Lisa Everts, Test Developer & Business Development
February 14, 2024

If you’ve ever found yourself tasked with transferring test items to a new software platform or a different section within an item banking system, you’re likely aware that it involves more than just the technical aspects of moving items. Numerous considerations must be taken into account for a smooth and successful transition.

Mastering Item Bank Conversions: Proven Tips and Tricks for Seamless Migrations

If you’ve ever found yourself tasked with transferring test items to a new software platform or a different section within an item banking system, you’re likely aware that it involves more than just the technical aspects of moving items. Numerous considerations must be taken into account for a smooth and successful transition.

Timing is Everything

Is there a business reason prompting a change? For example, if a new item banking solution has been purchased, the project plan should incorporate the date when staff will not have access to the original system. Is there a change in a program’s accreditation that requires the usage of new item types or different blueprint items? Project dates must be set which accommodate the development timeline for the new items. Will a change in test delivery vendors require a format not provided by the current item bank? Test publication deadlines should be included in the conversion project plan.

Freeze!

Put a hold on making changes to items during bank merges or conversions to prevent inaccuracies. Anyone with access to the items should be aware of the conversion project to avoid holding more than one version of the same item.

Clean the Slate

Items that are formatted correctly are the easiest to move. Be sure that the metadata is correct, as well as the item content. In other words, use a conversion project as motivation to review classifications, statistics, and content – including digital assets such as images, charts, and videos. Taking the time to inspect items before moving them ensures a successful transition.

Have a Backup Plan

Once the items that will be moved have been identified, make a backup copy or ensure that there is access to the original bank until the transition is complete. The project plan should include dates when staff will no longer have access to the original bank.

If a backup is available, the project plan should call for storing it until the success of the transition has been verified.

Be Prepared

Is operational staff ready to work in a new system or item bank? The shift requires a well-trained operational team. Allocate time in the project plan for process engineering as well as training. With new systems, there may be a need to change workflows. Identifying process flow changes will increase how staff measure the success of the conversion.

Review the Data

Are there tools to help speed up the review, such as a tool to page through item previews? Can staff leverage efficiency features in the new system to speed up the review? A conversion project plan should include time to verify the items are correct; it should also include a plan for a reiterative process if discrepancies are found.

A well-thought-out project plan that addresses these operational details ensures a successful conversion and enables a seamless continuation of the work required to support test publication. In the best-case scenario, it also enhances the comfort level of the test development team working with the newly transitioned item bank.

About the Author

Lisa Everts has worked in the testing industry since 2011 as a test developer and certification program manager. She has experience moving test items between many different item banking systems, but Pro! is her favorite target bank. When she’s not working on item bank data or supporting our Consolidator clients, Lisa frequents the many theme parks in the Orlando area and follows her favorite sports teams, the Wisconsin Badgers, the Green Bay Packers, and the Tampa Bay Rays.

John DeFalco, SR Software Engineer
August 6th, 2021

Ken White is a Scrum Master for one of our Agile development teams. He’s also our Production Support Operations Manager for the same customer. I don’t believe combining these roles is a practice unique to Strasz. What really sets Ken apart from most others is, he is also currently the Fire Chief for the Liberty Corner Volunteer Fire Department1. So, it goes without saying that Ken has both an educational background and practical experience to bring teams of people together with a high likelihood of success. We’ve all heard of the chicken and egg paradox. So was the fire department the chicken and his college degree the egg? Or vice versa?

Ken (left) alongside the Chief (middle) and Deputy Chief (right) of the Liberty Corner Volunteer Fire Department.

Ken White is a Scrum Master for one of our Agile development teams. He’s also our Production Support Operations Manager for the same customer. I don’t believe combining these roles is a practice unique to Strasz. I’m sure there are plenty of other leaders in the field that are holding down both positions. What might be rarer, Ken has a degree in Management Information System & Operations Management that almost exactly aligns with his current job responsibilities. What really sets Ken apart from most others is, he is also currently the Fire Chief for the Liberty Corner Volunteer Fire Department1. So, it goes without saying that Ken has both an educational background and practical experience to bring teams of people together with a high likelihood of success. We’ve all heard of the chicken and egg paradox. So was the fire department the chicken and his college degree the egg? Or vice versa?

James Lipton from The Actor’s Studio is often fond of saying, “Let’s start at the beginning.” Back in the summer of 1986, Ken was working as a lifeguard and snack bar manager at a local pool when a friend approached him about joining the volunteer fire department. He hadn’t previously given it a thought. Yet, he immediately became fascinated by the inner workings of how the organization came together as a team. He was impressed that such a large group of volunteers could be coordinated to achieve great things in the community. The do-it-yourselfer in Ken was also fascinated with the department’s dizzying array of tools and equipment. 

Later that same year, he went off to college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Ken conveys his choice of UNCG simply as “My parents could afford the school, and it was farther away than Rutgers.” As was previously stated, he pursued a degree in Management Information Systems & Operations Management, which was a natural choice, in retrospect. From early adulthood, Ken had a predisposition towards organizational thinking, technology, leadership, and management.

After graduating from college, Ken began his career at AT&T as a software developer and simultaneously became more involved with the fire department. He started his coding journey with an internal COBOL development program at AT&T. Ken rose through the organization over the next ten years. Ken eventually became a District Manager, with a staff of 80+ and 3 direct report managers. Concurrently, he rose through the ranks of the fire department. He became President, then worked his way up as Assistant, 2nd Assistant, then eventually Chief. At the fire department, Ken leads a multi-faceted team of 60 volunteers. 

The overlap of these two paths is significant. Both have a business and support side that require intense management, efficient organization, and experienced leadership at a high level. A software company’s business revolves around planning and scheduling releases, conducting regular status meetings, managing budgets, and interfacing with customers. The fire department is organized as a not-for-profit business and, as such, has a President that presides over the company’s business. This includes filing tax for

ms with the state, managing donations, fiscal planning, project planning, creating specifications, procurement, politics, and leading public meetings. Both positions require an individual at the top with stellar organizational and planning skills and a positive demeanor supporting customers.

For a software company, every product requires support. Users will encounter defects, and those defects must quickly be researched, verified, and remediated. Customers will occasionally have ad-hoc, high-priority requests in response to their own business’ stimuli, colloquially referred to as “fires” by the production support team. In parallel, the support side of the firehouse handles responding to dispatched 911 calls and extinguishing actual, physical fire alerts sent through an Incident Command System. When asked which fires are harder to control, Ken quipped, “The actual fires … usually”. 

On both fronts, teams are composed of individuals with specific roles and skills. For a software company, those roles are typically developers, designers, quality assurance, and IT. Team members use their varied skills and come together to create solutions. When a challenge arises, Developers will research the code base and provide technical solutions. Production support accesses the logs in production and applies their working knowledge of the system and the user’s workflow to determine how to recreate the issue. IT investigates network, security, and server-related issues. The fire department is similarly multi-faceted. The engine company performs fire suppression, the truck company provides ventilation and search capabilities, and others whose job is to provide a water supply. Clearly, both organizations need a respected and capable leader to coordinate the varied problem resolution activities in a responsive and professional manner.

In the summer of 2021, Ken celebrated his 35th year with the Liberty Corner Fire Department. I’d like to extend the celebration by adding to it Ken’s 35th year of applying, like Liam Neeson (Taken), “a particular set of skills,” both technical and managerial, to every aspect of his professional and personal life.

1 http://www.libertycornerfire.org/ – please help their cause by donating!