Outfit Urges Rethink of ATM Testing When Migrating to Windows

According to a new report published by Retail Banking Research (RBR), 56% of automated teller machines (ATMs) in Western Europe had been converted to run on the Windows operating system by the end of 2005, a figure that RBR estimates has now risen to 64%.

However, Level Four Software warns that for banks that have not considered their ATM testing and deployment strategy from the outset, the costs of this migration are likely to be outweighing the benefits. Following the move by these banks from the OS/2 platform to Windows, in Level Four's experience, the overall stability of ATMs on the high street and subsequently the customer experience, have suffered.

Keen to take advantage of the XFS open standard which Windows ATM software products are based on, expectations of this new ATM operating platform included reduced software costs, easier monitoring, more efficient cash management and a wider range of customer service and branding options.

However, Level Four claims that while some of these benefits have been realised, they have been compounded by unforeseen complexities. Frequent Windows updates and stability issues relating to interoperability of the many applications resident on the ATM have resulted in ATMs that can be even more problem-prone than the early deployment of OS/2 ATMs in the late 1980s.

"Undoubtedly Windows-based ATMs are the future, yet many banks have found that the migration path has proved far from smooth," said Martin Macmillan, marketing and business development director at Level Four. "Customers are used to reliable ATMs and will not tolerate poor service. Banks must get their testing procedures perfected, if they are to operate a trouble-free ATM network and maintain customer loyalty."

The scale of testing needed for Windows ATMs has proved challenging, especially considering a full regression test can take banks two to three months to execute. A test is required each time a software release occurs, which can now be as frequent as once a month.

In addition, tests are necessary when changes are made to other applications running on the ATM, and retesting must also be carried out after every Windows security update. This rigorous process is required because the ATM software application itself, as well as every interaction between the other applications in the software stack, must be tested to ensure stability.

"Windows presents a compelling case for retail banks, so it's no wonder that such a high percentage have made it their ATM operating system of choice," said Dominic Hirsch, managing director of Retail Banking Research. "However, with the significant increase in testing required, it's vital that banks exercise caution and look carefully at their testing and software deployment strategies to ensure they do not compromise the customer experience."