Improving Airline Cutovers One Test At A Time

Test Working Group: A Move Forward In Testing Of New Installations

Sabre’s Test Working Group has revolutionized the way airlines implement software improvements. Its methodology is based on logic, thoroughness and a commitment to assure that the job is done right.

Every newly installed software system or feature must be thoroughly tested for viability and  reliability. It’s part of the scientific equation.

Regardless of how broad and thorough a test model is deployed, there will always be the possibility of missed test coverage (and possible defects) when the system or feature goes live.

A major installation goal, therefore, is to further minimize the number of elements of the new software that might perform at a less-than-optimal level.

To that “minimizing-flaws-through-thorough-testing” objective, Sabre has assembled the Test Working Group (TWG).

The TWG is intended to detect, fully identify and correct flaws earlier in the process by engaging with an airline to better understand its test coverage from the standpoint of business impact, as well as revolving around the technical elements involved, such as application program interface, enterprise service bus and business logic layers. For example, can any portion of the system or feature be virtualized for testing?

A critical goal and function is also to incorporate these tests into Sabre’s own coverage and plans, as well as the company’s test architecture.

The earlier Sabre can include these tests in its internal system testing (referred to as “end-to-end or E2E testing”), the smoother the customer-validation test and actual production deployments will be. In fact, the earlier any and all defects can be uncovered, the cheaper they will be and easier they will be to correct.

Furthering Better Testing

Sabre’s Test Working Group represents a highly innovative approach to customer engagement, focused on aiding airlines in more thoroughly preparing for a system cutover, for a product upgrade or for any other major project implementation.

The substantial benefits of TWG approaches and operations accrue not only to airlines but also to Sabre, in further strengthening and improving its own system testing, as well as refining and fine-tuning product quality. Airline professionals who have been closely involved in TWG development and assignments agree.

“The Test Working Group has been a breath of fresh air in terms of engagement with Sabre,” said Maatje Rencken, the Sabre business improvement technology manager for Etihad Airways. “Being able to work with testing experts, as well as sharing planning and outcomes, has shown true willingness by Sabre to engage with us.”

The brainchild of several software testing and installation leaders, the TWG has been nurtured to top functional capability by Jim Olsen, a 23-year test engineering veteran; Darrin Moore, who joined Sabre after spending two years as the test lead for Etihad, which is one of Sabre’s flagship airlines; and Brian Irvin, a test leader with expansive experience delivering quality products to Fortune 100 clients.

Under its basic premise, the TWG works very closely Etihad, co-developing test strategies and planning from the very biggest picture down to the smallest detail (using joint test scripts between Sabre and the airline, for example).

“Regardless of how good a test model Sabre deploys, there is always the possibility of missed test coverage,” Olsen said. “Defects are possible from a customer-business-process perspective.”

By engaging with the airline to understand its test coverage and business processes, the Test Working Group’s objective is to cover any testing gaps, taking into account specific local technical and environmental constraints that might otherwise be overlooked.

GTE Test Model + Program E2E

During software development, feature/function testing, system testing and customer-validation testing are conducted as part of Sabre’s standard test model to detect and eliminate as many issues as possible prior to system implementation. In addition, the test working group works closely with airlines to review test plans and test cases, the airlines’ customized code, and specific business practices to ensure implementation readiness.

The TWG team then closes the loop, adding customer-specific test scenarios into Sabre’s own coverage and plans, further enhancing its knowledge base.

Early engagement in Sabre’s internal system or end-to-end testing facilitates a much smoother customer-validation test and production deployment, thus resulting in greater customer confidence at cutover.

This innovative method works when the TWG team is collaborating closely, most often onsite, with Sabre’s airline partners, whenever and wherever they may be.

This approach helps Sabre better understand an airline’s business model and practices at a more-detailed level, and provides transparency and defect resolution throughout the implementation.

Particularly useful with large, complex cutovers in which airlines are adopting multiple Sabre solutions, TWG methodology results in more comprehensive end-to-end testing.

Customers such as Etihad have not only praised the TWG efforts, but in some instances it has expressed the desire to push the concept to other carriers within its airline family, known as Etihad Alliance Partners.

Etihad has become a highly valued and respected thought leader. Its willingness to partner with Sabre in such a critical area has encouraged and helped enable the technology company in evolving and improving the engagement model.

Long History

Although the TWG process is relatively new, and is unique to Sabre, it is based on decades of sound test-engineering principles and standards.

The TWG leverages the standard Sabre test model, inserting reviews and collaboration events during software development, feature/function testing, system testing and customer-validation testing.

Working with an airline, the TWG reviews test plans and test cases, the airline’s customized code and specific business practices. As a result, risk-based testing analysis is produced that can be used to prioritize both the number of test cases needed and the areas that genuinely require more focus.

In these processes, Sabre has greatly helped airlines determine the right number of test cycles, as well as the right timing for tests.

By partnering throughout the test process, Sabre is able to ensure that the software being delivered functions as expected, as well as meets the needs of the airline in its most critical functional areas.

This year, Sabre’s TWG team is partnering with Alitalia, airberlin, Etihad, Southwest Airlines, Cathay Pacific and LATAM, and the schedule is geared to expand, with additional airline partners in 2017. It has also presented the benefits of TWG engagement to Virgin Australia, Air Serbia and Air Seychelles.

The TWG performs a vital mission of helping airlines greatly reduce risks during cutovers while helping internal teams prioritize defects and development efforts based on customer needs.

Working in partnership with Sabre’s development and delivery teams, the TWG helps assure results that are both timely and measurable, and have proven invaluable to airlines globally.