Enterprise resource planning systems are at the heart of mission-critical business processes. There is little room for error when changes are introduced – and that’s where test management plays a pivotal role.
Enterprises must consistently ensure high-quality end-to-end business processes, which they do through their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Increasingly, with the rapidness of technological development and greater scalability, ERP platforms (such as SAP, Oracle and Salesforce) need to be continually updated to meet evolving needs. The result is added complexity for in-house IT teams, struggling to release quickly while maintaining business process quality and continuity.
Changes to the ERP system – whether due to software updates, a completely new implementation, or strategic business decisions – have immediate and far-reaching effects. A single workflow may involve multiple personnel, various skill sets, changing conditions, and several links in a value chain of activities. With this level of intricacy, even small ERP anomalies can disrupt operations, cost the business money, and have a severe impact on its brand. Therefore, a quality assurance (QA) process is critical to ensuring such changes or new software are implemented correctly and operational before they go live.
This QA process is known as ERP testing. It involves identifying defects in production and verifying the proper functioning and configuration of each module the organization needs. Effective testing cycles prevent unpleasant surprises such as system crashes and eliminate or decrease the number of bugs that turn up after deployment.
The ERP testing process can be complex and requires proper strategy and execution.
Types of ERP Testing
Traditional QA tools and methodologies are designed to test applications from a technical
perspective. Known as verification testing, it looks at issues like performance, scalability, security and determines if a product or program meets specified requirements.
Business process testing has a broader goal and is central to ERP test management. It looks beyond the question of whether the software or system operates as it was programmed to do and instead asks if it will meet the organization’s day-to-day needs and expectations.
ERP testing generally involves a number of testing cycles, with different characteristics and focuses. Test managers need to decide which tests to carry out with a strategic view of both efficiency and order of priorities.
- Unit testing – This is part of the software development process, in which individual elements of an application are tested to make sure they operate correctly from a technical perspective. Quality assurance personnel may be involved in this type of testing, but generally, developers themselves carry out unit tests independently as a standard part of their work.
- User acceptance testing (UAT) – Real-world business workflows tend to include multiple applications and departments, requiring testing scenarios that reflect a cross-functional perspective. The organization’s business users, experienced in the complexities of their daily activity, are best positioned to carry out such testing. Well-designed, high-quality UAT tests are thorough and reflect user requirements accurately, identifying problems that would go unnoticed in integration or unit tests. UAT tests testing scenarios, providing a macro-level overview, are carried out in a separate environment with a production-like data setup. It is the final stage of any development process before go-live, with the goal of validating changes in the organization’s business requirements and its end-to-end business flow.
- Integration testing – The aim of integration testing is to verify that all the different components of the ERP system operate smoothly together, with a seamless flow of data across modules in typical processes that will run once implementation is complete. Testers should be knowledgeable regarding the technical aspects of the software and company policies, in order to best evaluate information flow and data accuracy.
- Regression Testing – Regression testing is a crucial aspect of software testing that aims to ensure the stability and reliability of an application after modifications or updates have been made. It involves executing a set of test cases that specifically target the core functionalities of the software to verify that any changes implemented do not negatively impact the existing functionality. These test cases are designed to cover various scenarios and are run multiple times to confirm that the software consistently behaves as expected and remains free from errors. By performing regression testing, organizations can minimize the risk of introducing new defects or regressions.
What is the ERP Testing Process?
ERP testing includes several different phases: preparation, execution, evaluation, and regression (which is not necessarily a distinct phase in the formal sense).
- Test preparation – The business processes are identified, and the scope of testing is defined The testing system and tools are set up, including ensuring stakeholders and testers are scheduled and available. Test data and scenarios are prepared, for manual as well as automated execution.
- Test execution – The test is run, defects are logged, and the test status is reported. Note that the ERP tester should confirm that all reports and forms are being generated and displayed correctly.
- Test evaluation – Identified defects are analyzed and code corrections are implemented. The test plan and scenario is also assessed and documented for future use.
It bears noting that customizations and custom configurations in ERP solutions are expected sources of bugs discovered during ERP testing. This can be because changes made to satisfy the needs of one set of users inadvertently reduce efficiency elsewhere, for example; however, with effective ERP test management, the effects can be mitigated.
The Landscape is Changing
While the general structure of ERP test management remains the same, the landscape has become more complicated. There are various types of new applications interconnected with the core system, the pace of technological innovation and change is increasing, and the adoption of agile and DevOps practices is growing. As a result, finding the right level of test coverage is more challenging, and failing to do so is riskier, placing a greater burden on the test manager’s time and resources.
Compounding these issues is the new reality in which remote work is an accepted norm. User acceptance testing no longer requires that all relevant testers be physically flown into the same location for a week. This flexibility surely has its benefits, but it poses a challenge for collaborative work with a loss of immediacy, speed, and responsiveness.
