Minimising software update issues in complex legal software environments
Large software vendors are shifting towards a Software-As-A-Service (SAAS) model and also releasing updates to their software more frequently. In years gone by, yearly updates were the norm, but today, SAAS updates take place every few months, or even more frequently.
Law firms are increasingly using Cloud-based SAAS products now that the security concerns with these applications are more clearly understood. The legal desktop is a highly integrated ecosystem – Microsoft Word and other document types mixed with legal application-specific software. It wouldn’t be unusual for a firm’s Microsoft Office installation to have twenty different add-ins from various software vendors, some of which update their software every few months. This creates a testing challenge, to ensure that updates do not break the increasingly complex integrations between the applications.
From a testing perspective there’s an onus on making sure these updates don’t break anything in the ecosystem, especially because they’re happening more frequently and often being ‘reccomended’ by application vendors, so that the client remains in support.
Traditionally software patches would have been tested twice yearly by a testing team using regression tests to make sure all the different components still work seamlessly together. Today, it’s becoming more difficult and costly to run a very large regression testing pack every three to four weeks when software updates are released.
Keep your focus
The solution for most firms is an approach that allows them to test faster using smaller, focused regression packs as their applications get updated, typically using automated testing tools. Every time a software update is released, an automated regression pack can quickly be run to ensure the update doesn’t break anything. This also allows tests to run without human intervention.
Firms should ideally focus their testing on the integration points between their various applications, and to automate this process if they can. When a new application update arrives, an automated test can be run on a pilot workstation, which can then give a quick pass/fail result on the integrations points.
By building regression packs that target the highest risk areas or the software used most often by the firm, this will return an accurate assessment on whether the new update has impacted the highest risk areas of the production environment. In case there is an impact, a more detailed regression pack can be run to ensure that all functional areas are tested.
Increasing numbers of legal firms are starting to use legal tech software developed by vendors to provide specific functionality for the legal industry. These smaller, focused, automated regression packs can also be used to identify any issues before they impact the larger software ecosystem.
Software testing providers are starting to create testing ‘accelerator packs’ that work with specialised legal software such as Thompson Reuters Elite 3E. They include focused regression packs to test both standard and proprietary functionality. The accelerator test packs allow law firms to quickly introduce automated regression testing without having to start from scratch, only adding configuration specific to their firm’s software environment.
The test pack for 3E for example includes tests for all the standard processes and functions. Some configuration and possible customisation will be needed, but a large percentage of the tests will already be in place. This saves time and effort, allowing testing to commence earlier and provide timely results post patch release.
The right partner
Most legal firms do not have the technical expertise or time to efficiently test their software internally. Moreover, not all specialist software vendors have the expertise to test their software against all the possible combinations of legal software environments.
As such, legal firms will benefit from working with a trusted software testing partner that understands these complexities and is able to regularly provide automated regression test packs to monitor and manage the stability of their software environments.