Launched in September 2011, The Health Lottery scheme manages 51 society lotteries that operate in rotation and each represents a different geographical area of Great Britain. Before this highly customer-focused project could 'go live' it required thorough and exhaustive testing. To ensure success, The Health Lottery contracted PMC to handle all User Acceptance Testing across their retail terminals, host systems and web site.
David Wall, IT & Operations Director, The Health Lottery states: "We divide the system into three distinct parts - retail, host systems and web site. The retail system involves 40,000 terminals from three different suppliers, with each terminal type individually tested against our systems.
PMC conducted a common suite of tests against each terminal supplier to ensure the terminals met our functionality requirements. The host system testing PMC carried out included all the system functionality - menu screens, administration screens, reporting functions, draw functionality and operator functions. The third test area was the web site – once again PMC tested all functionality levels including site navigation, account creation, purchasing tickets online, buying for a number of weeks and setting up direct debits."
The Health Lottery's retail channel includes over 40,000 independent stores including major retailers such as WH Smith, Morrison's, Asda, Clintons, SPAR, Co-Op and Tesco. The Health Lottery 'piggy-backs' on to retail terminals belonging to Pay Zone, ePay or Pay Point so wherever customers find their terminals they can buy Health Lottery tickets.
PMC dedicated a special team to The Health Lottery test programme developing the test scripts as part of a collaborative exercise. The Health Lottery team provided the functional specifications, worked with their software suppliers to see how each specification would work in practice, then PMC designed the test scripts. PMC then shared a common bug reporting platform with The Health Lottery and its suppliers. Wall explains: "This collaborative way of working enabled PMC to raise 'bug' reports and other issues as they found them, get them into the fix phase and re-test phase as quickly as possible.
PMC's test scripts covered the widest range of scenarios for different payment terminals, validated the back-office integration and the web site function. This was important as The Health Lottery had to verify to the Gambling Commission that their systems would be independently tested.
The Health Lottery acts as an External Lottery Manager (ELM) on behalf of lottery licence holders licensed by the Gambling Commission. Each local society lottery raises money for health-related good causes within its respective area in England, Scotland and Wales. The initial testing programme was carried out at PMC's test facility in Abingdon. Here, PMC remotely accessed The Health Lottery systems before moving their team on-site to The Health Lottery's offices.
Wall continues: "When we got to the 'serious' end of the project, towards the end of August 2011, we brought the whole PMC team on-site. Four people from PMC were here every day. That not only improved the communication between us and the test team, I believe it made them more involved. We wanted them to become part of the project, see and feel the marketing and PR activity and pick up on the 'buzz' surrounding the launch."
Once the PMC test team arrived at The Health Lottery offices they stayed on site for two months through the 'go-live' day on September 28 to the end of October.
PMC tested retail terminals, back-end systems and the web site to ensure all customer-facing links worked. This included functional testing of retail channel terminals, integration testing between retail terminals and back-end systems and functional testing the web site. Wall confirms: "Everything went live in one hit. PMC's testing regime meant we were confident that everything would work on the big bang launch on 28 September 2011."
Wall believes that testing is far more than a 'nice to have' it's a business-critical function that businesses cannot ignore: "In our business you cannot afford to get it wrong. In my view your testers are your most important team. They prevent anything going wrong in front of customers - from little niggles to major problems. To test effectively you must have the right team delivering the right level of testing. That's what PMC provided".
"To be a good tester demands a certain breed of person. Diligent testers will repeat the test over and over again. They are driven by the concept of testing, and apply the intelligence and tenacity needed to test thoroughly. If you've repeated a test 20 times and it's always passed then combine it with another test to check, if you find a bug then 'adapt-test' around that area. We did not want testers to run through a script and tick a box, we wanted testers that understood what they were doing and why."
As part of its ongoing remit PMC also provides The Health Lottery with Operational Support, delivering an offshore overnight monitoring service through their Indian subsidiary in Vadodara.
Wall explains: "We hand over to PMC after the evening shift. They have view-access on to our operational screens, which they check at 15-minute intervals during the night. If they find any problems or 'alerts' come up on the system they call us."
As well as designing the manual scripts, PMC will also create automated scripts for future test solutions. Automated scripts facilitate quick tests on new releases to enable The Health Lottery to implement updates more quickly.
Wall closes: "PMC are known for their retail experience, expertise, and their in-depth understanding of the retail environment. That's important when you're out there in 40,000 retail outlets and online to the UK population. They also understand the testing, and the rigours needed to test effectively. Again, that's vital when the next test is your customer."