Parallel Testing

Because I'm suspicious of all software (comes with the territory of being a tester I guess), over the weekend I decided to check my credit report to see exactly what I had on my record. I do a lot online (purchasing, bill-pay, etc...) and I'm somewhat paranoid about security and identity theft, because I know how easy it is to crack most security and/or gather someone's personal information.

If one wants to check their credit report here in the states, they can contact any of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. Any one of these will provide you with your information according to them, and if you get a report from all three, you get your complete credit history and outlook. All three websites offer a 3 in 1 credit report service, where they contact the other agencies for you and compile a complete report (for a small fee of course).

Not having a preference, I decided to purchase from the first website I checked, which happened to be Experian. I filled out the form online, clicked submit, and was rewarded with an error. "Your information cannot be processed at this time. Please contact us at the following number for more information."

Ok, I thought. I picked up the phone and called. Once on the phone, I confirmed all the information I had entered and the operator attempted to reprocess the request. No good. I was instructed that my information was "too different between the three companies to be reconciled automatically" and that I would have to contact each company individually to gather all of my information. Have a great day. -- Phooey!

Well, what a great opportunity for a parallel test! I clicked over to the next website, Equifax, and filled out their application. I entered all the same information (in a screen that looked much like the previous one) and clicked submit. Behold! I was rewarded with my credit report!

This tells me several things about the companies and the software they use. All of these assumptions are based on the underlying assumption that my specific problem was the result of a defect in the software and not some random malfunction in Experian's hardware or some other failure unrelated to the software. This is all purely speculation based on one test. Take it for what it's worth.
  1. While the services they use looks to be the same service, it must not be, or if it is it must be customized in some way.

  2. Experian could have noticed my problem by running a series of parallel tests using their competitors web services. Apparently, they did not.

  3. Experian's manual process resulted in the same error as their online process, so I assume it is in fact, not a separate process. That seems odd.

  4. Reviewing my credit data between the two companies, there is in fact little to no difference, most of the differences are with TransUnion. This could mean that Experian's process had trouble reconciling TransUnion's data while Equifax did not.

  5. I should also concider that the problem may not be Experian's, but could in fact be Equifax's. If Equifax's web service that provides information is down, then Experian's service would fail, while Equifax's might not (it probably does not use it's own service).

I could probably come up with more, but without knowing more information and not being in a position to actually work on the problem, it's most likely a wasted effort. I do find it interesting however that a simple parallel test exposed this problem. I would have thought a parallel would be the most extensive testing they would execute, as they have two competitors offering the exact same product (which even uses their data).

One has to wonder how things like this get by...