News and Events

Come back to this page frequently to see what we’ve done, what we’re doing, where we’ve been, and where we’ll be.

Press Releases

Agile Testing; 30 is the New 21

- by Dr. Bill Shaffer Kent Beck Started the Agile Testing Methodology 30 Years Before it Caught On in Insurance In 1989, Kent Beck, the originator of extreme programming, wrote a paper titled “Simple Smalltalk Testing: with Patterns.” It was the start of the agile testing methodology. In the paper, Kent Beck said: “I don’t like user interface-based tests,” referring to automated ...

Scope Bleed

- by Randy Wagner "Scope Bleed" - It's the Work That Never Gets Done. Learn How to Prevent It. Much worry and process is wrapped around the scope creep that happens as requirements evolve during the development and maintenance of policy administration systems (PAS). However, budgets and timelines are finite, and we lose low-impact defects along the way to make room for ...

UAT – Comfort Level vs Zero Defects

- by Randy Wagner Managing Expectations of UAT Becomes a High-Wire Act for Consultants User Acceptance Testing is something of a necessary evil in Policy Admin System (PAS) development. It requires a carefully crafted system to be thrown to unpredictable users who will identify unanticipated issues or, at the very least, suggestions for future improvements. Managing expectations becomes a high-wire act for ...

Satyameva Jayate – Truth Will Prevail

- by Mohit Advani How COVID-19 Reveals Our Struggle for the Truth We are all living in challenging times. When I speak with friends and colleagues, almost all our discussions start or end with the current situation we are all faced with and how it has taken over our lives. After weeks in lockdown, across almost all countries in the world, and ...

CastleBay Corporate Culture – Pariwar – “Family”

- by Harpreet Kaur How is the Bond Between Employer and Employee Formed? Family is such a strong word. It is something which keeps us together during our tough times, makes us smile, and brings tears to our eyes. I personally feel that there are two major families in one’s life. One into which we are born and, second, which we pick ...

Why India?

by George Grieve, Director and Co-founder of CastleBay Infotech So last summer CastleBay set up shop in India! What is this 1992? Why there and why now? For over 20 years, we have focused on helping our P&C Insurance clients make good decisions on core system - Policy, Billing and Claims - software choices. Our deep domain knowledge and vendor expertise has ...

Events

November 3-6, 2019 Guidewire Connections

Guidewire Connections
Location: Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, MD
Get more info on Guidewire Connections here.

October 29-30, 2019 Duck Creek Partner Summit

Duck Creek Technologies LogoLocation: Columbia, South Carolina

May 5-7, 2019 ITA LIVE 2019

ITA logo
Location: Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa
Get more info on ITA LIVE 2019 here.
CastleBay Consulting Favicon

Why not visit our contact page, we would love to chat with you!

News and Events

Come back to this page frequently to see what we’ve done, what we’re doing, where we’ve been, and where we’ll be.

Press Releases

Agile Testing; 30 is the New 21

- by Dr. Bill Shaffer

Kent Beck Started the Agile Testing Methodology 30 Years Before it Caught On in Insurance

In 1989, Kent Beck, the originator of extreme programming, wrote a paper titled “Simple Smalltalk Testing: with Patterns.” It was the start of the agile testing methodology. In the paper, Kent Beck said: “I don’t like user interface-based tests,” referring to automated tests that simulate a user keying data into screens. Instead, Beck proposed a framework where tests are generated and checked with code.

Agile Testing is the "New" Testing Approach for Insurance Software Projects

This framework has evolved into the JUnit framework for Java and related frameworks in other computer languages. This agile testing framework is widely used today and, 30 years later, is the “new” testing approach on insurance software projects.

Agile Testing and Automation are Key with Today's Software Development Cycles

Agile testing grew out of the Agile Movement as it gained popularity after 2001, and is software testing consistent with agile principles. Although it is more than just automated testing, automation is a critical part of it. A major feature is its support of frequent iterations.

The Waterfall Methodology is Ineffective with Quick Release Cycles

Under the older waterfall methodology, a development cycle of several months would be followed by a testing cycle of several months using manual methods. The software would (hopefully) undergo thorough regression testing of most of its features. With agile projects, lengthy manual regression testing is no longer feasible. Many companies are releasing new versions into production monthly. Some companies are even releasing new versions daily. Hence, frequent iterations drive the importance of automated testing.

