Software Quality Matters Blog
‘Mission critical’ is something of a buzzword, but if ever it could be applied to a business application it would be to ERP. A flaky ERP system is the corporate equivalent of a bad heart. Operational efficiency, workforce productivity – all these elements hinge on ERP. So it’s no wonder that IT professionals and business owners recoil with horror at the thought of an upgrade. Projects typically cost many millions and are very risky and disruptive to undertake.
This is a hot issue at the moment for organizations looking down the barrel of an Oracle E-Business Suite upgrade. The life-support plug will soon be pulled on EBS 11i and corporations are weighing up the cost of upgrade against the risk of sticking with their current version. It is no wonder businesses are reticent. To start with, the EBS upgrade involves a new set of core financial modules, meaning significant disruption for finance and accountancy departments.
But whether it’s an Oracle EBS upgrade, an SAP upgrade, or any other application upgrade, there are hidden costs that organizations face.
The first is the cost to the business. ERP upgrades were once the domain of the IT department – not any more. The business has a massive contribution in terms of verifying and testing all of the changes that are made on their business processes. What this means is that business users can spend an unbelievable number of man days testing to ensure the system is fit for purpose and learning the new ropes. Look at this for a statistic – for every 100 members of staff involved in validating a system, a business can expect to spend 5,000 man-days on testing alone. Yes that’s right – 5000 days! The time-drag on the business – and the productivity of the department that’s involved in the upgrade – is huge.
The second cost relates to human capital. This validation testing work is very laborious, with business users having to repeat these tests time and time again. Boring, right? It’s no wonder that upgrades have been shown to have a negative impact on employee satisfaction and can increase churn rates.
The third cost relates to the margin of error and the risk of defects going live when manual testing could let them slip through the net. Defects can cause all types of problems, for example, causing serious issues for the finance department, where invoices don’t get logged and gremlins affect the P&L. For the sales department, data may get corrupted or sales records disappear.
The hidden costs of upgrades can never be completely eradicated, but there are strategies organizations can deploy. Providing application users with simple technology to streamline testing should be part of that strategy, as it will reduce the time demand on the business. It can also improve defect detection, meaning the organization can go live with confidence.
Upgrades aren’t going away. If anything, they’re getting more prolific. On the bright side, organizations will become much better at dealing with them. So having the right procedures in place, the right tools and the right attitude should help corporates stay ahead in the upgrade and patch lifecycle.
View 0 Comments on C-Suite Blog Series: The Hidden Costs of Upgrades – an Insight for CEOs
Read more about alternatives to HP
Like the brick cell phone, HP testing tools have had their day
Ensuring that your business applications are fit for purpose might not be sexy but it is fundamental to the success of your organziation. The bedrock upon which this quality is built is the testing performed by IT professionals and business users throughout the development process.
But testing can be labor-intensive and for business users it is a painful and unwelcome distraction from their contribution to the line of business. It was therefore natural that many companies looked to implement technology to ease the burden of testing, seeking to speed the testing cycles, increase quality and lower their testing costs.
An entire testing tools industry developed, offering simple waterfall test management and coded automation for application UI. The coding language may differ, but in essence the likes of IBM, Borland and the most successful vendor, HP (through their acquisition of Quality Center and QTP) are all offering the same value proposition.
Struggling to keep up
These tools are now proven to be only usable by specialist automation engineers. They extend development timescales and are limited in their capability, which contrasts sharply with the original needs of speed and quality. As to cost, the requisite skills alone make a hole in any budget while the continual hikes to maintenance charges and often chargeable upgrades have brought the very concept of ROI into disrepute.
This failure to achieve speed, quality and cost savings is unfortunate, but there is a more fundamental problem. To survive, businesses now need to be agile (whether or not they are agile in their developments) and these legacy tool sets cannot keep up. Some of you will have already accepted that truth and will have reverted to a manual approach to testing as the burden of creating or maintaining coded automation became untenable. Others will have started to implement additional technology to try and address the yawning holes left by legacy tools.
