The telecommunications industry has plenty of moving parts that must work together throughout the delivery cycle. Although advancements in technology have allowed businesses to effectively streamline many of their functions, this has been a double-edged sword, coming with an increased need for companies to adopt a robust back-end system to manage and deliver functionality seamlessly. Not to mention consumer expectations have shifted, as users are no longer interested merely shrugging off the service delays and hiccups that used to be considered “the cost of doing business.”
Assisting in the development of IDI Billing Solutions’ telecom billing, automation and workflow systems, Senior Software Test Engineer Laura Candela has a unique perspective on how continuous software delivery, collaborative design and agile processes support IDI’s industry-leading solution.
“The focus of our development process is to make sure we’re meeting the business needs of our customers and building the desired product accurately, while ensuring the highest quality and ease of use,” explains Candela.
Preventing errors via automation
Let’s start with the ideal approach to billing quality assurance: IDI utilizes Agile development which at its core depends on the QA team as an integral part of the process. This method encourages adaptive planning, rapid and flexible response to change and necessitates investment in both manual and automated test plans.
“IDI has shifted to an Agile method of software development,” Candela says. “What makes us unique in the industry is that, rather than simply testing our software on its way out the door, quality assurance is integrated into every step along the development process.”
Telecoms are forever in search of increased operational efficiencies. Yet too often, they are dependent on systems developed in-house that suffer from lack of resources and a slapdash style of QA – leaving gaps between business needs and the capabilities delivered to end users. At best, these gaps can lead to a delay in revenue for a telecom provider. At worst, customer service can take a hit as customers experience delivery interruptions or are billed for services they didn’t actually receive.
This makes the QA process around telecom billing software development and design absolutely imperative. And while in-house IT staff has traditionally been tasked with billing software development, increased industry competition, high labor costs and higher service standards have resulted in providers exploring automation as a key component of billing software – an interest that bleeds into quality assurance as well as deployment.
“In the software world, there’s been a huge push for automated testing,” Candela says. “The tests that QA automates are running nightly to ensure no new bugs have been introduced while building new functionality into the software.”
She also underscores a key element of IDI’s method to billing quality assurance: a software vendor’s ability to run automated regression tests against software while it is still in development, preventing errors before the software is released or made available to customers.
IDI’s proactive approach, along with the integration of innovative development processes like pair programming, allows businesses to catch issues at the root of the problem rather than waiting until the end to conduct a thorough quality check.
When things go right, no one will know
Managing the roll out of upgrades and conversions to billing systems has often been a major challenge in the telecommunications industry. Many companies struggle to find the internal resources to dedicate to software QA testing.
“You can make an update when a customer asks for a particular change, or fix a bug, and there are unexpected consequences that aren’t explicitly identified to be tested as part of that change,” says Candela. “Without a holistic approach and automated tests running every single night, you may miss something. You might see that what you updated is performing correctly, but you broke a key element of another part of the product.”
This ties in to the whole “silent hero” aspect of QA: With diligent and rigorous billing quality assurance, the user never knows it’s even happening because the issue never actually reaches them. This is critical since accurate, uninterrupted service is expected, with virtually no allowance for error. It might not exactly bolster the ego of those overseeing the QA backend, but the sign of a job well done is that no one knows you even did it.
Time, technology and talent
We’re not saying anything new when we tell you that billing accuracy is one of the most important elements of the telecom customer experience. Businesses simply cannot risk allowing an internal system mishap to affect customer satisfaction, as this can rapidly create trust or mistrust in the service. The ice is already thin enough – one poorly placed step, and you’ll fall through. Since the customer experience is a crucial aspect of every step of the billing process, it is imperative that telecom organizations place it at the forefront of their quality assurance testing capacities.
If there’s any single takeaway to the above, it’s that exceptional billing quality assurance is a tightrope act that would tax the in-house IT capabilities of many telecoms to the breaking point. By working with a billing partner like IDI, telecoms can access the necessary resources – in the form of time, technology and talent – without an ongoing investment on behalf of the company. This minimizes the risks and expenses of taking on new software.
“Software dev is expensive and time-consuming,” Candela says. “IDI is dedicated to investing in automated testing and agile processes, making an end product with the customer in mind.”
Ensuring success with comprehensive QA
Telecoms looking to take billing off the list of their already time-constrained teams may not know what attributes are most important when deciding on a new billing system. There are factors that make certain telecom billing partners more desirable than others – and software development and change control should be a key consideration. IDI’s approach to development and QA is distinguished by:
- Agile development processes
- Quality assurance throughout the development cycle
- Ongoing investment in automated testing
IDI has made test automation one of its key priorities, with immense efforts to improve the experiences of both its telecom providers and their customers. It’s part of the overall philosophy to invest the necessary time, resources and talent up front to minimize potential risks that come with developing and implementing software.
IDI’s comprehensive approach to quality assurance is one of the many reasons why IDI is a premier provider of billing, automation and workflow solutions.