Follow These Agile Testing Practices for a More Productive and Efficient Process

If you want to have an agile project, you should be doing these agile testing practices:
  • Your testing starts in the first development iteration and is part of each subsequent iteration.
  • A substantial part of your regression tests are automated, particularly for interfaces, financial calculations, and test data generation.
  • Although you may be employing automated user interface tests with tools like Selenium or UFT, a substantial portion of your automated tests follow Kent Beck's guidance to use tests through the code.
  • You rarely write traditional step-by-step test cases. These create a pile of work products that get out-of-date and are rarely used. If most of your tests are automated, the steps are in the code, if anyone is interested.
  • Your manual testing is focused on exploratory testing, that is, try to break the system by performing unusual steps.
  • Your development team is practicing test-driven development, thereby minimizing the defects passed on to the testers, and generating automated regression tests.
  • You are prioritizing the fixing of defects over new development, so you minimize the technical debt.
If you are running or participating in an agile project and not using agile testing, consider employing these “new” 30-year old approaches.

Dr. Bill Shaffer has been a CastleBay consultant for over 12 years. He specializes in automated testing of Guidewire systems. He is certified in Guidewire Insurance Suite.

Scope Bleed

- by Randy Wagner

"Scope Bleed" - It's the Work That Never Gets Done. Learn How to Prevent It.

Much worry and process is wrapped around the scope creep that happens as requirements evolve during the development and maintenance of policy administration systems (PAS). However, budgets and timelines are finite, and we lose low-impact defects along the way to make room for more urgent items. That loss is what I call Scope Bleed. It’s the work that never gets done. There are a number of ways to limit that bleed and keep items in scope or, better yet, resolve them.

How Do You Reduce a Bloated Backlog of Low Priority Defects and Change Requests that Add Costs to the Business?

Scope bleed is a form of death by a thousand cuts. Low priority defects and change requests that business would like to see materialize, often age out of usefulness and the business bears the cost of manual workarounds.
Nearly every organization has defects or changes that linger, often for years, bloating the backlog. Sprint grooming pushes items out that can’t be merged into other, more immediate changes. Project teams can’t complete everything. That bleed becomes a financial burden on the business side. The system is less efficient than it could be. The project budget is spared but the cost to business is rarely quantified.
None of the clients I have seen actually spend the time to calculate how often they would have to do the work around, but it could be dozens of times a day, every day. Maybe it’s only a second but eventually, the productivity cost outweighs the cost of just fixing it. However, there are some practices that can help solve some of the bleed.

Option One - Fix the Defect When it's Found and Reduce Overall Time and Effort Spent by All Parties

The first and easiest answer is to fix defects when they are found. Project teams, under constant pressure, or even vendor guidance, can let low-level defects slip until the stabilization phase. At that point, it’s often so long after the initial defect was found that a developer has to “re-learn” what they or another did to understand and fix the problem. The cost can be double the initial effort to fix.

Option Two - Spend that Extra Time Up Front During Requirements to Catch the Edge Policies for Testing

Second, a little extra thought during requirements gathering can help. Too frequently, an acceptance meeting highlights some aspect of the system that was not considered during the business analysis task. That’s not to say the BA didn’t do their job. There are detailed requirements in every implementation where “we don’t know what we don’t know” until they jump up and bite us. On the QA side, one way of catching these scenarios is to start with a list of the common policies and the edge policies that we can use to test. That tactic can be used right out of the gate. You’ll never catch all of them, but you may catch more that won’t later require rework from BAs, Dev, and QA. A quick review of the relevant functionality against those policies won’t take long and it will pay dividends.

Option Three - Take the Time to Quantify the Cost of the Work vs the Cost of the Work Around

The third option is to spend the time to quantify the cost. Cost = work around time x frequency of occurrence x average labor cost. That analysis is never popular, but it might be a choice that the business side makes as a defensive tactic to stay as efficient as possible.

Take the Time to Prevent and Clear Scope Bleed and Save the Business Time and Money

There are certainly other ways of resolving defects before they fade into obscurity. Every project team is full of intellect and creativity, so imagination is the only true limitation. Preventing or clearing the scope bleed saves the business time and money. It reduces the workload of the project team in the long run and makes the end customer happy.
Randy Wagner is Director of Quality Assurance for CastleBay Consulting. He has 20 years of consulting experience across private and public sectors, Guidewire InsuranceSuite, InsuranceNow, and Duck Creek, with specializations in quality assurance, configuration management, and automation.
 