A more common challenge, which has been around much longer in the ERP domain, is the potential testing bottleneck caused by a disconnect between IT and business users. Time-consuming business-process testing, complex documenting and reporting processes, idle time, and tools not designed for end users or suited to their skills all make testing a frustrating task. When members of business units participate in testing projects, they tend to record their activities using highly manual, inefficient Excel spreadsheets due mainly to familiarity.
In short, legacy test management practices are in the process of adapting to new models of remote work and real-time progress reporting. Modern solutions provide the control, intelligence and streamlining necessary to handle testing cycles of any scale, anywhere.
So, What is Effective ERP Test Management?
To ensure that any change to an ERP system will function correctly at go-live, ERP test management must be business-process-centric. This translates to test cycles being validated with the input of subject-matter experts and business users, who might be cross-functional and geographically dispersed. Testing platforms need to support this model with business-process-centric monitoring, test scripts, workflow planning, assignment of testers, sequencing of the execution and reporting. By focusing holistically on business processes throughout testing, test managers and business owners gain full visibility into the overall impact of changes or updates to their ERP system.
In today’s global economy, ERP test management requires coordinating among different and geographically distributed business users, subject-matter experts, and developers. According to a Spiceworks report, The State of Functional Testing, 35% of test managers lack communication tools to make those connections. The risk of miscommunication, process bottlenecks, and duplicated efforts increase accordingly, which in turn reduces overall efficiency and can lead to business process failure. Dedicated video chat meetings and sessions are both time consuming and expensive, while testers are prone to idle time, and slowdowns occur without a clear understanding of what’s causing the hold-up. This is where test management collaboration tools become especially important.
QA team members, the ERP test manager, developers and subject-matter experts should be able to jointly review detected errors. Collaboration is also vital when it comes to monitoring workflows to minimize idle time and remove testing bottlenecks, such as with the automated notifications between testers and developers highlighted previously. Only a proactive, collaborative, system-wide approach to test and defect management ensures a quick and efficient testing cycle, with built-in quality assurance and no defect inflation.
Most software projects fail due to the lack of proper visualization of analytical data related to a project’s progress. In the absence of a centralized tool, the entire process of reporting is dependent on a patchwork of manual interactions, making it error-prone.
The only solution is total visibility across ERP test plans, cases, runs and results, as well as defects – in a single dynamic repository. Real-time reports and dashboards can convey the testing status and track overall progress across test projects, cycles and business processes. With that level of transparency, it is possible to assess quality at every stage and gain insights for centrally managing testing activities. Visibility in monitoring test workflows – based on end-to-end business processes – enables managers to easily identify and remove bottlenecks, ensure each tester’s workload is reasonable, and make sure everyone meets their defined scope.
Regulatory compliance is an integral part of ERP test management, with the need to audit or simply track quality assurance processes. Test documentation therefore becomes critical, with test evidence automation using record-and-play to provide a detailed, reusable and audit-ready recording of each and every test – generated effortlessly ‘on the fly.’ From business requirements to go-live, test managers can rest assured the documentation complies with all internal and external quality standards and compatibility requirements. Additionally, automatic and very detailed testing documentation is an excellent resource for training and user guidance purposes.
Best Practices for the ERP Test Manager
ERP test managers must have a clear understanding of their company, how each business unit impacts the whole, what the best testing strategy is, and how to implement it. They must ensure the enterprise resource planning system is ready and able to perform its role of streamlining complex mission-critical processes.
In light of our analysis of ERP test management thus far, it is possible to define several best practices to help the modern ERP test manager achieve their professional aims.
Standardize and simplify
The first step is strategic, and it underpins all the rest – moving to a unified SaaS-
based platform with enterprise-level features. This will make the implementation and scaling of testing protocols and technologies easier, faster and less manually demanding. In practice, for the best results, standardization requires close coordination between IT and business units. In addition, a testing center of excellence (TCoE) can provide a centralized framework for optimizing, standardizing and implementing testing processes.
Make IT-business collaboration easy
Silos separating IT and business users must be eliminated for ERP testing to be timely and effective. This means implementing a common platform for mirroring business processes and facilitating real-time collaboration during all phases. A closed-loop issue resolution and retesting workflow between
testers and developers are key to keeping the process moving seamlessly with optimal visibility.
Orchestrate large-scale testing with a cloud-based solution
Complex demands on test managers include coordination of concurrent testing projects, large-scale systems, multiple stakeholders, geographic dispersion, and different lines of business. A cloud-native test management platform will provide them maximum flexibility for coordination, make global testing orchestration easier, and allow for systematic, fast and responsive interactions. With such a solution, workflows and notifications can be customized, data consistency is ensured, compliance and SLAs improve, real-time alerts can be issued to key stakeholders, and it can all be rapidly scaled up and adapted.