Perhaps you are looking for a quality solution to augment your existing investment and address the high value, fast moving areas of your business. Or maybe you are ready to replace your existing tools with an enterprise-wide solution that supports multiple development methodologies and offers rapid ROI. Either way, Original Software stands alone as an alternative that has earned its battle honours in the environments that matter.
Read more about alternatives to HP
View 0 Comments on The problem with HP
If there is anything that President Obama has learned in the last month, it’s the importance of software testing. The Healthcare.gov website, an insurance shopping site for the US government’s flagship health policy “Obamacare”, has repeatedly been dogged with problems.
Glitches within the site have caused misery for tens of thousands of would-be insurance policy purchasers, with many enduring lengthy waiting times. The site has also had a number of complete outages. This has proved massively frustrating for the millions of Americans who want cover from January – they have to sign up by December 15th – meaning many of them have to resort to apply using more traditional methods: by phone; post; or in person.
Congress is trying to unpick why the site degenerated into chaos following its launch at the start of October. It’s all turned into a bit of a blame game, with contractors blaming government officials who are pointing the finger at the contractors. Meanwhile the Republicans are rubbing their hands with glee.
The key reason came to light last week when contractors admitted that the health department did not fully test the site until late September, the week before go live. So, unfortunately for Obama, this goes to serve as a lesson for every customer-facing organization in the world, the importance of testing and the cost to business, reputationally or otherwise, when technical defects cause havoc.
It’s easy to point the finger at testing – or a lack of – now that it’s been publically admitted. And leaving the testing phase of the project until the very last minute always meant that there would be serious problems. But it is likely that failed testing was only part of the problem. The Government was accused of adding changes at the last minute, constantly changing the scope of the project so it was difficult to execute the project against these very fluid objectives. Nonetheless, it’s perfectly possible to test effectively in such a fluid environment, and is increasingly becoming the norm.
It would also appear that collaboration and communication between the contractors and the Government officials wasn’t as harmonious as it should have been, probably a result of everyone having to race to meet such a tight deadline. The lesson for organizations embarking on an initiative like this is to plan, properly scope requirements, give realistic timeframes for project completion, provide visibility to stakeholders, and finally, test, test and test again. Sending websites, systems and applications to go live with multiple defects is a recipe for disaster, which has been a painful lesson for Obama and the Democratic Party in recent weeks.
View 0 Comments on Obamacare Website Malfunction – the Cost of Not Testing
US consumers took to social media en masse last week to broadcast an astounding deal they found on Walmart.com. A glitch on the retail giant’s e-commerce site saw a 24 inch high-definition Viewsonic computer monitor, an InFocus IN2124 digital projector and other products on sale for as little as $8.85, when their retail value is usually in excess of $500.
A spokesman for Wal-Mart – according to the Good Morning America site – said the issue had now been resolved and its IT teams are scanning the millions of items on sale on its site to check there aren’t further technical errors causing price discrepancies.
There was speculation that the site had been hacked, but Wal-Mart denied this and blamed a technical defect. And this isn’t the first time – Wal-Mart suffered another problem recently where a glitch in its food stamps system enabled shoppers to load up their online shopping carts with hundreds of dollars of free items.
It involves a bit of wild speculation to figure out why this happened and how these shoppers managed to get such a bargain. But it is clear that the validation of the data used in the website wasn’t as tight as it should be. No doubt there will be an intensive investigation to identify the cause, but these things are not always IT problems.
Website validation is a real problem for retailers and their e-commerce sites. For example, a software upgrade or patch to a system can cause anomalies within a website and not necessarily to the section that has been changed. One change of code, or even data messed up in a product manager’s spreadsheet, could have repercussions in seemingly unaffected areas of the site. In Wal-Mart’s case, it was their pricing structure.
