Testing & Evaluation – Working Behind the Scenes to Ensure MHS GENESIS is Ready for Center Stage

Diane BishopWhether she’s jumping out of an airplane, playing the rhythm guitar for her grandkids, or testing software in Mandarin—Diane Bishop chooses to live each day with exuberance.   As Testing & Evaluation (T&E) lead, she cares as deeply about the work as she does for her colleagues—crediting their talent, dedication, and sense of humor as her primary source of energy and inspiration.

On the eve of the Dentrix Enterprise .257 upgrade, we sat down with Diane to learn more about the work, her leadership style, and how her team remains positive, despite their roles requiring them to deliver bad news.

What is unique about the testing process for the MHS GENESIS system compared to others you have led in the past? 

On this program we are looking at large-scale configuration.   We are verifying that the configuration supports the MHS GENESIS system, not testing the software itself, which is the biggest hurdle to make the changes.  We want to know it’s configured to support our workflows.’  If we see an error and it’s never called out in a workflow, we don’t write it up, which is totally different than normal software development testing.

In software development testing you check for every scenario, you check boundaries, you check everything.  You likely have individual requirement for every tiny piece.

With MHS GENESIS, when we think we’ve uncovered a configuration defect, we then have to go find the requirement that supports it, so we do a lot of requirements tracing as well.   The biggest requirements we care about are the workflows.

What types of issues do you uncover with configuration testing? 

Our engineering testers not only confirm things work, but also that when we put it in a new system and run integrated testing on it, that it still works in the new environment.  This is critical on this particular program because of the number of DoD interfaces involved, such as the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).   Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) software doesn’t have a DEERS interface. So once we discover an issue, we then alert the team that ‘Well it might work in your Cerner or Henry Schein environment, but now that we have this other MHS GENESIS component running, it’s not working.’  This allows us to proactively identify the issue, which prevents frustration on behalf of the end user and ensures all of the pieces are configured to support the Military Health System.

What type of pressure does your team face leading up to a major test deadline? 

We often joke about being the squeeze of an accordion.  For example, on the one side you have Engineering and their needs, and we’re in the middle, and when Engineering needs more time, you have to give it to them.  However, the deadline doesn’t change, hence the squeeze we feel leading up to every release.  That is the way it is, as a tester you love the challenge—making it happen and living with the squeeze.  We’re ok with it, that’s what we signed up for.  We are always pointing out the problems; it’s a hard job to do.

I take great pride in meeting the schedule.  I have a thing, that if I said I would do it, then I have to get it done.

So, it really means a lot for me to keep the schedule, and it can be heartbreaking when the schedule is broken by something else that is out of our control.

What is the next big deliverable on the horizon?

Our next big one is the 2018 Millennium Upgrade, which will begin in January.  While most of our test cycles run about two weeks, this one will probably take almost two months.  Each year, Cerner’s Upgrade Center provides major updates to the software with release notes.  Last year’s upgrade had more than 8,000 rows in it.   The challenge we face with that volume is ‘What do you test?’  We are not testing Cerner’s software; they do that before it comes to us.  Our job is to ensure we have nurtured the maintenance test cases well enough, and that we provide the coverage to ensure that any impact to the MHS community is resolved before it goes out to the production users.  In addition, we are also gearing up for RevX or Revenue Expansion, as well as Segment 2, which will enable MHS GENESIS to work in low comm/no comm environments.

I’ve heard you have a very close knit team, what traits do you look for as a leader and hiring manager?

Of course I want to know what kind of clinical or medical health system experience you can bring into the fold.  But I really look for personality.  How they answer one key question is usually what makes me pick them or not.

Wow!  What is the question?? 

We all have a story.  In testing, it’s no different.  When I interview someone during the conversation I will say, ‘So, I want you to tell me your story about how you saved the day, saved the company money, or avoided cost.’ They have to tell me their story, and I have to be impressed with their passion.  I have to be impressed with how they thought through the problem, and if they can’t answer it, I don’t pick them.

Now we must know….what is YOUR story?

I worked at UPS during Y2K.  On the night of deployment, I was entering data in the AS400, which is a backend system, when I noticed that the developer had trimmed the zip code, which means he removed the leading zeros.  So, every zip code in the upper Northeast area, including some parts of New York, would fail in the pickup, which is what is sent to the UPS guy in the truck.  It would come over as 1212 instead of 01212.   I had to go to the PM and say, ‘Sir, this is a serious defect.’  ‘What happens if I don’t listen to you?’ he asked.  To which I responded, ‘Based on my analysis, every pickup order after the software goes out will fail in the entire Northeast division.’  Needless to say— it was fixed.