Core banking solutions and test data management
Why should core banking application vendors support basic test data management (TDM) capabilities?
Today's banking business and growing competitive landscape demands that mission-critical enterprise applications operate with precision and a high degree of predictability. Core banking applications top this criticality list due to their coverage, dependencies, impact and high level of integration with the bank's enterprise applications. By virtue of online interfaces and batch feeds, core banking applications are able to keep enterprise wide applications up and running, sometimes even 24x7x365.
Migrating to new applications and upgrading existing ones are a common phenomenon in banks. A critical requirement when this happens is that the activities take place seamlessly and with minimal adverse impact to customers, the business and operations. This only happens when the bank reaches a certain level of testing maturity, something that is achieved through continuous innovation. In addition to innovation, banks are also constantly looking to achieve cost reductions in testing and TDM.
Testing and TDM have normally been considered "business as usual" activities by banks. There is high dependency on the core and enterprise-wide applications, thus warranting tighter controls to ensure there is no downtime. Reducing testing cycle time reduces costs and will give banks a definitive advantage over their competitors as they will be able to quickly launch new products and service offerings. This will also internally accrue cost savings through:
- Improved application quality and performance
- Reduced time-to-market for new products
- Quicker roll-over of newer product versions
- Minimized effort and cost to achieve quality control and quality assurance goals
As a result, TDM has become a crucial component in the complete lifecycle of enterprise systems and applications testing. The growing need of TDM has led to vendors offering off-the-shelf TDM solutions. Some popular TDM applications in the market are IBM Optim, HP TDM, Grid Tools, Compuware and iTDMS, Mask IT from Infosys. Let us look closer at the components of TDM and the possible role of core banking application support in each of them.
Test data privacy and masking: These days, customer data privacy and security is considered extremely important and the organizational safeguards to protect them are monitored closely by regulators. Banks usually take copies of production environments when building their development, system integration testing and user acceptance testing environments. Core banking solutions can help here due to their ability to provide extraction of production data and data obfuscation to protect customer privacy. Data masking is another feature core solutions should support so that PII (personally identifiable information) data and all personal information is hidden on all test environments while maintaining data integrity. While there are external tools in the market that one can use for extraction, obfuscation and data masking, development and integration of these features by core banking vendors into their solutions will make for a greater value addition.
Test data generation and set up: Since testing is a continuous activity for banks, they require enormous volumes of test data, especially when they do multiple cycles in different environments or have to undertake performance, load or stress testing. There may be instances when the size of the actual production data copy is insufficient to reuse. Here, core solutions should have the capability to create synthetic test data using actual production data copies. Synthetic data creation will address the issues of test data availability and reuse.
Test data management chain: While the actual test data management process is done by test data repository tools, core banking solutions need to provide support by having adaptors and integration capabilities. This will ensure integration with testing tools and seamless data exchange between the applications tested and the testing products and tools.
Test data sub-setting: When creating test regions using production data copies, the entire production data need not be copied to the test regions. With synthetic data creation, what we need is just a representative set of the whole production data. As a result, core banking solutions need to have solution sets to be able to sub-set data into smaller representative sets of data while maintaining data integrity. This can be used for core application testing and for other enterprise applications that need them.
Test data reuse: This aspect, too, requires greater dependence on testing tools for the database lining, backup of test data and marking use of test data. Core solutions need to have integration capabilities with testing tools and solutions. This will ensure testing teams across the organization do not trample on each other's testing process.
Core banking solutions should be able to support some of these basic TDM features. An extended feature or tool set from core vendors will be a better fit to the bank from the perspectives of easier usability, effort and cost savings, and will be a value add offering from the core banking vendor's side.