Control progress with real-time intelligence
Decision-making needs to be based on the most accurate and current data, with clear and useful analysis. Real-time and instant access to information from all points along the testing process is indispensable to understanding key performance indicators and gaining actionable insights. Along with the ERP test manager, all relevant testing teams should have access to the information they need to stay informed in real-time of process roadblocks or disruptions.
With the right tools, automatic and system-wide visibility provides early detection of potential bottlenecks, defect duplicates, and testing cycle redundancies. Proactive mitigation then becomes possible, improving the speed and quality of testing processes, issue resolution, development, and QA. The selected ERP test management platform should also allow for leveraging results from past projects – such as percent of defects in a single area, frequency of failure for a specific test scenario, extent of test coverage, and the like – for continuous improvement, optimization and efficiency.
Innovate with AI
Modern AI can be incorporated into ERP test management to help identify precisely what needs to be tested and, just as importantly, what does not. Automatically generated reports indicate which business processes will be impacted by any proposed ERP change and what the operational risks are. Such change intelligence should include a risk-based test plan, which will optimize coverage, eliminate uncertainty and reduce testing effort.
Automate as a means – not a goal
Automation is about velocity, not quality. Therefore, automating a faulty testing process will only produce poor results faster. Not everything in the realm of ERP test management can or should be automated. Therefore, it is important to use a platform that can orchestrate both manual and automated tests, with the right tools to focus efficiently and easily on quality. With a clear understanding of the impact of ERP changes, it will be possible to more effectively target automation initiatives, focusing on the processes that matter most.
How Panaya Test Dynamix Optimizes Your ERP Testing
Panaya Test Dynamix is a comprehensive platform that transformed the approach organizations take in managing their software testing process. With its advanced capabilities, it enables teams to improve efficiency, reduce test cycles, and accelerate digital transformation with zero risk. Panaya Test Dynamix platform offers:
- One Platform: Orchestrate and streamline Test Management in one unified platform.
- Business Centric: Boost UAT by mirroring end-to-end scenarios in a collaborative testing workflow and automate business process testing documentation.
- Zero Risk: Eliminate risk and uncertainty with AI-powered Change Analysis to know exactly what (not) to test for optimized test coverage without comprising on quality.
- Actionable Insights: Gain real-time visibility and smart insights so you can make informed decisions.
- User Friendly: Easy-to-use and intuitive SaaS solution that creates a seamless experience for both business & IT teams.
Testing Made Smarter – A Closer Look at 3 Customer Case Studies
Drawing on Panaya’s expertise in ERP test management and a proven track record of real-world success, customers have achieved remarkable results:
Aritzia Accelerates SAP Delivery by 54%
Aritzia, a fashion retail and digital commerce company in North America, was using isolated spreadsheets to manage testing for multiple business and vendor-driven change projects. Testing spreadsheets were shared and co-managed by IT professionals and functional end-users at multiple locations. They were time-consuming to share and populate with data, unscalable, and had no central visibility into overall testing coverage and methodology.
Aritzia deployed Panaya as their central testing solution and overhauled their entire test management methodology to incorporate full visibility and optimization capabilities on a unified, central platform. By using Panaya Test Dynamix to automate corrections and test orchestration, Aritzia is now able to shorten project duration and reduce business disruption by 54% on average.
Shiseido Beautifies its UAT
Shiseido is one of the oldest cosmetic companies in the world, with over 33,000 employees worldwide. When the company had to perform an overall upgrade, moving from ECC EHP4 to EHP6, they set a tight migration deadline and mobilized of all their business users worldwide to perform UAT testing. The most complex scenario had 23 steps and involved seven different testers! With Panaya, the upgrade met the deadline and Shiseido recorded results and proof for all tests on all platforms beyond SAP, creating a well-structured reusable test repository.
EFS Accelerates Testing by 50%
Etablissement Français du Sang (EFS), a semipublic subsidiary of the French Ministry of Health, treats over 1 million patients each year and is present in 153 permanent collection venues and 40,000 mobile collections. The EFS Management Information System (MIS) department needed a tool to manage routine vendor- and business-driven testing projects, as well as an ongoing project to consolidate some of its operational regions. Some of the processes were quite complex, impacting tens of SAP modules and up to a dozen functional testers. With Panaya, EFS was able to reduce testing delays by 50%, improve methods and efficiency and be audit-ready at all times. EFS now plans to extend the use of Panaya to all its testing projects.
Quality assurance and implementing change in an ERP system require extensive and effective testing, to ensure continuity of service across all business-critical applications. As changes come fast and furious, proper testing need not be a bottleneck to progress.
Effective and efficient ERP test management is the key to ensuring quality standards are maintained even in the face of continual change. A centralized platform, where all test activities can be managed, executed, and tracked is an invaluable solution to the challenge. Done right, ERP test management is the guarantor of business process perfection – no matter how complex that business landscape is.