When you work for one of the companies protecting the smiles of more than 80 million Americans, that commitment to customer service extends to the software development process. Though technology has evolved significantly since Delta Dental of Washington (DDWA)’s founding in 1954, the company’s teams have embraced continuous improvement so that oral healthcare is accessible for all. Today, that means migrating applications to the cloud, adopting agile development practices, and harnessing data to identify improvement opportunities.
When Colin Shephard joined the company as Director of Enterprise Systems in early 2022, he realized that they needed a test automation solution that could support their ongoing effort to optimize development pipelines with agile development practices and cloud-based applications, as well as provide insights that could be used to continuously improve the organization’s development processes. Fulfilling these goals meant that the new test automation partner needed to be three things: easy-to-use, highly performant, and scalable.
Prior to mabl, the company relied on a mix of manual and automated testing. Though these methods ensured quality for their existing needs, Colin wanted to continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in oral healthcare by adopting a new testing solution that matched their innovative development culture.
As Colin and his organization began looking for a software testing solution, a critical consideration was identifying a partner that would fit their long-term needs, especially as they invested in cutting-edge technology for their applications and delivery pipelines. Colin recognized from the onset that the right test automation platform would enable his team to continuously improve product quality and accelerate delivery cycles.
DDWA and their customers rely on a number of complex applications, some of which are developed in-house and some that are built by external vendors. Though their team largely adheres to agile practices with two-week sprints, practices vary depending on the size and complexity of the application. The audience for each application within the company’s wide-ranging projects also varies; some are purely for internal use, while others are customer-facing. One of their most agile and advanced development teams is focused on newer AI products that’s used internally by other tenants. Colin explained why the AI application became the proving ground for mabl: “Our AI application was born in the cloud and lives in the cloud. Everything about it is smarter, which is why it was the perfect proving ground for mabl and the future of testing at our company.”
As Colin and his team began implementing mabl across the SDLC for their AI application, they had two main focuses: speed up testing and begin building a continuous learning process for test results. The goal wasn’t to start slow and gradually expand automated testing. Instead, Colin and the rest of the team sought to automate some of their most complex test cases to see how mabl could handle their most nuanced quality needs. The results spoke for themselves, according to Colin: “We’ve seen a dramatic performance improvement with mabl. One particularly complex test case used to take 90 minutes to run with our previous test automation framework. In mabl, that same test case is done in 10 minutes.”
More performant testing has allowed DDWA to catch hard-to-find errors, increasing overall team confidence and productivity. The QA team ultimately owns mabl use and the organization’s quality strategy, but developers are increasingly engaged in creating and running tests. This helps them catch more defects earlier in development and boosts overall confidence in code quality.
As exciting as it is to see bugs being caught with automated testing, Colin sees far more value in mabl. Quality is fundamental to the entire organization with many invested stakeholders who range from internal users to business partners, vendors, leadership, and of course, their customers. With the additional data produced by mabl, Colin can keep everyone engaged in quality.
He explained: “Data from mabl helps ensure that conversations around quality are more productive. When we catch issues in pre-production, our entire organization has a much better idea on how to keep improving with every sprint cycle.”
Extensive testing data enables the team to explore the criteria behind quality. Colin is particularly interested in continuously improving the acceptance tests that check if code passes muster at each stage of the software development pipeline. How can the team create tests that better reflect the user experience? How can acceptance criteria be standardized across all applications? With mabl, the conversation is focused on building a shared understanding of the importance of quality standards upheld with automated testing.
Since adopting mabl in the summer of 2022, DDWA has been able to adopt a shared understanding of quality across their business, enabling their team to continue pushing the boundaries of quality in dental care. For Colin, mabl has been key to achieving a much bigger vision than faster testing:
“We’re making sure that we are customer-first for all users, whether they’re internal or external. Being able to consistently evaluate and improve quality with testing is foundational to evolving our software delivery process and exceeding stakeholder expectations. That's my focus.”
That progress has been made possible with mabl’s high-performing test automation platform and shared focus on customer success. Colin noted that mabl’s award-winning customer success team has played a pivotal role in supporting the company through every step of the implementation, setting a positive and productive tone for the mabl-DDWA partnership.
It’s the only SaaS solution that tightly integrates automated end-to-end testing into the entire development lifecycle.