Connecting state and local government leaders
COMMENTARY | By leveraging nontechnical staff for automated testing, agencies can improve user experience and help residents gain the greatest benefit from digital government services.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, businesses were shuttered and people found themselves out of work. As the newly unemployed rushed to apply for benefits, state websites and back-end systems were overwhelmed, and millions struggled to access aid. In independent monitoring, many state unemployment insurance portals failed basic tests of usability, speed and mobile readiness.
It’s a stark example of what can go wrong when digitized government services aren’t adequately tested for functionality, performance and scalability. And it’s part of why nearly half of citizens say they’d be more likely to access online government services if they were easier to use.
It’s also why software testing is an essential step in the end-to-end development process. Software testing enables agencies to identify and remediate problems before applications are put into production and digitized services are introduced to the public.
Traditionally, applications were tested manually, with expert users painstakingly walking through use-case scenarios to uncover issues. Alternatively, they were tested with scripts written by developers—a costly and unscalable approach that takes valuable technical resources away from creating new services.
But the best way to ensure applications meet user experience expectations is automated testing that confirms functionality, performance and other software qualities. Even better is an easy-to-use, automated solution that allows agencies’ nontechnical team members to quickly and cost-effectively ensure that digital services work as expected and deliver the superior user experience today’s citizens demand.
Everyday Users, Exceptional Applications
Nontechnical staff are increasingly building out technical capabilities. Use of no-code and low-code application development tools is expected to surge 19% between this year and next. By 2024, as much as 80% of technology products and services will be created by users who aren’t IT professionals.
Automated testing solutions are designed to be easy enough for average users. With a small amount of training, nontechnical employees can become experts in putting agency applications through their paces to root out glitches of all types. They can test both software developed in-house as well as commercial off-the-shelf solutions, internal applications used to run agency operations and external services accessed by the public.
Automated testing solutions for nontechnical employees can cover a range of testing needs:
1. Functionality. Functional testing makes sure application features are aligned with user needs and the software functions as intended.
2. Performance. This type of testing stresses an application to check speed and scalability, ensuring services won’t fail during peak usage.
3. Core systems. Testing enterprise software confirms the functionality of essential platforms and keeps modernization initiatives on track.
4. Legacy integration. Data integrity testing makes sure data arrives correct and fit for purpose as it travels from source systems to front-end processes.
5. User interfaces. User interface testing ensures citizen-facing services meet the expectations of today’s users.
6. Mobile readiness. Testing the functionality and performance of applications on iOS and Android devices confirms that services will work in the mobile formats citizens prefer.
Fielding A Nontechnical Testing Team
Agencies should be strategic when considering using nontechnical team members to test applications. Leaders should start by thinking through what they hope to achieve: lower development costs, faster software releases, fewer contact center calls, higher citizen satisfaction and so on. The priorities for each agency can affect how and when they rely on technical vs. nontechnical talent.
Ideal testing candidates should have some technical background or experience in relevant services and a sense of the user experience challenges various constituencies encounter.
In fact, these nontechnical team members often understand user frustrations better than professional developers and can make more impartial and effective testers. They’re also far more cost-effective for agencies, as they don’t require the high salaries of experienced tech talent.
As more state and local departments—revenue, health and human services, housing and community development, motor vehicles, natural resources and many more—offer digitized services to the public, they must thoroughly test services to ensure they meet resident expectations. By leveraging nontechnical staff for automated testing, agencies can improve user experience and help citizens gain the greatest benefit from digitized government services.
Ben Baldi is senior vice president of Global Public Sector at Tricentis.
NEXT STORY: How to buy ed tech that isn't evil