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Cold Code: Chain Tests Outside Apps

Cold Stone Creamery, the fast-growing chain of premium ice-cream stores, doesn't develop its own software in-house.
Cold Stone Creamery, the fast-growing chain of premium ice-cream stores, doesn't develop its own software in-house. That makes the testing function particularly critical before applications, which are developed under contract outside of Cold Stone's IT department, are accepted and deployed for internal use.

"Ultimately, IT is responsible for what goes out to users," says Eric Parsons, business applications delivery manager for Cold Stone. Those applications are used in 1,000 franchise stores that average $405,000 a year in sales per store. Cold Stone plans to add 414 stores this year.

Cold Stone develops application requirements in SteelTrace Ltd.'s Catalyze, a next-generation requirements tool that lets both users and developers visualize how an application is supposed to function. Cold Stone business analysts develop what's known as the use case--or flow of user requirements that, translated into code, results in a functioning application. They then turn the use case over to one of two trusted outside development houses to produce the code. When Cold Stone gets the finished application back, it gives it to about 15 business users who follow a test plan generated by Catalyze to see whether it does what they want it to.

Before implementing Catalyze about a year ago, Parsons spent 14 hours developing such a test plan himself for a new application to sell ice-cream cakes. With Catalyze, he says he would have saved those 14 hours. Catalyze automatically converts an application's use-case requirements into a test plan. The test plan is a highly visual format that lets users see what button is clicked on in a particular step and what happens after doing so. The test process, Parsons says, gives users a sense that the sought-after functionality has been delivered as planned--or has failed to be delivered.

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