Rapid Software Testing at Barclays

I’m excited to be working with Barclays on an unprecedented project: creating a professional testing culture based on the Context-Driven principles and my Rapid Software Testing (RST) methodology. The Barclays Global Test Centre (GTC), led by Keith Klain, has hundreds of testers spread around the world. They work in a regulated industry on high stakes products. But unlike nearly every other large organization in the world, they have decided not to rely on pretense and 40 year-old ideas that were discredited 30 years ago. They are instead putting in place a system to recruit and grow highly skilled and highly motivated testers.

Barclays’ approach in the GTC is to identify and encourage dozens of testing champions in its ranks who are the role models and mentors for the rest of the group. Anyone may aspire to be in this special group, but to be recognized requires that the candidate tester demonstrate vigorous self-education and critical analysis. Some of the testers in the group began as strong skeptics of Rapid Testing. But the methodology is designed for skeptics– it is based on skill development and heuristics rather than pushing “best practices.” In Rapid Testing, the skilled tester is always in charge, not pieces of paper or officious charts.

RST requires each tester to employ his own judgment and technical analysis, much like what airlines expect of pilots, or hospitals expect of doctors. That can’t work on a large scale without a strong corporate commitment to training and personal ethics. Management must drive out fear, so that testers are willing to take the sort of risks that come from making their own decisions about test strategy. But the onus is on the testers to earn personal credibility within an internal community that can effectively police itself. Any tester, at any time, is expected to stand up and explain and defend his work.

I’m aware of only two large companies in the world that have made a commitment to this kind of professionalism, which is an altogether different sort of professionalism than the ceremonial certification variety that is promoted by most organizations. In Barclays’ case, this commitment has strong support from top management, and I have personally witnessed, in my weeks of working with them, that the testers at their Singapore operation have fire in their eyes. There are testers here who deserve to have an international reputation.

17 thoughts on “Rapid Software Testing at Barclays

  1. I’m delighted to be part of this too.

    Those who are interested in the larger project might be interested in Keith’s story (told in his STAR East 2012 presentation, as related by Zeger van Hese), available here.

    —Michael B.

  2. Thanks James! CDT is a big part of our evolving approach to software testing at Barclays, and RST has been the catalyst to building our skills-based testing organization. I am excited to continue working with James and Michael, and you can view my STAR East synopsis of phase one of our improvement program here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8xaomS5260

  3. Sounds very interesting. Good to see it gaining traction on that level.

    I can see the book title now “How we test software at <>”

    Wait I mean “How we test software at Barclays”


  4. This is truly fantastic news! And thx MB for the share.

    Is the CDT wave finally breaking on the shores of BIG organisation, or is it just because I’ve become involved that I’m aware of these great stories? I’d like to think that it’s the former.

    I’m really looking forward to the next five years… I feel that this community is consistently breaking down barriers and with people like yourself JB (and many others of course) that will surely continue.

    CDT rocks. \m/

    I just don’t understand how anyone would not want to be a part of something that pushes them to learn and get better at whatever they are trying to do.

  5. This is indeed good news, but I still find it somewhat surprising…

    The consultanting company I work for (FDM Group) supplies testers to barclays capital in the UK to help with projects such as the recent Pingit app. These ‘testers’ pretty much have an ISEB certificate as their only form of training/experiance if you can call it either, oh and 4 – 16 weeks of powerpoint teaching them ‘best practices’.

    Hopefully this mindset will filter all the way through their company and companies like the one I am tied to (signed a contract before i knew better) will be pushed out of industry for good.

    [James’ Reply: I think that will be turning around, soon. For the moment, I am focusing mostly on India and Singapore.]

  6. Thanks, Simon, I personally don’t do any work with FDM and Pingit is in the personal banking business, I run the test group for the investment banking (previously known as Barclays Capital) and wealth management business…

  7. When you told me about this in Sydney recently, I was frustrated that I couldn’t contribute from here. But I realise I can use your experience in different ways. I can follow the progress Barclays are having with this move to CDT. I can help to educate the Sydney community of testers and recruitment agents as to a growing and smarter way of doing testing. There are many recruiters here in Sydney that are shocked by how many testing jobs are going offshore to the cheapest conceivable labour market, to save a buck.

    I hope you, Michael and Keith (and Barclays), continue to share the experiences you have with this positive initiative. I will not be in Sydney for a long time (mostly a good time) and have Singapore or San Fran in my sights.

    Good luck!

  8. Wow. This is exciting news indeed. I have lots of friends working for Barclays (and other companies in Singapore) and I always had this impression that they only did “factory style” testing. I hope this move to RST by such a large company will also open the eyes of others, and pave way for more opportunities for skilled testers.

    Good luck!

  9. I am lucky enough to work for Keith Klain and am working closely with James on implementing our change program. As Keith said, our CDT approach is evolving … Change is rarely easy but we have some great project and personal success stories already, and have many more in development.
    I’m looking to learn from / share experiences with others coaching groups of testers to use RST. It’s good to know there are testers like Richard (& Anne Marie) in APAC. CDT and RST is relatively new over here and my experience is teaching me it takes time for the changes to infiltrate, but the results are speaking for themselves.

  10. This reminds me of a talk I heard by Daryl Elfield at the Testing & Finance 2012 conference earlier this year. It seems (on the face of it anyway) as if both Daryl and Keith have similar ideas about how to elevate testing in an organisation.

    I remember being (pleasantly) surprised at how many times CDT came up at that conference. It was a lot more than I was expecting that’s for sure.

    Thanks for throwing up the link to your talk too (I missed the start of it when it was originally streamed).

  11. I was with Vernon at the Testing & Finance conference and I echo all his comments.
    But now…
    In recent months I have had several awkward conversations with recruiters who were seeking “best practices”.

    I don’t want to sound too dramatic here, but this feels like a significant moment in the history of software testing.

  12. Nice Blog, And i have good opportunity to run-through like this wonderful experience of your’s. I think the non voice tester really, will get enthusiasm to learn about the Rapid Testing. Well, strongly, i have one thing in my mind. “Intelligent Tester Always use the skeptics Methodology” I am Right Sir!

    Thanks, for your blog, Keep on boosting us like this awesome blogs. I felt, tester from India, Always, eager to learn and practice testing techniques from your blogs.

  13. Hey Keith,

    Soo jealous of where you’re at. Wish you had stuff going in NZ so I could join in but I’ll probably just have to watch from the sidelines 🙁
    Good luck and keep us all posted on how you’re going. No pressure mate 😉


  14. Feeling so overwhelmed that very soon I’m going to be part of this #wonderful initiative. All set ready to learn and thrive in. I know it’s going to be awesome.

    Many thanks to James, Leah Stockley and Kris for giving me this opportunity.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Lalitkumar Bhamare

  15. Thanks, Simon, I personally don’t do any work with FDM and Pingit is in the personal banking business, I run the test group for the investment banking (previously known as Barclays Capital) and wealth management business…

  16. After getting three day session on RST from the god of testing, I am feeling that I have started my new and fresh journey towards actual testing instead of checking. I am glad that I was part of that training and got a knowledge on real testing.

    Thanks James!!!!!

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