June 15, 2023
4 Best Practices for Test Data Management in the Banking Sector
While managing test data may not be as exciting as what financial institutions can do with analytics, poorly managed test data holds an existential risk. Imagine a rare bug that failed to be uncovered during testing—something that reported a balance of zero for a small set of users. The consequences would be dire. Or, imagine testing done with live data that was not properly masked. The potential for a data breach would be astronomical.
The good news is that properly managed test data can help reduce and eliminate many of these issues before applications are rolled out to users, and so securely. Getting this process right is key to keeping development costs low and avoiding the pain of small bugs with massive consequences.
Best Practice #1: Understand Your Data Landscape
A core principle of data privacy and security is that businesses should minimize their use of data to what is necessary. One of the primary uses for test data is likely to test user interfaces on public-facing applications. In this scenario, there is a lot of information that banks hold, like social security numbers, spending patterns, and credit histories, that won’t ever show up on the front end—and consequently won’t be relevant. While your live data is a key starting point for creating a high-quality test dataset, copying it wholesale will be a waste of resources and create more risk in the event of a leak or breach. By thoughtfully exploring the minimum amount of data necessary for a test, banks can reduce their risk and speed up testing time while reducing resource consumption.
On the other side of the coin, banks often face issues gathering enough of the right information for testing. Banks are especially at risk for holding data in profoundly non-centralized manners. Legacy systems, some decades old, might handle core business operations like payment processing, credit card rewards, and even the bank accounts themselves. When data is fragmented, collecting the necessary types and amounts of data for testing while respecting data privacy and security laws can be a significant challenge. Banks need a “census” of their data, cataloging what kinds of data they hold and where it is so that they can ensure their test data is as complete as possible and assembled in a legal manner.
Best Practice #2: Proactively Refresh Your Data
Like any business, banks are always developing new products and services. Test data management provides a means of stress testing these new offerings so that they perform as expected on launch. However, using test data that isn’t up-to-date can mean that products could pass testing, but fail in actual use. For example, a bank could be expanding into a new country. That would mean that its applications must support a new language and currency symbol. While those may seem like minor adjustments to make, if poorly implemented, they could create a terrible experience for your users in the new area. Without the right test data, the issue may not be identified beforehand.
Consequently, refreshing test data isn’t just about having the best picture of where your business currently is, though that is important. Instead, refreshing test data can help propel your business to where it’s going and help future-proof it against upcoming developments. Of course, it’s also important to update your data so that it remains current. If test data grows stale, it may become a poor reflection of your business, causing testing to miss critically important issues before changes are rolled out to the public.
Best Practice #3: Anonymize Your Data
One of the riskiest things a business could do is take its most sensitive data and give it to its most junior employee. Yet, developers need access to test data to validate their software solutions. In banking, giving employees access to customer information is not just a risk, but in a heavily regulated industry like finance, is probably illegal. Companies could use various techniques to help maintain compliance, such as static or dynamic data masking, anonymization, or pseudonymization.
Best Practice #4: Automate Test Data Management
Every day, banks and their customers generate billions of new data points. In an environment where massive change can occur relatively quickly, it can become impossible for humans to keep up with the necessary changes. This is true for test data management. One of the best ways to ensure that your test data is fresh enough for testing is to automate the creation and refreshing of test datasets. That can be a massive challenge at scale, but with the right tools, banks and other financial institutions can keep up with the pace of change.
How Mage Helps Banks with Test Data Management
Ultimately, test data management is not just one process but many often-complex interlocking processes. Banks have to get all of these processes right to have effective test data and perform them securely under the watchful gaze of any number of regulators. In an environment where regulatory intervention can be devastating, not just any test data management solution will do. With a deep data privacy and security background, Mage’s test data management platform provides businesses of any size with the tools they need to tackle their thorniest data management issues. Mage’s platform can handle data at any scale and already supports multiple businesses with multibillion-dollar revenues. To learn more about what Mage’s test data management solution can do for your business, contact Mage today for a free consultation.