Behind the Screens: how to protect the quality of the Channel Manager?

It's halfway February, and I'm sitting at the kitchen table together with Barbara. Barbara joined SmartHOTEL more than nine years ago, so she has seen the Channel Manager developing into the beautiful product it is right now. Quality control is one of Barbara her specialities, so there's plenty to talk about. While we're enjoying a cup of tea, we take a closer look at the subject "testing".

 

You started at SmartHOTEL, and then what...?

When I started working at SmartHOTEL, there was only one developer for the Channel Manager. He built the product and checked if the functionalities worked as they should. ''Product 'A' has to do this, so I'll test if 'A' functions''. At first, that was sufficient, but along the way, the question arose as to whether changes could not be checked more qualitatively. That's the moment I came into the picture: I became one of the first employees specialised in ''testing''. Instead of looking at those changes from only one viewpoint, we checked it in a broader perspective. ''The product does 'A', but do 'B' and 'C' still work as well?'. To check this, you can, for example, perform a smoke test. You can compare it to when you have a leak in your house, and the plumber blows smoke into the pipes to see where the hole is. The problem is often in the spot where the smoke escapes.

 

Protecting the quality of the product, how do you do that?

Testing, testing and more testing! It all sounds straightforward, but it's a lot of work. There are countless different ways and levels of testing. Ideally, we have a program where we can check all possible scenarios at the click of a button. But unfortunately, we still have a lot of manual testing to do. However, we are working hard to write out all possible scenarios (acceptance testing), so that it becomes easier and more clear what we need to test.

 

But, shouldn't you assume that everything just works?

No, you can't do without testing. Developing and improving software continues to be the work of humans and sometimes mistakes sneak in. Also, our product is extremely complex, and one small change sometimes affects a large part of the system. So when we discover an error, it has to be tested where the error came from. The same applies when, for example, there is a new booking site connection, all functionalities must be checked to see if it really works.

 

Is the Channel Manager really that complex?

Yes, our Channel Manager is incredibly complex. It links to a lot of different applications and programs, which are also related to each other. The moment you modify something in one application, another program may collapse again. It shouldn't be happening though, so you try to prevent that with tests.

 

What else is going on behind the scenes?

In addition to smoke testing, we now also use other ways, such as unit testing. For each component (unit), a functionality is built and tested at the same time. The advantage of this is that when a problem occurs, it is easier to find the cause because it is cut into different parts.

However, the team is continuously questioning current ways of testing, and we are continually asking ourselves how we can do it differently. There is an upward trend, and we keep developing and improving ourselves. For example, we are now focusing on a test method called ATDD (Acceptance Test Driven Development). ATDD means that we write out the test scenarios in such a simple manner that even a novice understands what it says. Once these scenarios are approved, the developer can start writing the real code. Very interesting, especially considering the desire to involve our partners and hoteliers more in the whole development process. ''You requested this functionality, we wrote it out and created a separate test page. Would you please test if the system does what you want it to do?''. 

We (developers) do not work with the system daily, we mainly look at the code, and it is therefore sometimes difficult to understand what the exact demands are. How great is it if we can work closely with our hoteliers in the future to make the Channel Manager an even better product?

That sounds very interesting indeed, thank you for explaining Barbara!

 

About SmartHOTEL

For more than 16 years, SmartHOTEL has been helping hoteliers navigate the exciting world of online distribution. From our office based in the Netherlands, our team serves independent hotels, hostels and chains worldwide by providing channel management and tailored online distribution solutions. A lot has changed over the last years, but our goal remains the same: simply connect hotels to the world. For any questions regarding our services, please contact us at sales@smarthotel.nl or call +31 (0)182 75 11 18.

By Chantal Mieremet | February 25, 2020

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