UAT – Comfort Level vs Zero Defects

- by Randy Wagner

Managing Expectations of UAT Becomes a High-Wire Act for Consultants

User Acceptance Testing is something of a necessary evil in Policy Admin System (PAS) development. It requires a carefully crafted system to be thrown to unpredictable users who will identify unanticipated issues or, at the very least, suggestions for future improvements. Managing expectations becomes a high-wire act for consultants who wind up between the project sponsors, who eyeball the time and cost, and the product owners, who push for perfection.

The Temptation to Start UAT Before Major Defects are Resolved Can Be Costly

As always, success starts before the first day of testing. If the project dutifully addresses defects during the Development cycle and executes a stabilization phase without significant defect leakage, the UAT will go smoothly. It’s QA’s job to push back if the project wants to “show progress” and start UAT with incomplete functionality, batch processes still coming up to steam, and numerous defects that users will have to work around. That’s not to say anyone enters UAT with a perfect system. Perfect is the enemy of good. Hold off until major defects are resolved.

Embrace UAT for the Three Valuable Insights the Process Provides

UAT provides three benefits. First, users get their hands on the system and begin learning how to use it. Ideally, they become good trainers for others to follow. Second, you should get ideas. UAT testers will see the world differently and offer suggestions. Finally, you will find defects. Imperfections will come to light. Even comprehensive testing never quite catches everything. A client should be prepared for this. Users are unpredictable and will find issues.

Prepare Testers to Understand the Context of the System for Wider Adaptation

Preparation for UAT requires a thoughtful sequencing of training and testing to allow users to absorb the system in context. Training should be done by the Product Owner because they ultimately hold the reasoning for how the system evolved as it did. The “why” questions from the users are great teaching moments that give depth and understanding to the new system and functionality. Invite all streams to test policy creation so they can go back to their stream, say billing or claims, with an understanding of the payment expectations or coverages that appear in their own tests. Model existing accounts and transactions so they are focused more on the flow and functionality of the system than explicit step by step test cases. The better stream testers understand context, and focus on their usage, the more likely they are to adapt to the system.

Manage Defects as a Team to Insure Priorities are in Check

If defects are not managed well during UAT, the project will immediately begin to creep in scope. This not only adds time and cost, it also invites new errors as the project tries to change features that may not have been worked on in months or a year. It is critical that defect triage happen often and include senior client leadership who can provide the necessary pushback on items that may not be as critical as a PO might feel.

Keep Testers Energized by Providing a Solid System, Good Training & Thoughtful Testing

In the end, the real measure of success for UAT is how energized the testers come out of the sessions. They won’t be masters of the new system, but they will have a comfort level. There will be defects but, hopefully, UAT started with a solid system, good training, and thoughtful testing, so the issues will not be serious. Oh, and always have candy in the room for best results!
Randy Wagner is Director of Quality Assurance for CastleBay Consulting. He has 20 years of consulting experience across private and public sectors, Guidewire InsuranceSuite, InsuranceNow, and Duck Creek, with specializations in quality assurance, configuration management, and automation.
 

Satyameva Jayate – Truth Will Prevail

- by Mohit Advani

How COVID-19 Reveals Our Struggle for the Truth

We are all living in challenging times. When I speak with friends and colleagues, almost all our discussions start or end with the current situation we are all faced with and how it has taken over our lives. After weeks in lockdown, across almost all countries in the world, and no clear end in sight – we are inundated with news, articles and forwards about the COVID-19 virus. The ease of sharing information today has made us all social media journalists. We forward content without even verifying it. While the funnies are a good break from reality, the ones which have just the right amount of truth peppered in are dangerous, often containing false, misleading and even grossly exaggerated “information.” When COVID-19 was being rated as a pandemic, the lockdown was being initiated and people started to panic, I, like many others, was looking for a source of trustworthy information. I was looking for the truth, trying to gauge the potential impact, but wasn’t sure which source to truly trust.

With the Truth Comes Trust and Trust Informs Action

I’ve always believed, if we get the required information, we will trust and if we trust, we will act – not blindly, but because we can understand and make mature and educated decisions and only then can we work in unison. What I found was that the facts are generally altered – often exaggerated, for a multitude of reasons - lack of strategic clarity, unrealistic aspirations, lack of accountability, poor governance, politics, weak collaboration – which cause missteps; and since nobody wants to admit mistakes or that we are in trouble, they instead prefer to blur the message.

States and Organizations Alike Question How Much to Share and With Whom

This got me thinking about the commonality of governance of the state and organizations. Organizations too, have been known to function in a similar fashion where they have reservations with transparency, what and how much information should be shared and with whom. But an organization is not a living organism by itself, it is a reflection of the people that build, lead and run it – its values, beliefs and personality reflect that of its leaders.

