StarBase VOCA Case Study

Category: Case Studies

Positioned at the hub of the UK’s interbank transfer system, Voca runs, services and maintains

the infrastructure network that processes all automated BACS payments. Over 70% of the UK

workforce and nearly 25 million salaries are paid through its Direct Credit system – and through

its Direct Debit system, each year BACS processes 2.7 billion transactions.


The Project

  • The five-year 'Pentathlon' programme: replace, renew and rationalise software infrastructure in response to increased demand and the development of new payment channels.


StarBase Contribution

  • By working as an integrated part of the Voca in-house volume and performance testing team, supply extra testing resources required in order to keep the project on-schedule.


Benefits Achieved

  • Successful release of phased application releases.
  • Adoption of StarBase scripting methodology throughout the Voca V&P function.


Voca isn’t a place where management can afford to make mistakes. In the words of Teresa Hehir,

Test Manager at Voca, “We are core to UK plc. If we don’t do our job properly, people don’t get

paid. Put simply, it’s not allowed not to work.” 


Faced in 2004 with a forecasted dramatic increase in demand for BACS services – including

BACSTEL-IP, a new online delivery channel - VOCA undertook an in-depth appraisal of existing

software resources. The system in place at the time was the classic legacy mix, combining old

and new hardware, obsolete code and a miscellany of upgrades – and an army of support staff to

operate it.


It was against this background that Voca launched Pentathlon: a five-year comprehensive

overhaul of the existing software infrastructure. Given the transaction volumes that Voca

handles on a daily basis, volume and performance testing on a major scale was core to the

project’s success.


A testing blueprint for complex business scenarios


The size of the project and the timescales involved meant that expanding the in-house function

was not feasible. Given that a single Voca transaction can move between as many as forty

screens, Voca needed a V&P partner with sufficient technical ability to handle its exceptionally

complex business flows.


Gerry Connolly, Voca Senior Test Analyst, had been impressed by StarBase when he attended

one of the firm’s Advanced LoadRunner courses. Through the course, he experienced the

StarBase scripting methodology at first hand.


“I was impressed by the StarBase Advanced LoadRunner course”, says Gerry. “By using the

techniques that I learned there, I found it much easier to make full use of LoadRunner

deployment during V&P testing.”


It was this meticulous approach that made StarBase stand out as the natural choice in the search

for a V&P partner. Gerry explains:


“When we realised that we needed to outsource some of our V&P function, we turned to StarBase

first and we felt confident with what we saw.”


Results have borne out Gerry’s expectations. “Since StarBase has been on-site, their approach

has shown itself to be very helpful – applying their stable, transparent and thorough methodology,

we’re achieving consistent, repeatable results.”


Gerry adds:


“The StarBase team are particularly good at picking up and fixing the problems that inevitably

emerge as we progress from release to release. We can move smoothly to the next stage,

adding in new products, maintaining existing scripts and building new scripts.”


Delivering against management priorities


Generating accurate tests within a fast-moving project schedule was at the heart of Voca’s

needs. To function effectively in a project on the scale of Pentathlon, though, StarBase also

needed to show that it could understand the wider operating environment, respond to

management priorities, and focus resources accordingly.


Teresa explains:


“The number of potential permutations for each transaction is huge. Using click-paths to give a

flavour of the business flow through application-specific transactions, we capture information in

the field from live users. From this we prioritise commonly-used business flows. Effectively,

we’re doing a kind of mini user-acceptance testing.”


Working alongside the Voca team, StarBase testers quickly grasped the scale and the demands

of the live environment. The result? Tests that directly addressed areas of highest need – without

any compromise on accuracy or thoroughness.


Teresa goes on:


“We’ve learned the lesson from previous experience: if an outsourced team can’t communicate

with our own management, you don’t get anywhere. By working closely with Voca, StarBase has

shown that it can respond to our needs and deliver against them.”


Accountable testing – successful outcomes


Delivering testing as an integrated project stakeholder was essential to StarBase’s successful

involvement in the Pentathlon project. It is this approach that has always characterised the

StarBase philosophy. In the words of Stephen Davis, StarBase Managing Director:


“We set the highest value on close communication and adapting to our clients’ corporate culture

at every stage of the testing lifecycle. This business is built on trust. After all, if you can’t give a

client hard evidence that you understand their requirements, then why should they trust you with

their business systems?”


Permanent benefits


It’s an approach that has paid off. By working with StarBase as an integrated part of the V&P

team, Voca has been able to adopt the StarBase testing approach as a permanent feature of its

own testing methodology – without using up any project time for conducting a formal knowledge

transfer. Gerry sums up the benefits:


“It’s a methodology that is right for us. We have seen it successfully used on Pentathlon, we

have learned how to deploy it, and we will use it in future programs. It is tried, tested and it



Project statistics:


Tools used: LoadRunner 8.0

  • Tools used: LoadRunner 8.0
  • Duration of involvement: 18 Months
  • Volume of transactions tested: 1600 users and 94 scripts