This was certainly my experience as I stepped out of St James’ tube station for the first time and looked up at 102 Petty France, home of the Ministry of Justice. What stood before me was essentially a massive slab of concrete, looking like somebody had been set the task of designing the world’s most boring building.

However, as soon as I stepped through the doors it was a different world – like passing through the wardrobe into Narnia, or running into the wall at platform 9 ¾ – I knew immediately that the drabness of the outside had completely miss-sold its inner workings.

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The hum of activity is what hits you first, meetings happening everywhere, productivity occurring in the corridors and ideas being thought up over coffee – it’s hard not to be taken in by it all and feel a little overwhelmed at first.

The MoJ, like most government organisations, is made up of a whole host of departments – and Methods was chosen as the perfect fit for one in particular. Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, or HMCTS, is the department responsible for administration of the courts in England and Wales – including Criminal, Civil and Family.

It’s an area that is becoming more and more reliant on its technology, not only in supporting internal processes but in heading towards a future where the public are better and more efficiently served – digital courts and customer service portals are very much on the agenda.

Due to my experience as a Test Lead coupled with my SME credentials in the ServiceNow space Methods deployed me onto the HMCTS account where we are providing Service Management services to the Digital Change Directorate. HMCTS had deployed ServiceNow approximately two years before Methods’ arrival and had a strong team of developers in place, but it was clear that the structure to deliver quality and stability whilst remaining AGILE was, not yet fully formed.  The testing capability in house was an area that could particularly benefit from some growth. I’ve always said that even the best developers in the world will introduce bugs if they don’t have a solid testing framework around them. Quality developers were working constantly, but the testing structure needed some work in order to support them.

We had to hit the ground running.

The first thing we did was to evaluate the speed of the ServiceNow development releases. It was decided that instead of a basic weekly release, a release cycle would take four weeks – overlapping with the next cycle to ensure that new functionality could still hit production every two weeks. More importantly this meant that there was time for a test framework to ensure that quality of the development and the stability of the production environment.

Without a test team at hand, testing activities would have to be distributed and responsibility taken by the process areas involved for checking that their requirements had been fulfilled and were working correctly in a pre-production environment before moving to production.

I would evaluate the requirements, get a show-and-tell from the developers, decide on the level of testing needed and write the test scripts. The process owners would run the scripts, and report on any defects which would then be passed back to the developers to be fixed before retesting was passed back to the process owners.

It is a simple process, yet required buy-in from the process owners who had never had to have this level of involvement before. However, it took only two releases before the stakeholders were on board –

they soon realised their level of input was valued more, they had a greater view of development in the pipeline and most importantly they got their requirements delivered with zero defects. Great news for the service desk too!

As time moves on and we are taking on bigger and bigger pieces of development for HMCTS, the level of testing and governance needed grows. Before embarking on the first big ServiceNow upgrade for HMCTS, from Istanbul to Kingston, I found it imperative to write regression scripts to cover each of the platform’s core modules. This was doubly important as we went above and beyond our statement of work and also completed an extensive overhaul of the Change Management module at the same time.

Smoothest go-live ever

The regression testing proved vital, weeding out many defects in the pre-production environment, none of which hit production – meaning we had a smoothest go-live I’ve ever known. Credit goes to all the Methods team members involved in executing my regression scripts, finding the defects Kingston brought about in the configuration and to the developers who fixed these defects quickly and on the first attempt.

At this moment in time we are overhauling the Service Hierarchy of HMCTS’ ServiceNow build, something that is at the very core of the workings and if not done with due care could be disastrous.

Testing is underway, and is being conducted with the same diligence as the last release – with Methods in the driving seat once again. Here’s to another successful go-live….