So how realistic is it for retailers to validate every part of their site every time a change happens? IT teams often make a call on how extensive regression testing should be – but resources dictate that it’s impossible for everything to be tested. Once a system is live, the emphasis shifts to the business users who are responsible for the data – all too often these groups are left as technology paupers, without the benefit of the automated testing solutions their technical colleagues use. But there are strategies that can help e-commerce providers like Wal-Mart. Automated testing and validation solutions aimed at maintaining ‘business as usual’ can run thorough content checking after every update flagging up the glitches of all types immediately – this means that when retailers press the button on changes, patches, or upgrades, they can go live with more confidence.
Wal-Mart has apparently refused to honor their customers’ discount purchases, trying to appease them with $10 vouchers instead. Cold comfort for those who thought they had got the bargain of the century and means this hitch has had a negative impact on Wal-Mart’s reputation. Of course, this isn’t the first time a technical fault has damaged a company’s reputation, but to protect their name and their customer satisfaction levels, it’s vital that retailers – as far as they can – ensure e-commerce websites are as defect free as possible.
View 0 Comments on Wal-Mart website glitch offered up electronic bargain for shoppers
Microsoft Surface RT gadget owners were left frustrated this week as the Windows 8.1 upgrade stopped their devices working properly. Customers also complained that the 8.1 update for Internet Explorer didn’t work with Outlook and other Google services.
Microsoft put the onus on Google, saying that changes it had made to its search function were responsible. But Microsoft has since back tracked and made changes of its own to fix the problem. It has also doled out advice on how to get IE11 working with web-accessible versions of its Outlook email program, which failed to work with the new version of the browser. Microsoft has withdrawn the update from its website whilst it investigates the issue.
This is another example in a long line where companies compromise the quality of their products by failing to conduct the appropriate level of testing. Why this is could be for a number of reasons.
One could be that Microsoft has fallen over itself to respond to market demand for new features and functionality and in doing so has not properly tested the new elements. For example, the “home” button has made a re-appearance in version 8.1, being absent from version 8. A failure to test this new component across the appropriate range of mobile devices could have caused the problems.
Microsoft’s haste to get this new version of its operating system to market might also have caused them to cut corners in the testing process. The impatience in the race to market and get an edge on the competition can all too often mean companies compromise the quality of their product.
Another potential issue is the whole mobile environment. The fact that companies now have to test the efficacy of software developments or upgrades across mobile phones, lap tops and tablets means the margin for error increases exponentially as mobile adds further layers of complexity to the testing of these products.
Whatever the reason behind the Microsoft 8.1 failings, the fact remains that there were serious failings in the testing strategy. The knock-on effect was that version 8.1 was released with technical defects, which in turn angered and inconvenienced customers who took to social media to voice their criticism.
Was the negative fall-out worth the corner cutting? We’d say that it wasn’t. Companies compromise quality at their peril.
View 0 Comments on Windows 8.1 update glitch stops RT starting up
I came across this interesting article written by Mitesh Patel and published on BCW called: “New CIOs: How To Gain Control Within The First 30 Days” .
Two key points that I picked up in that article were the poor documentation a new CIO will inevitably face in their new role, and the absence of an audit trail.
Without these two essential requirements, “…how can any CIO confidently agree to deliver the required innovation with no visibility of what is in place today; no insight into the cost base; and no confidence in the resilience of the current infrastructure?”
If high quality software is at the heart of the CIO’s commitment to align with the business, it is without doubt that a CIO needs to ensure that the application lifecycle is streamlined and efficient.
In order to achieve that commitment, a CIO needs to have full visibility of all IT projects and be ready to communicate current statuses, plus cost and time measures. This would mean that documentation and audit trails, which are key elements in a project, are readily available and manageable.
Without this knowledge a new CIO could find themselves in an awkward conversation. Imagine being in the elevator and the CEO steps in. A minute goes by and suddenly you are asked for the latest report on that dreaded ERP upgrade, a project you know has substantial risks. “I don’t know” is not an acceptable reply, but for many new CIOs it’s the norm. It shouldn’t be.