At CastleBay Our Message Is Always the Same

At CastleBay, when we interact with our clients, associates, potential candidates, partners and other stakeholders – we share all the relevant information we can – about both our strengths and limitations alike. This ensures that irrespective of who from the leadership interacts with the stakeholder – and while the voice, style and words might differ – the message is always the same.

Transparency is Key to a Simple, Productive Atmosphere

Transparency, we believe, increases trust, builds relationships with high ethical standards and increases productivity. Transparency not only helps us set the right expectations, it allows for better collaboration, making planning and solutioning more effective. This approach has kept us relevant, helping us grow and strengthen our relationships with our clients and associates in the last 20+ years and running. This makes life relatively easier because it removes the need for pretense.

Focus on the People and the Rest Will Naturally Follow

Was all this always planned? Probably Not. But what was planned was the people – to get smart, independent, accountable people, people with integrity – people who are not shy to share and those who continue to challenge us and keep us honest. And I believe we’ve stuck fairly close to the plan – including during our growth in India. What this has done, is make it easier to maintain a consistent culture across a rapidly growing organization – a culture of honesty & integrity – in line with our guiding principle at CastleBay – Truth will prevail – Satyamev Jayate! I hope you all continue to Stay Well, Stay Healthy and Stay Safe! Together, we will overcome – This Too Shall Pass!
Mohit Advani is a Director of CastleBay Infotech, the offshore delivery center for CastleBay Companies. He has been the driving force behind the launch of CastleBay Infotech, and leads the day-to-day operations of the facility, including talent recruitment and management.

CastleBay Corporate Culture – Pariwar – “Family”

- by Harpreet Kaur

How is the Bond Between Employer and Employee Formed?

Family is such a strong word. It is something which keeps us together during our tough times, makes us smile, and brings tears to our eyes. I personally feel that there are two major families in one’s life. One into which we are born and, second, which we pick and comes to us as part of our professional life. Employees often have a complaint that they don’t feel connected to their companies. The integral connection is missing between the employer and employee. How is this bond formed? How can we build this connection? A bond between an employee and employer is formed only when the employee feels at home in their respective workplace. An average individual spends approximately 8-10 hours at office each day, so it is very important that the “Ghar,” or “home,” factor be present at the workplace so that there is a two-way respect, trust, and a sense of belongingness.

How Do We Build a Pariwar Culture?

How can we build this kind of pariwar culture? The only way this can be built is by creating strong families of people who are in complete harmony with each other, by providing a sense of security and support among employees. All this results in bringing the best out in people. I have been very fortunate that I have been blessed to be part of an organization “CastleBay” which brings this sense of belongingness to me. There are various factors which have made me feel at home at CastleBay. These are transparency, openness to change and adaptation with the growing world, and employee satisfaction.

Transparency is the Cornerstone

A very commonly used word, it is the cornerstone for any organization. If the employee who is at the junior-most position has the same information as that of the CEO, we can say the organization is transparent and the details are not being twisted to suit anybody’s need. In CastleBay, I have felt and observed that if you ask a question to anyone in leadership, I have always received a similar kind of answer from each one. There are no sugar coatings or information is not transformed. Whatever is the truth is communicated. There is no hidden preparation done to answer.

Openness to Change and Adaptation is Key

As humans, we keep on evolving. There is a very common saying that “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” Any firm which is open to listen to its staff, take feedback in their stride, will always keep on roaring high. CastleBay is one such boutique firm. I have been personally asked by the leadership for constant feedback on various parameters and have seen it being implemented. Evolution is happening in every aspect of the organization.

Employee Satisfaction Drives Unlimited Opportunities

Every person has different needs at various points in life and a company should be able to understand and cater to it. At my workplace I have seen special care, attention to tiny details and steps being taken on what makes an employee satisfied. Having spent a decade in the IT industry, I have seen and heard numerous big talks, but to deliver and live those principles in our daily life is something which I have experienced in CastleBay. To conclude, family is central to our identity and our happiness and if we can establish pariwar at our workplace, which we have at CastleBay, then there is no stopping the places we can go!
Harpreet Kaur is a lead consultant for CastleBay Companies. She comes with more than 14 years of experience, primarily in property and casualty insurance, with specialization in Guidewire Suite customizations.

Why India?

by George Grieve, Director and Co-founder of CastleBay Infotech

So last summer CastleBay set up shop in India!

