Planning future testing requirement ahead of the UK Open Water programme launch 

SQS Group has been appointed by Market Operator Services Limited (MOSL) to help plan the company’s future testing requirement ahead of the Open Water programme launch.

MOSL, a member organisation supporting the Open Water programme, aims to create a competitive market in England for almost 1.2 million non-household water customers. Once the market opens in April 2017 non-household customers will be able to choose their water retailer, no matter where they are based in the country.

Reducing data-related risks

With SQS solutions working to reduce data-related risks and assure system functionality for its clients, this partnership is one that will involve managing the initial analysis of the testing phases for the core ‘Central Market Operating System’ (CMOS), which will support the opening of the new market.

Developing such infrastructure with testing at its core will ensure new developments and ongoing changes are up to the required standard, now and in the future; not only for MOSL but also its clients.

Robust IT testing practices essential

Though at first glance it may seem to be a side issue, robust IT testing practices will be a crucial part of water company responses to this high level of change. Testing must not be allowed to become the bottleneck on the critical path that delays market opening because it hasn’t been given sufficient profile and attention.

Nor can the market be allowed to open without company and central market systems being properly tested, lest systems stall and damage the entire competitive proposition. Leading companies looking to shape the market will see well tested systems as a critical part of their competitive edge. But for all, there are plenty of good reasons why testing should be a priority rather than an afterthought:

Market expectation: The Open Water programme has made it clear that it expects companies to test systems as part of their readiness preparations. This is set out in Technical Appendix 6 to the third Market Architecture Plan (MAP3). MOSL’s business plan envisages user testing taking place between April and September 2016, ahead of shadow operation (see diagram).

Readiness licence condition: Drawing on Ofgem’s experience when it introduced the New Electricity Trading Arrangements, Ofwat has consulted on the introduction of a water company licence condition on readiness. One of the priority tasks identified is participation in the testing of the new market arrangements and technology readiness.

Corporate risk and cost: Even without these push factors, companies should be aware of the corporate consequences of not being fully ready by April 2017. These include regulatory fines, reputational damage, customer confidence destruction and delaying market opening to the detriment of the company and wider industry. Moreover, if an untested or shoddily tested system proves a poor performer, it could prove extremely costly for the company over time.

SQS to support seamless transition to competitive water market

The ‘most stringent testing possible’

Commenting on the partnership, Mark Salisbury, MOSL director of delivery, said: “The accuracy and robustness of our systems is of paramount importance to our members and vital to the success of the new market.”

“SQS is a world-renowned expert in testing complex systems and we are delighted to have its support in ensuring our systems receive the most stringent testing possible. With this help we will not only launch on time and within budget, but with the utmost confidence in the systems upon which the market will depend.”