CIOs should demand better. They should demand an environment where business processes have been captured and documented or even animated, such that the IT team can reduce its requests on business users. Wouldn’t it be great if you could use this documentation for training, support and business continuity?
What about walking into an environment where you have an automated audit trail for regulatory compliance, eliminating the time involved to produce it manually?
To have all this plus total visibility of IT projects, with projections on delivery time and total quality of an application, sounds a fairy tale, but it isn’t. This can be realised and much more.
The advantage a new CIO has as the “new-comer” is the ability to introduce change. A change to work smarter, more efficiently. A change that benefits the business but also the CIO’s career.
Original Software are the application quality thought leaders with a long track record for drastically improving quality and time to market. To talk to me about what you have read here and how we can help you make the change, please get in touch: http://www.origsoft.com/contact
View 0 Comments on New CIOs: How To Gain Control Within The First 30 Days
Marston’s PLC, is an independent brewing and retailing business with around 2,100 pubs and bars across Great Britain. Marston’s deploys Original Software solutions to reduce the time and cost of ensuring a high quality, low risk SAP upgrade.
Historically Marston’s had only been using two SAP modules: Financials and Sales & Distribution, yet it would take over six months to plan and execute the testing of each upgrade. Now the company is using additional modules within the SAP ERP Central Component solution, CRM and SRM within the SAP Business Suite, SAP BI, bespoke applications and many web applications. This increased complexity had become a growing concern for Marston’s IT department. Continuous manual testing was not a feasible option moving forward, especially with the way SAP was planning updates in its latest release. Instead of one big upgrade, patches were to be delivered in regular packages throughout the year. For Marston’s the scope and complexity of testing SAP updates has dramatically increased.
In addition to the long testing cycles, Marston’s also felt it was constrained by a lack of choice in the SAP automated testing market and required the solution it eventually purchased to fit in with how Marston’s ran its business. Marston’s has always utilised the business users as its testers, as it is they who really know how the applications are supposed to work. The business users have no IT skills, but have a more holistic view of the business processes under test. As such, the solution had to be easy to use without the need for any technical knowledge such as programming.
Judy Doust, Test Manager at Marston’s, explained: “I’d worked with one of the industry’s leading software testing systems before,” she explains. “But the problem with most test systems is that you have to employ specialist programmers, which we just couldn’t justify. I wanted a solution that was easy to deploy and use.”
An Original Solution
At an exhibition Judy came across Original Software. After talking to its experts she liked what she saw – the way the software worked and the costs. So Original Software arranged to carry out a proof of concept for SAP. The application under test was Marston’s telesales system. The project was a great success.
However, this is not the only area where Original Software’s systems are helping Marston’s. Using Qualify, the application quality management solution, Marston’s are building a robust test strategy focusing on test evidence and putting a quality strategy in place.
To read the whole story, visit: http://www.origsoft.com/customer-stories/marstons/
View 0 Comments on Marstons Smooths the path for SAP upgrades
Today Original Software announced an innovation that extends to 30% the reduction it brings to the length of enterprise application upgrade projects.
The technology, which requires no specialist skills, is part of an overall software solution that includes a quality management platform, manual testing, test automation, database testing, and for Oracle E-Business Suite R12, a library of pre-defined test cases.
You can read more on this latest news announcement by visiting the ERP upgrade project reduction press release here.
To understand how is it possible to reduce the length of an ERP upgrade, lets first understand why it is essential.
Any stakeholder involved in the planning and execution of upgrades of core operational systems like ERP and CRM and so on, understand that it can be long, expensive and painful. A key reason is that the knowledge of what the system needs to do resides with users in finance, HR, sales, and service, etc. The IT department has to refer to these users frequently, but access is limited, causing project time-frames and costs to balloon.
A solution would be to create process documentation, which will ensure that the overall impact will reduce IT’s reliance on users for system knowledge and streamline requirements gathering, development, testing, training, and support.
