Royal Mail Group Ltd is the parent company of Royal Mail, Parcelforce Worldwide and Post Office Ltd. Royal Mail is the letters and packages business. It handles around 83 million items every day and delivers to 27 million addresses across the UK.
Post Office Ltd manages the UK-wide network of around 14,200 Post Office branches. It is the largest retail branch network in the UK, and nationally more than 99 percent of people live within three miles of a Post Office branch.
Parcelforce Worldwide provides a vital service to customers needing to send express shipments across the UK. It delivers 170,000 parcels every day across the UK.
As more and more consumers use the internet for purchasing, research and customer service, organisations need to ensure that their websites can cope with high numbers of internet visitors.
For an organisation like Royal Mail, which has over five million unique visitors to its website each month - and is growing at around 30 per cent annually - the performance of its website is paramount – whether it is used to check a postcode, track the delivery of an item or find out more about mail services.
One of the main challenges faced by the Royal Mail is to ensure that the website is able to cope with the sheer volume of users, especially during peaks in customer usage, such as in the run up to Christmas, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
Another challenge is the continual updating Royal Mail needs to do to its website in response to customer demand and changes in the marketplace. As a result, the organisation issues at least two new releases or packages of changes for the website per week.
Both the high visitor numbers and the continual changes to the site are risks, as they can trigger defects in the site, which can hinder its performance. Therefore testing the site is vital in ensuring its performance is optimal.
The problem that the Royal Mail had was that its approach to hiring testing consultants to support the in-house testing team was ad hoc, simply bringing in freelance testing contractors whenever necessary.
As Tharmananthar Shankaradhas, Head of Design Authority, Royal Mail explains, “This inconsistent approach was problematic as we weren’t maximizing the value of the testing consultants and we had to continually train new contractors.
“With our website visitor numbers soaring, we knew this approach was inadequate. As a result we needed to engage an independent testing consultancy who would give us consistency of expertise and the depth of knowledge that would help us develop the testing methodology for our site.”
Royal Mail engaged AppLabs to provide an on-going managed service of specialist testing resources. This service included a high level management team, which provided consultancy and created the testing strategy, as well as overseeing its implementation.
As Shankaradhas comments, “The management of testing was taking up too much of our time. We wanted to focus on the business aspect of the testing and with the AppLabs testing team on board, we were able to free up our time to concentrate on our core activities.”
AppLabs worked with Royal Mail to build the testing methodology, track the testing processes and apply its proven testing approach to each project.
By providing thorough web application performance testing and analysis, AppLabs was able to stringently test the performance of the site under load. The team also managed the implementation of new applications, ensuring they didn’t adversely affect the performance of the site.
Through analysis of the site’s performance, AppLabs was able to provide Royal Mail with vital information on the performance of individual pages and URLs. The organisation was then able to use this vital information to improve the performance of its website.
Another benefit of working with AppLabs was the flexibility of the service. “We were able to scale the number of skilled consultants working with us, depending on our demand for testing at any one time. This suited us perfectly,” said Shankaradhas.
The testing methodologies developed and implemented by AppLabs have worked to minimise issues occurring with the website and optimise the site’s performance. As a result, the site is able to cope with significant surges in visitors and absorb the constant changes and upgrades to pages without jeopardizing performance.
“With the burgeoning number of visitors to our website, AppLabs provided us with an experienced testing team which proved invaluable,” concluded Shankaradhas
“The testing team enabled us to maintain the performance and quality of our website, whilst working to an aggressive schedule of two new releases or packages of changes for the website each week.”
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