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  • Why we test

    BBC Radio 4 is running a series this week about the Post Office Counters Horizon IT system scandal. System errors (which seem to have arisen after the rollout of new PIN keypads) led to massive discrepancies between the sums of money the post office staff took and the amounts recorded on the system. The Post Office pursued prosecutions; many of the affected staff had their livelihoods and lives ruined; some went to jail. (For non-UK readers: post office services in much of the UK outside town and city centres are delivered through a network of “sub-post offices” – post office counters set up in local or village stores, often run as a subsidiary business by the shopkeeper. The British Post Office ceased to be a Government department in 1969, instead becoming a Government-owned corporation. From 2001, it adopted a more commercial outlook, including formal share capitalisation, though with a controlling interest and two ‘golden shares’ held by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Treasury Solicitor respectively. In 2011, this was changed to a structure of 90% of shares being issued on the financial markets.) A campaigning group of sub-postmasters brought a civil claim for compensation in December 2019 after the Post Office settled, with the judge providing some scathing criticism of the Post Office, and Fujitsu, the IT supplier, who had to pay £57.75 million to settle the case (“Fudge-it-for-you” as they were known in other organisations I’ve had dealings with before Horizon). Further, in March[…]

    27.05.2020 | 5:53 קרא עוד...
  • Agile: Walls Dysfunction & People

    A comment made at the recent GRTesters meetup meeting left me with a hard choice. I could jump on that and lead us further down a rabbit hole we were already in, and well off the topic of the evening, or I could make a note to myself and revisit my thoughts later.This is "later."We were discussing team dynamics in a macro sense - how teams function, the interactions between team members, how they interacted with other teams and the like. Specifically, we were looking, briefly, at the difference in relationship between software testing specialists who were embedded with development & delivery teams and who were in external teams.The apparently "classic" case of "OK, our code is done, now we give it to the test team."The problem is, by pulling testing specialists farther away from collaboration with the people specializing in creating and writing the production facing code, the testing specialists become "others" - not part of the actual development team.The idea of pulling people into a team and having them work together is great. If you allow for teams to build trust and get to work together.So there we were, talking about teams and silos and how divisions between teams can lead to huge dysfunction for the organization. Then one person said, "I've seen these kinds of problems everywhere. But if you really want to see huge problems with silos and Us vs Them, look at how most companies do 'Agile.' Teams don't cooperate with each other. Teams don't[…]

    27.05.2020 | 8:01 קרא עוד...
  • The Post Office Horizon IT scandal, part 3 – audit, risk & perverse incentives

    The Post Office Horizon IT scandal, part 3 – audit, risk & perverse incentives In the first post of this three part series about the scandal of the Post Office’s Horizon IT system I explained the concerns I had about the approach to errors and accuracy. In the second post I talked about my experience working as an IT auditor investigating frauds, and my strong disapproval for the way the Post Office investigated and prosecuted the Horizon cases. In this, the final part, I will look at the role of internal audit and question the apparent lack of action by the Post Office’s internal auditors. Independence and access to information There’s a further aspect to the Horizon scandal that troubles me as an ex-auditor. In 2012, after some pressure from a Parliamentary committee, the Post Office commissioned the forensic IT consultancy Second Sight to review Horizon. Second Sight did produce a report that was critical of the system but they could not complete their investigation and issue a final report. They were stymied by the Post Office’s refusal to hand over crucial documents, and they were eventually sacked in 2015. The Post Office ordered Second Sight to hand over or destroy all the evidence it had collected. An experienced, competent IT audit team should have the technical expertise to conduct its own detailed system review. It was a core part of our job. I can see why in this case it made sense to bring in an outside firm, “for the optics”. However, we would have been keeping a very close eye on the[…]

    27.05.2020 | 7:32 קרא עוד...


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