Lee Cage Jr. serves on our Delivery Portfolio team as an engagement manager and supports customers during critical testing activities. Lee has several years of experience supporting add-on, medium-enterprise, and large-enterprise projects, and serves as an internal testing subject matter expert.Testing is one of the most crucial stages of a cloud-based ERP deployment. It is the time when your leadership team and implementation partner can gauge your ability to be successful post-deployment. The test stage is truly an indicator of how well you shared your requirements, how effectively the consulting team configured requirements, and how successfully you validated those requirements within the test environment. It’s the moment of truth.
When does testing preparation begin?
Collaborative’s Cynergy™ methodology recommends engaging in testing conversations as early as the Plan Stage – and I couldn’t agree more. Most organizations know that they will be required to test but may not fully comprehend the effort required to orchestrate their own internal resource allocation, the level of detail required to construct and write scenarios, and the acumen required to truly validate that the system works - both technically and operationally - for their business. That’s why early conversations are so important.
What is the key to a successful testing stage?
Although the methodologies for cloud-based deployments are often prescriptive, the following five best practices can help alleviate some of the challenges when you arrive at the testing stage.
- Developing a Test Strategy – An in-depth (but practical) testing strategy is critical to ensuring alignment in approach, scope, test schedule & timeline, resource assurance & structure, roles & responsibilities, testing indicators & procedures, mile markers of success, tenant scheme, test planning, and exit criteria for sign-off. Generally, resource assurance is the hardest thing to forecast, since it requires project team members to balance their day jobs with their responsibilities for the deployment. Most importantly, the test strategy should be fully understood and adopted at the organizational and project-leadership level, with an initial draft prepared by end of Plan stage.
- Creating the Test Plan – The test plan should describe the micro-components or tasks that need to be completed throughout the testing phase/test cycle. For example, individual testers should be able to see their day-over-day/week-over-week scenarios and tasks assigned to the them, along with forecasted percent-to-completion, ordered by date. The test plan should also highlight the testing cycles, defect management process, and test logistics, as well as identify any tools or resources that will be used. This can sometimes include excerpts of finalized business processes, so that testers know what the expected outcome is. The test plan is especially useful at the project and individual tester level.
- Developing Test Scenarios – Scenario construction is most often a customer-owned activity (unless there's a partner testing manager in scope and then the responsibility could be shared). This critical pillar is essential for testing, integration, and security validation. It directly impacts your ability to support and sustain yourself post Go-Live. For example, how useful is a brand-new car if the brakes don't work? For functional testing, I recommend having the project’s testing manager and functional leads review and gather the normal types of transactions they processed in the legacy system, and then string those together with the new system’s or your deployment partner’s delivered scenarios for in-scope functional areas. Additionally, the testing manager and functional leads should review workbooks and in-scope business processes. Lastly, it's always important to make sure that your team considers all integrations, security scenarios, and reports to help prepare for data catch-up in Parallel and Go-Live in your test library.
- Utilizing Dashboards and Analytics – A famous author once wrote, "A man is only as good as his tools." But it's also true that a tool is only as good as the team using it. By using real-time actionable dashboards that enable multidimensional filters, both the testing team and the project leadership team will benefit by being able to discern problem areas, pass/fail rates, tester roadblocks, and other issues. However, analytics only work when details and indicators are used on both a scenario tracker and an issue tracker, respectively. Your partner consultants should empower you to account for your work responsibly, which, in turn, will allow their team to triage and resolve issues in a timely manner.
- Managing the Issue Tracker – Though the execution of test scenarios is a task that you, as the customer, will generally own, both you and your partner consultants play an important role in the execution and regression testing of scenarios. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to establish agreements between you and your partner within the testing strategy, detailing your role versus their role as well as definitions of terminologies. For example, when a tester marks a scenario as "Closed – Passed," your partner will consider that to be the tester's individual "sign-off" of that scenario. This ensures a high degree of accountability and responsibility for testers by suggesting that, if your partner moved x configuration into production today, you would be confident in x configuration. The same is true for defect management for tracking and managing issues.
Now that we’ve discussed the five best practices you should adopt for a successful test stage, I’d like to address two common questions that I frequently hear from customers regarding testing.
How will testing continue to evolve?
The evolution of the testing management is steady. As organizational needs evolve, partners are continuing to tweak and innovate our methods of approach. We realize that there's not only an increased need for partner testing management skills, but we also understand that organizations generally don't have the internal bandwidth or the experience in deploying large-scale HR/Payroll/Financial solutions. So, the testing management "functional area" really sits at the intersection between methodology, theory, and practical sustainability.
What other activities run in sequence during the Test Stage?
It's important to note that testing isn't the only key project task that happens during the test stage. I highly recommend reviewing your project plan for a detailed list of other tasks and artifacts that run simultaneously. For example, Cutover Planning discussions begin at the start of the test stage and continue throughout the day of deployment. Knowledge Transfer from your partner to your project team members is another key activity during this stage, although it starts earlier in the project. Knowledge transfer is essential to support your team in gaining the knowledge, skills, and self-sufficiency needed to support yourself after Go-Live.
Whether you're a project manager, a member of the project team supporting and configuring, or a project leader advising and assisting, the collective impact of testing (or lack thereof) and its downstream impacts can affect you and your business. This is why "collaboration" is one of our core values at Collaborative Solutions: because it leads to more successful outcomes.
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