Inside Nationwide's testing transformation

How do you transform testing at scale in an enterprise organization?

That was the challenge facing Nationwide, one of the largest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. Technology leaders assessed the company’s testing practice and found that while it produced higher quality results than the industry standard, it was also more expensive.

Based on these findings, Nationwide set out to reduce costs by modernizing testing, all while maintaining a high standard of quality. Here’s how they made it happen.

The transformation imperative at Nationwide

Nationwide made a decision early on to embark on a true transformation. The organization’s leaders understood that simply purchasing new tools wouldn’t get to the heart of the problem. There is a fundamental difference between a manual-heavy test strategy and the highly automated, Continuous Testing approach that Nationwide sought to implement.

While the enterprise wanted to increase efficiencies in testing, leaders also saw an opportunity to transform the Nationwide workforce and improve speed to market by introducing a new strategy focused on quality.

Testing leaders developed a business case for a program called “Test Engineering and Automation.” The key to true transformation, they posited, was focusing on people first. Transitioning to test automation is a major strategic shift, the success of which hinges on an evolution in both mindset and process. They’d need to train the team in this new way of thinking, then define new testing processes and implement new technology.

People, process, technology: Introducing a culture of quality engineering at Nationwide

Nationwide’s testing transformation goal centered around improving value for the organization and better aligning testing practices to industry trends. The company identified moving from a traditional test environment to a culture of quality engineering as the best way forward.

To achieve this goal, Nationwide focused on transforming:

  1. People: Before the transformation, Nationwide’s workforce was comprised largely of manual testers. The company planned to eliminate manual testing roles in favor of quality engineering roles and needed to prepare its workforce accordingly. Employees were offered opportunities to upskill by going through a quality engineering bootcamp, which taught the new skills they would need to be successful. Every employee at Nationwide was given the opportunity to apply for these new roles and receive the appropriate training.
  2. Processes: Although automated testing did exist at Nationwide, testing leaders knew they needed to unify and scale a patchwork of existing efforts — focusing on everything from the development and maintenance of automated tests scripts to how requests for automated testing were made. The team got buy-in from C-level leadership and worked with project managers, Scrum masters and application owners on key process changes that would allow them to significantly scale test automation.
  3. Technology: After initial training and the definition of new processes, it was time to focus on technology. To do so, Nationwide looked to provide teams with all of the tools they would need to be successful in the journey to full test automation. One critical piece of the technology transformation was painting an end-to-end picture of available solutions for each team to help them visualize the new toolchain.


Managing transformation at scale with controlled growth

With its vision for a future state well-defined and a transformation underway, there was only one outstanding hurdle facing the Nationwide team: How to scale the transformation across such a large organization.

Nationwide had an IT workforce of 8,600 people, which included 200 Agile development teams that worked on 2,500 applications across 50 primary technologies — all resulting in $1.3 billion in annual IT spend.

The solution was a controlled-growth approach, which would allow each teams to transition at a pace that made it easy for the leadership team to oversee, stepping in to troubleshoot or right the course as necessary. Technology leaders split Nationwide’s 2,500 applications into five waves:

  1. Those retiring in the next two years were taken out of scope
  2. Those with no automation were slated for a complete transformation
  3. Those with ineffective automation were slated for replacement processes
  4. Those with a great automation strategy were slated for maintenance of the existing processes
  5. Those with a great automation strategy but that lacked full coverage were slated for a hybrid approach to fill in the gaps


Within each wave, the Nationwide team followed a set approach to optimize and automate the core test suites. Here’s how they presented the approach:

Continuing the journey of transformation at Nationwide

Nationwide has already made enormous progress in its testing transformation, but there is still work to be done. Having a clear business plan in place has allowed the team track results and prove the value of their efforts, which has helped maintain buy-in from executives and other stakeholders.

The team has also committed to remaining nimble by adjusting their plans as needed to stay aligned with evolving testing and technology trends. This agility has proven essential to delivering a best-in-class testing organization that keeps Nationwide ahead of the curve.

Ready to learn more about Nationwide’s testing transformation?

Check out this session from Tricentis Accelerate 2019 featuring Nibs Mishra, AVP – Testing Service Owner at Nationwide, and Tina Oelschlager, Director – Analysis Capability Leader at Nationwide, to learn more about Nationwide’s testing transformation and continued plans for growth.

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