Leading Test Transformation with Alex Kyriazis at ANZ Bank

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As Portfolio Test Director at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group , I was recently interviewed by Christian Plaichner, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Tricentis. As part of the Tricentis Virtual Summit 2020, I shared how ANZ's global agile teams have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, our automation-first approach, and ANZ's vision for moving to the cloud.

 

My team takes care of  all the testing and environments across group payments for ANZ Bank. The charter is to ensure that ANZ can deliver quality solutions that meets internal and external stakeholders with minimal disruption to their ability to work. ANZ has been able to deliver solutions internally as fast as possible, but also with no impact to its clients and being able to use its services. 

 

How the pandemic changed the way agile teams work at ANZ

 

Like many of us, my team and I have been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic, and limited face-to-face connection has presented challenges.

In recent times, ANZ has been through a whole workforce strategy restructure across their locations in India, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Singapore. The perception is that the mentality of how agile teams work has changed dramatically.

ANZ has made a concerted effort to ensure that there have not been meetings for meeting’s sake, enabling people to dedicate more time to their projects. What has been a little bit more challenging is adapting strategic initiatives.

It’s a lot harder to bring people onto the journey without in-person meetings, to walk through why we're changing the way we want to work, and how we're going to get there. So that took us some time to get everyone up to speed, especially because the team is so dispersed across squads.

The focus is on the delivery of the squad sprint. The norm of how testing works, both our objectives and our initiatives - for where we want to get to - have not changed. This has slowed down slightly as expected.

The pandemic has changed the way of working this year, and it will change the way we think about working moving forward.

Supporting teams to learn and grow in the pandemic


Historically, ANZ used to say everybody had to be based in Bangalore or in an office. The new situation now enables them to increase the geographic area of resources and widens the scope for recruiting a quality workforce. On the other side of the coin, there have been challenges. Onboarding, training, and education has had to change, and the team has found mechanisms to get that to work.

ANZ is very mindful of the staff's mental, physical, emotional, and psychological health, and spends a lot more time mindfully checking in. When people are working from home, you have not got that connection. ANZ has found ways to continue to support staff and continue to help them grow and learn.

People still do an eight-hour day at ANZ, and flextime means that can be split to everyone’s preference. You might work three hours in the morning, then take time to look after the family and resume work later.

The company has been extremely flexible in supporting its people during this time and has seen some very positive results in delivery cadence and a continued ability to strategize. The reaction to the pandemic has transformed the way of working - where and how we want to work.


ANZ’s shift-left test automation framework


The team has pushed very heavily into a shift-left mentality over the past 12 months, seen organization-wide.

Working via an automation-first principle enables them to integrate into a pipeline. The goal over the next six to nine months is a fully automated CI/CD pipeline. That means having continuous testing that feeds into the development pipeline.

The aim is to have the following implemented in the automation framework at the press of a button:

Automatically deploy release-ready code
• Set up a virtual environment
• Understand what has changed from a feature function or line of code
• Extract the test cases
Automatically execute test cases
Automatically validate test cases
• Determine whether we have a pass or fail

If it's a fail: go back to the developer and take away the wastage of the environments.
If it passes: set up the next environment which is more integrated and run the next suite of test cases automatically.

Cloud and microservices will need testing improvements


There is definitely a drive towards cloud and we have a lot of vendor-provided-products. ANZ is moving a lot more into in-house development within group payments of payments of merchants. We are now looking at anything. The aim will be to start moving services and functions of our solution into the cloud.

Vendor-provided-products are going to be a lot harder to move into a cloud solution, due to necessary integrations with multiple backend systems. We need to understand that a lot of these solutions will need attention and improvements:

• How will the latency be between cloud and in-house?
• How to be able to spin up environments into the cloud?
• How to be able to hold microservices in the cloud?

Machine learning on the roadmap


Part of this machine learning journey is a fully traceable end-to-end solution. ANZ uses JIRA to hold user stories and other requirements. And use Tricentis Tosca to automate the test cases, paired with Tricentis qTest ensure the traceability.

This is what ANZ wants to get out of machine learning:

      • Start learning about changes
      • Identify what needs to be executed
      • Start capturing that data

This will enable ANZ to move away from customers deciding what needs to run, and instead letting the machine learn and dictate that.

A lot of the machine learning and artificial intelligence is around collecting data and understanding it, to gain the right insight.

It’s about how we validate that the machine should know what needs to run, as opposed to a person. Unfortunately, people make mistakes. It relies on shifting from having a central point with experts, to having the machine know what needs to run.

It is on ANZ’s strategic roadmap for the next 12 months to build AI capability. We are aiming for a fully automated CI/CD, where the machine knows what it needs to run.

That is going to be the first step to implement machine-learning into the strategy, speeding up the ability to build, validate and deploy code into production.


Shift-left advice for continuous testing in 2021


Here is the best advice achieving your continuous testing goals: You need to get ahead of the game to compete with all the new players in the financial industry. A lot of them are non-bank organizations. We need to work out how we can disrupt the way we do our work. And a lot of that is going to be around how fast we can deliver quality solutions into production.

A tune that never changes:

“Do not get comfortable where you are today.
Always look to innovate - always look to change - always look to enhance!”

Drive the change, and do not be scared to disrupt your business. The 10% process and quality improvement you might implement will give you a short-term win.


You need to have a shift-left and a shift-right mentality:

Shift-left is build quality production solutions as fast as you can
Shift-right to have the continuous testing approach

This will allow you to validate hourly, daily, or weekly, letting your stakeholders determine when they want to deploy into production with a high level of comfort that you will not break it. Having 50 squads in this space, it is crucial for ANZ to validate the changes coming at different timeframes on a daily basis.

I give all our stakeholders the capability to deploy as fast as possible and not in time-boxed releases.

Thought leadership, testing innovation and continuous improvement


The continuous improvement process can be described with a Formula One analogy:

We have now moved away from a car into Formula One. I want to be able to change those tires so fast that our stakeholders know they can make a full circuit and win the race, without the car falling apart. You make sure that from a shift-left perspective the tires have been built to handle incredible heat and many laps.

I want to be able to validate that once we put tires on the car, I can go around that track 100 times, and win that race. I need to be able to do that a hundred times in the shortest possible time to beat my competitors in market. When you think about the evolution, always think about the end goal.


I always think about what we can continue to improve. We’re a changing organization; what is flying high the last weeks might not be flavor of the month next week.

This is how you can drive innovation:

• Continue to think of evolution
• Have a fast fail mentality
• Think about change that would give you tenfold improvement.
• Do not be held back by disruption

Any opportunity, innovation or thought leadership that gets put on the table. Every idea is a good idea and is put in an innovation cycle. If it is feasible, you should see its benefits within two to four weeks.

If we do not continually evolve, we’ll be left behind - not just by our current financial institution, competitors, and other banks - but also by all the new players.

Do not be scared to disrupt how you work today to get the awesome outcomes you want for tomorrow.

Want to hear more? Watch Alex’s interview in full.

Watch Alex’s interview in full.

About Author

Alex Kyriazis

With over 28 years experience working in large corporate organisations, I have provided services to a broad spectrum of industry verticals including Banking, Telecommunications, Media, Gaming and Government sectors in management and senior leadership roles. A specialist in Testing, Program and Release Management, I have worked across all facets of the Software Delivery Life Cycle utilising Waterfall, Iterative and Agile Methodologies.

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