Case Studies

How HP quality software helps Airline Industry

For the airline industry, market fluctuations are a fact of
life. Factors out of an airline’s control, such as economic downturns and
travel trends, can strip away profit margins seemingly overnight. A single
penny-per-barrel fuel cost increase is enough to add millions per year to an
airline’s operational overhead. That’s why Delta Air Lines, Inc. embraces a
lean philosophy.

For the airline industry, market fluctuations are a fact of
life. Factors out of an airline’s control, such as economic downturns and
travel trends, can strip away profit margins seemingly overnight. A single
penny-per-barrel fuel cost increase is enough to add millions per year to an
airline’s operational overhead. That’s why Delta Air Lines, Inc. embraces a
lean philosophy.

“The airline business is a business of feast or famine. We
have to run our business efficiently to be prepared for times when margins are
slim,” notes David Moses, Quality Assurance manager for the self-service group
within Delta’s technology organization.


Support applications quality testing and drive QA process
improvements without adding staff. Delta’s self-service technology enables
Delta customers to purchase tickets and manage their itineraries via the
Internet, mobile devices, and self-service kiosks. Because these applications
are customer-facing and critical to Delta’s sales processes and cash flow,
ensuring application quality is a business-critical task. Ensuring application
quality is also a significant challenge from a process management standpoint.


By implementing HP Quality Center software, QuickTest
Professional (QTP), LoadRunner software, and WebInspect software in an
integrated, end-to-end approach to application, performance, and security testing.
HP software tools to enable automated testing and more timely, useful insights
into defect, security and performance issues.

Best-in-class testing

The self-service technology QA team maintains a variety of
testing scripts, including sanity and regression scripts for two different
testing environments and sanity tests for its production environment. Each of
these must accommodate a variety of platforms and third-party software

“In the past, we
drove improvement in our QA processes by working harder and smarter,” Moses
explains. It was a strategy that worked—but with only 11 people in the group and
no funds to add more testing resources, Moses needed other options as well. So
Delta turned to HP technology to automate and streamline the group’s testing
operations. The self-service group was already familiar with HP’s quality
solutions. It was running a legacy HP product, although in a very limited
capacity: “The only thing we used was the defect tab,” Moses recalls. Test
cases were stored in Microsoft Word or Excel files. The team didn’t run
reports, and none of its test cases were reusable. So after performing a gap
analysis, Moses decided to upgrade from the legacy HP testing tool to a full
implementation of HP Quality Center software.

250 reusable,
automated scripts

Today, the team uses HP Quality Center to build tests and to
manage test planning, requirements, and releases. The team automates about 250
reusable test scripts, running via HP’s QuickTest Professional tool. The
software, which took the team about six months to implement, supports a highly
automated approach to software testing, from running the test scripts through
managing defects.

The team uses HP QuickTest Professional with Quality Center
to write reusable test scripts; these can then be pulled out, shopping-cart
style, and assembled into full-blown automated tests. Another advantage of HP
Quality Center is that scripts can run remotely using PCs located in a test
lab—rather than tying up testers’ primary workstations. “We can kick off
scripts remotely and schedule them to run in the middle of the night,” Bell
says. “People don’t have to be there while the scripts run.”

If a defect is discovered via the automated scripts, a
tester can run it manually in HP Quality Center to gather additional data about
the issue. As a result of automating so much of its testing, plus formulating a
new approach to their testing process, the group has reduced its test run times
by 52%. This, in turn, means it can do more testing than before, including
taking on testing of kiosk and mobile devices, and adding WebInspect security
scanning and more.

“We can do more with less,” Moses says. The improved
productivity delivers value to Delta in a number of ways. The self-service team
can more easily accommodate increased business demands—such as the merger with
Northwest Airlines—without adding staff. It is able to absorb additional pieces
of Delta’s applications QA, including, most recently, its customer loyalty

“We can kick off scripts remotely and schedule them to run
in the middle of the night. People don’t have to be there while the scripts
run.”John Bell, senior test engineer, Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Less time rechecking
old code

HP Quality Center also helps the team better support
application quality. It frees testers to focus on more important tasks. One
example: testers now spend less time rechecking old code. “For every three
things you fix, you end up breaking one,” Bell explains. As a result, before
implementing HP Quality Center, the testers spent about half of their time
looking at old code to make sure it still worked after new code had been added.
Now they use HP Quality Center test scripts to recheck older code. “Today, we
spend 90% of our time looking at new code,” Bell says.

