cater to member preferences, and deliver an engaging experience. ICLP has been a great support in launching and running a communication platform across both email and print mediums, proving to be a dedicated partner to our company. ”, KRISTI GOLE, LOYALTY MARKETING MANAGER, GLOBAL HOTEL ALLIANCE

iRedeem Product Development

iRedeem Product Overview

iRedeem is an online redemption programme enabling members of a loyalty or membership programme to spend their loyalty currency on a range of exciting travel, lifestyle and leisure rewards.

Built on leading e-commerce technology and with a network of global partners iRedeem currently serves blue chip companies across the globe, offering them a personalised customer experience. You can incorporate your own inventory to provide greater redemption choice and reduce distressed inventory.

Also read the case study… iRedeem – A Global Airline Case Study

Loyalty in Technology

Global Technology Provider – Case Study

As a world-leading silicon component manufacturer, our client is entirely dependent on 3rd  party multi-national Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), systems integrators and channel resellers to manufacture, market and sell finished products to end customers. Their Channel Partner Programme creates a relationship between the Company and its independent global channel partner community…