How we ensure our software is the best quality for our users

Software test manager Chris Watts explains how K2 conducts thorough testing of all our products to ensure exceptional quality before they end up in the hands of our users. Plus, a sneak peek of what you can expect from K2 next!

Hi there Chris, can you explain to us what exactly it is you do?

I look after the testing and overall quality of the software products produced by K2 Medical Systems. Within the software team at K2MS we have a mix of developers and testers, and I manage the test team as well as working closely with the developers.

And what does your day-to-day work look like?

On any given day, the team and I will be responsible for any one of the following tasks:

Testing new functionality

We always have a constant stream of new features and functionality being developed – this all needs to go through a rigorous testing process to eke out bugs. We feed back issues to the developer who implemented a particular change until that feature is robust.

Writing Requirements and Test Scripts

New functionality requires software requirements to document the changes, and test scripts to test that functionality. We re-run these scripts when changes are made to the software in the future to confirm it hasn’t become broken – we call this type of testing ‘regression testing’.

Reviewing new features / feeding back on usability

A big part of the role is helping to shape the direction of the software. Developers are often focussed on the technical solution first and foremost – therefore we often need to work together to ensure that the user experience is given good consideration. Things like the layout of screens, the placement of buttons, and wording of messages. These things are all really important for ensuring users stay happy and engaged.

Releasing new software

There is a big coordination effort required when we have a new version of software coming up for release. We need to ensure that all individual features and fixes are fully tested and that selected regression test scripts have been executed. Then we undertake a paperwork exercise to get everything ready to handover to our quality department who will review our release and formally sign it off so it can go-live.

Why is what you do so important?

There is never any shortage of new releases containing powerful new features for users. My responsibility, along with the rest of the test team, is to ensure that this functionality is as high quality as it can be before it ends up in the hands of the users. If we don’t test things thoroughly enough it can mean that bugs end up being found by our users. We do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

What is your biggest challenge and how do you overcome it?

The K2 software has a powerful clinical model layer, which means we can easily customise the system to individual customers needs. The software has to be tested with a number of different scenarios to ensure the Clinical Design Team can achieve what they need they to do within the clinical model. Foreseeing all of these scenarios ahead of time can be a challenge, but we overcome this by setting up specific use cases for every new feature so that we can test each software component in all of the scenarios we envisage it will be used. We then incorporate these scenarios into regression tests.

A further challenge is that at any given point we are typically running 2-3 development streams. Getting these streams to completion and balancing our resources across these projects can be a challenge. We have a daily team meeting where we are able to re-balance resources and discuss any issues that are hampering progress. This is a really useful forum for making sure things are on track.

What are you currently working on and can you give us any idea of what you will be working on in the future?

We are currently working on the next major release of Athena and Guardian – version 6.1. Much of the application has been re-written and is far more optimised. Plus, there are some exciting new features coming in this release to do with how data can be extracted and reported within the system.

We are also working on the new software release for PHR and K2 Hampton. This system is fairly new, so we have been monitoring it closely following go-live and are putting in lots of new features and fixes. It’s been really exciting seeing the user base grow rapidly over the past few months.