What is this 1992? Why there and why now?

For over 20 years, we have focused on helping our P&C Insurance clients make good decisions on core system - Policy, Billing and Claims - software choices. Our deep domain knowledge and vendor expertise has helped our clients navigate the vendor software marketplace. Of course, if step 1 is making a good vendor/system decision step 2 is successfully implementing. After watching many of our long-term insurance clients struggle with their core system implementations, we brought our large project expertise to the implementation business and opened an onshore delivery center in Pensylvania. Our philosophy has always been to fit to our clients and not make them fit to us. Since every client has a different combination of business case, risk, and cost objectives, we need a flexible delivery model both in terms of roles (full systems integrator to staff augmentation) and location (onsite, onshore, offshore). Which brings me back to India. The potential benefits of offshoring and offshoring specifically in India are of course well, including: (still significant) cost savings, IT labor availability, English speaking workforce, a strong university education system, a Western techno-commercial perspective, and follow-the-sun workdays. And yet…I have for many years received feedback from clients and colleagues that these benefits can be elusive. And I have seen this firsthand on projects. Offshore “pain and suffering” commonly includes numerous rework cycles which add time, slow momentum and erode expected cost savings; high turnover rates necessitating extra knowledge transfer and capacity; poor communication often due to technology/bandwidth issues; juniors or “freshers” who are thrown into the work without the proper preparation; lack of insurance domain knowledge; and significant time zone differences that require unusual working hours.

So, what makes me think we can do it better?

Well like a lot of things, it’s not that secret and it’s not that complicated. Based on our collective experience here’s a summary of six guiding principles at CastleBay Infotech:

1. Collaboration

If you only throw the crap work over the (ocean) wall, expect to get crap back. Nothing demotivates an offshore team more than feeling like a second-class project citizen. So, we try to provide our offshore team with first class work assignments. And we make sure they are involved in the planning & estimating upfront and demos & retrospectives at the end.

2. Don’t throw away Agile

If you hear “we have to write it all down for offshore” you are heading in the wrong direction. True, our offshore team is not sitting next to us and yes, they are in a different time zone but that is often true of our US teammates as well. With the appropriate practices like the daily scrum and the appropriate tooling like agile planning boards and issue tracking, we don’t have to lower the bar.

3. Connectivity

We don’t skimp on communication technology including bandwidth. Technology advances continue to mitigate this issue especially 1:1 communication but nothing is more frustrating than a 10-person, 60 minute remote meeting with about 22 minutes of actual content. And don’t skimp on video; it is so much richer than audio. And bonus – it stops the crazy multi-tasking that goes on when people can’t see what you are doing.

4. Friends work better together

One of my colleagues started off every cross-ocean call with someone telling a personal story about themselves. And did it until it rotated through all the project team members on both sides of the ocean. I have worked with US colleagues who have gone to their project teammates’ weddings…in India. Maybe we can’t go grab a Kingfisher or a Samosa after work but if we make it personal, we make (and receive in return) the extra effort.

5. Know thy Customer (and Domain)

For us technology acumen is table stakes. Insurance domain expertise is our differentiator. The good news is there is a healthy supply of strong insurance technologists offshore. And if we bring on consultants and need to supplement their domain experience, we teach them. That’s not new to us – we have been teaching vendors and partners insurance since CastleBay began. The last piece to that puzzle is gaining a deep understanding of the client’s specific insurance niche and how they differentiate themselves. That’s part of our teaching as well and sometimes requires a plane ticket to the US for an extended onsite visit.

6. Allow the Customer to dial when ready

Some of our clients have initial concerns, based on past negative experiences, of interacting directly with offshore resources. So, we encourage our clients to “dial” the appropriate offshore team. If they don’t want to worry about time zones and deal only with the onsite/onshore team, that’s fine with us. But if a client wishes to lower costs with more offshore leverage over time and get comfortable with the offshore team, that’s also good with us. We are a conservative organization. We don’t necessarily want to be first, but we are striving to be the best!

Events

November 3-6, 2019 Guidewire Connections

Guidewire Connections
Location: Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, MD
Get more info on Guidewire Connections here.

October 29-30, 2019 Duck Creek Partner Summit

Duck Creek Technologies LogoLocation: Columbia, South Carolina

May 5-7, 2019 ITA LIVE 2019

ITA logo
Location: Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa
Get more info on ITA LIVE 2019 here.
CastleBay Consulting Favicon

Why not visit our contact page, we would love to chat with you!