https://ukhodigital.blog.gov.uk/2019/07/24/working-across-government-to-improve-testing/

Working together to improve software testing

We're extremely lucky to work within a network of hugely knowledgeable organisations across government. To make the most of this, we try to share information and experiences with our different partners, so we can help each other to find new solutions to common problems.

As part of this, we recently decided to host a meetup on software testing.

Why software testing?

Meetups are a great platform for getting different organisations together to discuss a process and find ways of improving it; one process that we've been asked about before is our use of test automation.

Used to help us test software changes to our ADMIRALTY products, it's reduced the time and effort required to deploy to live by automating all of our regression testing, thereby getting new features to our customers faster. You can find out more about this in our previous blog post on test automation practices at the UKHO. 

We're still on a journey to improve the way we use this process, and with growing interest from different partners, we decided to host a meetup on this topic to help us improve by sharing challenges and successes.

What did we do on the day?

On the day, we hosted testing representatives from the Met Office, Office for National Statistics, Land Registry, National Crime Agency and the Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs - bringing a good spread of perspectives to the table.

As hosts, we gave talks on different aspects of our process, including how we have used the test triangle model and API testing to improve speed and reliability of tests (more on this to come). And we were also lucky to be able to listen to an interesting presentation from the Met Office on cybersecurity test automation.

Whilst these talks helped to create a focus for the day, the discussions between our agencies during lunch and other breaks generated some great ideas and solutions that would help us all to make improvements.

For example, we're now sharing more information with our partners on the role of our Lead Test Automation Engineers and the part they play in developing our test automation capability.

Following their talk, we've started to work with the Met Office on security testing - an area that we feel will be of real value to us as an organisation. We're also sharing with them our experience in how we have developed a professional skills framework and migrated testing to a DDaT skills framework.

As a group, we also decided to build a collaborative platform to share new ideas between our different agencies. To support this, I've started working with the Cabinet Office to create a Software Testing Community page that will reside under the GDS website; this will allow multiple government departments to collaborate in a secure way in the field of software testing.

On reflection...

As the host, at first I was concerned about whether people would feel they could engage, and I did worry that people would leave thinking that the event was of little value... but how wrong I was. The buzz and energy was amazing and seeing different testers from a range of agencies discussing challenges and solutions was quite inspiring. And I'd like to reiterate my thanks to all those that came along.

Given the success of the meetup, we are now planning to hold a second event in September to help us grow our network and share more ideas. So, if other testers or related skills in other agencies would like to get involved, then we'd love to hear from you!

Read more about Test Automation at the UKHO

Andy Poole is Test Engineering Manager at the UK Hydrographic Office.

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