November 23, 2009, 6:40 PM — Quality assurance and testing often get short shrift, but deploying systems without putting them through their paces can result in embarrassing and costly failures. Ward Chapin, CIO of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, wants flawless performance when the Games begin on February 28.
He's confident that the systems and networks he's putting in place will run smoothly, thanks to rigorous testing and simulation procedures. "We're not only testing our infrastructure and systems, but we're also testing and training our people," Chapin says. This comprehensive approach enables the Vancouver IT team to execute perfectly, adds Magnus Alvarsson, chief integrator with Atos Origin, the information technology partner for the 2010 Olympic Games and the worldwide IT partner of the International Olympic Commitee (IOC) 2000.
Lack of time and funding make quality assurance difficult for businesses to prioritize, according to Forrester analyst Margo Visitacion. The secret to successful QA, Visitacion says, is "baking in quality" throughout a project's lifecycle, rather than leaving it as an extra step at the end. "If you think you're saving a few dollars today by cutting out the testing portion, it's going to wind up costing you more when you realize it needs to be fixed when you're in production," she says.
Test, and Test Again
Prior to the games, Chapin's team performs two technical rehearsals. The first, completed in October, was designed to assess how technical failures are detected, analyzed and rectified by the staff, and to practice processes and procedures. "At this point, we're pretty sure that all the systems are working because we've spent a lot of time with systems and disaster recovery tests," Alvarsson says. Testing disaster recovery procedures as part of QA is not just a best practice, Chapin says, it's "an essential practice."
The technical rehearsals are held in the Technology Operations Center in Vancouver, a 5,000-square-foot facility that Chapin compares to a NASA command center, complete with "huge screens" and 130 desks. Ward's testing team--:which included 220 staff members from the Vancouver Organizing Committee, the IOC and the eight Olympic-sponsors and partners--:replicated three of the busiest days of the Olympic Winter Games.