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Your new ERP system - surely it works?

I wish I had a pound / euro / dollar for every time someone has said this to me when discussing plans to implement an ERP system – “Aren’t we buying a system that’s used by hundreds of other companies, isn’t that the vendor’s job to ensure the system works”, I could go on.

For anyone about to start an ERP implementation, no matter the software or deployment method used, the topic of testing will come up and the questions above, or something similar, will start to sound familiar.

So, what is the purpose of testing, or piloting, as the term, though not valid, is often used interchangeably?

Before going any further, I want to define the two key terms here and explain why they should not, in reality, be mixed up.

Standard definitions see testing as being a procedure intended to establish the quality, performance and reliability of something.  Whereas, piloting is more experimenting prior to launch.

Why carry out testing?

In an ERP project, testing is an iterative process whilst the solution is defined.  It starts with testing the programs within each software module, both standard or customised, before starting to add modules together, widening the functional areas covered.  Only a small amount of data is needed at this stage and this should be entered manually.  There is little point in migrating significant data too soon, as the testing process could lead to changes in requirements.  In addition, systemised data loading should be avoided, at this early point, as there could be challenges determining if any issues are system or data related.

Once the system has been proven as robust, this is where piloting takes over. Detailed pilot scripts are required, covering as many scenarios as typically occur in the operational environment.  It’s important to remember that piloting should be focused on taking the system into the workplace.  During the piloting process, increasing volumes of data should be loaded systematically, enabling more detailed piloting to be carried out.

With both testing and piloting, it is vitally important to define, in detail, what to test.  Random meandering through the software, processing the same simple transaction over and over again, is not really testing!

What can happen?

So, what happens if you don’t invest time and effort following a robust testing and piloting process?

  • Any lingering software bugs only become apparent once the system is live
  • The project team has less software knowledge, because, without testing, they’ve missed out on a significant learning experience
  • Inadequate training materials
  • Poorly trained end-users
  • General confusion once the system is live
  • Poorly defined processes
  • Unhappy customers, delayed invoicing, late orders – in other words, many of the horror stories everyone can quote.

So, hopefully, it’s now clear why not allowing sufficient time for the testing and piloting phases is a false economy.  It’s better to take the pain of a deferred go-live rather than reduce the time spent on this critical activity.

The benefits?

So, what are the success criteria for good quality testing and piloting activities?

  • Testing allows users to make mistakes. In fact, building common issues into the test scripts allows the project team to develop the skills and processes for managing them when they occur in a live environment.
  • Any issues that occur should be documented, together with the solution, then both the specific process and any related ones need to be re-tested to ensure everything works as designed.
  • Remember you are testing an integrated system, so changes in one area will, in all likelihood, impact other areas.
  • The process should allow for the identification and determination of changes that will impact individuals and departments, with sufficient time to resolve any issues.
  • Outputs should include the creation of detailed process flows and procedural guides on how the business will be using the new system.
  • Any legacy practices and habits need to be highlighted and addressed, before they manifest as change management problems. This may be as simple as terminology or as large as the elimination of a number of roles.

Ultimately, robust testing and piloting results in a project team knowledgeable and experienced in the use of the system and able to calmly and efficiently address any issues or user concerns once the system is live.  This enables the wider business community to engage and have confidence in the information being produced by the system.

In this way, your ERP implementation project can be one of the success stories and you can get on realising all of the anticipated benefits that started you on this journey many months ago.

 

If you've like to find out more, contact us today for an initial, no obligation discussion about your aspirations and how we can help you and your business deliver your vision for the future on +44 (0) 1282 463710.

Still not convinced? How about learning more about Gradient and why you should let us help you by clicking here.

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