Original Software’s innovative technology allows you to document your business processes in numerous formats, such as pdf or html, but also as “animations”. Animations are the quickest and clearest way to understand a process because they mimic a user interacting with the application. While they look like movies, they are actually far lighter, to avoid clogging up corporate networks. You can see a sample video of an “animation” and a sample PDF showing how to capture an Oracle EBS business process here.
With this solution in place, the creation of documentation is almost effortless and reduces the burden on your super-users.
The final benefit of creating process documentation is that it constitutes ideal collateral for training new users. In so doing, it further reduces the time demands on super-users for training sessions and refreshers, and quickly brings all users up to a high level of productivity and job satisfaction.
If you would like to learn more about capturing and documenting your business processes, please visit our documentation page here: http://www.origsoft.com/documentation
View 0 Comments on Reduce the length of your ERP upgrade project by 30%
A Business Case for a Pre-Prepared Oracle E-Business Suite Quality Management Solution
Download the Oracle E-Business Suite Original Software Business Case
There’s no denying it – oracle systems are complex, very often business-critical and are the heartbeat of many companies. If you run your business on Oracle, you rely on it to receive orders, ship products, invoice customers, control financials, manage human resources and do so much more.
Embarking on a journey to Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 may be a step you would prefer to avoid, especially if your environment is stable and your business is running smoothly. It’s an expensive,disruptive and time-consuming exercise, dominating an organisation for several months and demanding a significant budget.
But the fact is you have little choice. Extended Support for Release 11 ends in November 2013 and, with your business relying on Oracle applications, you can’t afford to take the chance of running an unsupported release after that date.
Your only protection against failure or downtime, and the subsequent impact it can have on the business, is a robust quality assurance process within your own Oracle testing team. Effective Oracle testing has to be a vital part of your strategy, elevating it from a tactical function to a strategic and critical process for the business. This approach will not only minimise downtime, but will also protect the value of your Oracle implementation to the business.
This Oracle E-Business Suite Business Case has been put together to help you survive, adapt, and thrive in the Oracle testing of your complex Oracle eco-system. You can download the PDF by going here: http://www.origsoft.com/oracle-ebusiness-suite
View 0 Comments on How to Streamline Your Journey to Oracle E-Business Suite R12
Older Posts »
Although more and more organisations are moving towards agile software delivery, agile methodologies bring their own set of challenges.
The truth of the matter is that traditional test tools struggle to work in an agile environment. This is mainly due to the fact that they were designed to work in a ‘test last’ environment whereas the agile model is more a ‘test first, test continuously’ model.
Traditional or legacy testing tools force QA teams to wait until after the software is complete (or at least the interface) before test automation can begin. After all, it’s difficult to record scripts against an interface that doesn’t yet exist.
These kinds of tools only really suit application testing that involves long development cycles and strict change management regulations. Otherwise they simply won’t work.
Typically, these tools require users to have specialist skills. The cost of licences for these products is so huge that many organisations tend to only buy licenses for just a select few. This goes against the ethos of tight communications and close-knit working groups that are necessary in a successful agile testing environment.
Finding the right agile automation tool is therefore incredibly important if agile teams are to have a bug-free version of the software with each iteration.
Furthermore, the number of tests increases exponentially with each story to the point where, if the tests were done 100% manually, the testing could actually exceed the length of the total iteration. It is therefore imperative that agile teams have an option that reduces the time taken for manual testing.
Whatever your agile methodology, projects require a change in the way QA and development work together. The use of technology and automation are much more difficult and finding a practical approach to testing is critical for successful agile projects.
Join us on this Webinar “Optimising Quality Assurance in an Agile World” ( http://www.origsoft.com/webinars/agile-quality-assurance.php ), where you will learn the best practices needed for an efficient Agile testing process and look at some of the potential pitfalls when adopting Agile in general. Even if you can’t attend on the day, it is still worth registering so you can have access to the recording on demand.
View 0 Comments on Optimising Quality Assurance in an Agile World