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How our Technology Centre of Expertise harnesses the power of ‘test and learn’

07 May 2019


For some companies, failure is something to be avoided at all costs. At Octopus, we’re motivated by the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. We asked some of the software testers within our Technology Centre of Expertise to explain why Test and Learn practices are at the heart of how they work.

Octopus Labs – a breeding ground for innovation
Octopus Labs is the name of our Technology Centre of Expertise. It’s an important internal brand within Octopus, and the team behind some of our most exciting developments. Together they have a reputation for cutting-edge products, including Octopus Cash and Octopus Choice, and using technology to drive cultural change.

“Test and Learn is a big part of our process,” says Hiral Patel. “It’s our job to examine how a product works from every angle – including both users and hackers. That way, we can make a product safer and easier to use.”

“We act a bit like a product’s mother,” says Nandhini Baladhandapani. “We guide it through the development process. And make sure it reaches the user without any flaws. If something goes wrong during testing, we look on it as an opportunity to make things better.”

Making smarter products
Lots of companies use Test and Learn practices to make their products better, from credit card providers to Google. But for Octopus Labs, the concept is ingrained into the team’s mindset – including how they create new products.

Right now, the financial industry is dominated by dinosaurs which force customers to put up with complicated products, clunky processes, and confusing jargon. The Octopus Labs team spends a lot of time thinking of ways to improve or simplify the customer experience.

Of course, it’s easy to see what’s wrong with the old way of doing things and to come up with lots of ideas for how to make things better. But it can be difficult to know which ideas will work, or which ones to prioritise. That’s where the Test and Learn mindset can really pay dividends.

Works as a Product Lead within Octopus Labs, Esin Over believes that good products should make life easier for customers. As she explains: “The world of financial services is so complex. We’re here to make it simpler, so it’s essential to learn as much as we can from our customers. We invite them into the office, ask them about their experience, and see first-hand how they use our products.”

Once they’ve tested an idea, the team goes back into development. “User feedback always gives us some great ideas,” says Esin. “We get a real buzz from the way our users express their views on the products and the user experience. It really helps us understand whether we’re heading in the right direction.”

Lessons for everyone
Learning new things isn’t just useful for making smarter products. Every member of the centre of expertise is encouraged to join the Labs 10% programme – and allocate 10% of their week to learning new skills.

“I didn’t come from a traditional computer science background,” says Anvar Djumaev. “But since joining the Labs team, I’ve learned about testing, development, writing code, and so much more. Everybody has chipped in to teach me something new.”

“In this industry, it’s hugely important to keep up with what’s new,” says Roshni Renuka. “Octopus Labs actively encourages us to do this, which gives us a really great platform for personal development.”

And with regular ‘Show and Tell’ sessions, individuals are encouraged to share what they’ve learned – which means the entire team sees the benefits.