By R. Christopher Haines, President and CEO

When people think about software testing, they often get lost in the enormity of technology and overwhelmed by things like what to test, how much to test, and other factors such as these. This happens a lot in the CEO’s office and in the boardroom. But the simplest way to look at software testing is that it’s about reducing risk.

Running any system, especially something as complicated as an insurance system, is risky business. Testing your software doesn’t mean you don’t trust your software vendor, it means you’re smart enough to protect yourself Do you lock the doors to your building at night? Do you keep your checks in a locked file cabinet? Do you require employees to change their passwords every month for security purposes? But you don’t test your software?

Implementing a new system, or just maintaining your current system, is a very complex thing. And there has to be a level of independence to your testing. Thinking you can buy a system that comes thoroughly tested specifically to your specifications and operating in your environment is not realistic. Vendors test for quality, but they don’t know your products as well as you do. Did you explain everything correctly to the vendor about your complex insurance products so things are delivered as you intended? And if you did, did the vendor understand what you meant as you explained what you needed built? If you believe the vendor’s testing is enough, what will you do if your products aren’t right in production? Vendors can only test things the way they think they understand them. The only way issues like miscommunication and incorrect understanding are found in the software is by someone doing acceptance testing, independent from the software vendor.

So now that we have established that not testing your software after it is delivered from the vendor is a big liability, what do you do? Does it make sense to build out your own team of testers? Probably not. Even the largest insurers understand testing insurance software is a specialized skill that’s often best left to specialized professionals. And if you believe current employees can make time to test as part of their current jobs, be forewarned: That’s fallen short many times before. Your people have full-time jobs that are vital to your company’s success, and you’re going to pull them off those jobs to test software?

Regardless of the route you take with your testing, at least doing it allows for a decrease in the risk associated with software. If you’re concerned about things like premium leakage and claims fraud, but ignore the financial risks of not testing your software, you’re putting your company in a bad position.