This lets the testers focus on code that breaks new ground,
where real-time human attention can deliver more insight into code quality and

Managing testing from
requirements through release

HP Quality Center is more than a testing environment:  it also delivers a more integrated,
end-to-end view into quality issues. “With HP Quality Center, we look at  more than just testing,” explains Bell. “We
look at the entire development process.” The solution’s dashboard allows the
team to generate statistics and reports, and view trends that enable Delta’s
software team to better identify opportunities to improve its software
development processes.

In the past, for instance, the group only knew how many
defects were related to a particular piece of code. “Now we can tell which
requirements led to particular defects,” Bell explains. “We have the
information we need to do a better job gathering and writing requirements.”

This helps drive quality improvements more broadly and
deeply within the development organization, and reduces the risk of defects
later in the development cycle when they are more bothersome and costly to

Load testing to
validate performance

To further enhance the usefulness of HP Quality Center,
Delta’s self-service technology group integrated it with two other HP software
applications. One is HP LoadRunner software, which it deployed for performance
testing. “We use HP LoadRunner to load test any new functionality that changes
the level of demand on our systems,” Bell says.

HP LoadRunner proved particularly critical as the team
prepared to integrate Delta and Northwest’s customer-facing applications. “We
ensured our test goals represented the capacity we would need once we were
serving both airlines’ customers, doubled that number, and used HP LoadRunner
to test all of our systems against those goals,” Moses says. As a result of
this load validation, he continues, “we’ve had no capacity issues. We were
fully prepared for the additional traffic.”

Security checks that
suggest fixes

Another HP solution the team integrated with HP Quality
Center is HP WebInspect software, which the self-service group uses to perform
security code scans. “We used to run security checks in our production support
environment only,” Bell explains. “Now we don’t wait. We do security testing at
multiple points, so we’re able to identify and correct security flaws earlier
in the development cycle.”

The team is extremely happy with HP WebInspect functionality
and results. “We used another vendor’s application previously. It was a frustrating
experience,” Moses notes, because that tool didn’t provide what the developers
needed to truly understand the nature of the security defect. Developers were
spending too much time trying to understand its reports. “It was costing us
more than it was delivering, because it was taking weeks to get issues resolved
after tickets were entered into the system. Since using WebInspect, we have
been getting specific reports for each user type and resolving anything it
might find almost immediately.” HP WebInspect software not only identifies the
defect, but also provides specific information on what produced the error and,
best of all, suggests a possible fix. “The developers love it,” Bell says.
“With the old tool, we had to sit with them and go through the report trying to
figure out what it was telling us. With HP WebInspect, we can generate
customized reports from an executive overview right down to a geek level.”

QA no longer a

HP Quality Center software has done more than support
improvements to QA processes: it has enabled Delta’s self-service technology
testers to more effectively support the development group. “Today, when someone
comes in and asks if we can test a new release, we can answer ‘yes,’” Moses
says. “We’re more confident that we will not become a bottleneck.” Moses adds
that the team can perform sanity checks on production code in less than 30
minutes. These automated scripts, which are run after new code is pushed to
production, verify that no major functions have been negatively impacted by the
new code release.

The QA team is also able to provide feedback to
the developers earlier in the testing cycle. “In the past, we might be several
days into regression testing before we discovered significant errors that
required code rebuilds. Today, we’re more likely to find these kinds of defects
earlier—so we can fix it earlier in the development cycle.” For instance, in
one release that went to Delta’s test environment, a booking change caused an
error when the user viewed their itineraries in another part of the web site.
By running the automated scripts, the team was able to see this error within
the first hour of testing. Faster testing cycles and more timely and useful
information on defects, in turn supports a higher standard in application
quality. “We can deliver more to our developers and we can deliver it faster,”
Moses concludes. “Test time reductions like we’ve achieved using HP Quality
Center are worth their weight in gold.”

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