After two major acquisitions that involved differing releases of SAP ERP as well as a non-SAP ERP system, one of the world’s largest food processing corporations decided to undertake a project that would enable a single platform to streamline business processes and consolidate ERP systems by moving to SAP S/4HANA. This ambitious project includes multiple business units and touches all of the company’s locations across North America. The project aims to standardize onboarding processes for future acquisitions, as well as rollouts for business units not yet on the system.
A key component of executing this project involves embracing agile principles: achieving the overall organization goal of accelerating innovation by moving project management from a waterfall-based approach to an agile DevOps-based approach. This requires automated testing.
“Early on, we knew that becoming more agile would require a new approach to testing, so we started looking for a tool vendor, and a tool, that would help us achieve that,” says the Senior Manager of Applications for their enterprise applications team, which is responsible for supervising the testing, quality assurance, and release to production of applications.
As the SAP S/4HANA project geared up, the company’s CTO was instituting an agile mindset across the company’s IT organization with the goal of faster application delivery. For the enterprise applications team tasked with the project, this meant taking a hard look at their existing manual testing approach, which was inadequate for an undertaking of this size and scale. “We knew that we could not be agile and maintain manual testing,” says the Senior Manager of Applications, “because it simply takes too long to execute manual tests.” In addition, a manual approach would require hundreds of people and millions of dollars to execute. “The only way that we could be agile was to adopt test automation,” he adds. Last spring, the testing team set out to investigate the available automated testing tools and find the one that would best meet the company’s needs. The team evaluated around 30 different tools before narrowing it down to a few that were invited to present demos and meet on site with the different teams involved with the project. One of the requirements for the new solution was the ability to support the automation of the company’s homegrown applications. In previous years, the company had used another automation tool on a limited basis, but its inability to support homegrown applications stifled its adoption and success.
When the Tricentis technical team came in to give a demo of Tricentis Tosca — its model-based continuous testing platform that enables rapid, automated, end-to-end testing — the testing team asked them to sit down with the various teams involved with the project and automate their applications. The primary focus was on the applications that could not be automated by the previous tool. “We specifically wanted those teams in there to see if Tricentis Tosca was capable of driving their applications,” says the Senior Manager of Applications, “and after about an hour of sitting down with the Tricentis technical team, it was clear that they were. We knew we had the right tool when we saw that it could drive not only our web applications, but also our SAP applications and homegrown applications that we were never able to be automate before.”
The company brought Tricentis Tosca into the fold in July to primarily enable automated testing, and in particular to manage test data, enable repeatable processes, and support high-impact test scenarios by scanning the relevant applications (SAP S/4HANA, homegrown applications, and external applications) and stringing together the resulting models to form end-to-end test cases. In addition to the testing team (the main users of the tool), there are about 10 different workstreams that are involved in executing the project — including the finance, warehouse, transportation, and trade retail teams, in addition to the testing team, the main users of the tool.
One of the key capabilities that Tricentis Tosca brings to the project is on-demand test data creation — such as creating sales orders and stock transfer requests. The trade retail team, for example, used the tool to create data for testing reports. In the past, creating the amount of test data required to thoroughly test reports was too labor-intensive, so the team would wait until after go live, when enough data had come in. This resulted in costly remediation processes and introduced a substantial level of business risk.
Using Tricentis Tosca, the trade retail team was able to create the amount and variety of data it needed for testing and to test reports they couldn’t test before. With the tool, the team was able to build 125 test cases using that data and then execute the test cases in-sprint rather than after go live. “With manual testing, executing these tests would have taken four people approximately two weeks of testing, or about 160 hours. With Tricentis Tosca, it took about an hour,” says the Senior Manager of Applications.
Another area of key functionality for the company is support for repeatable processes, such as batch jobs that need to be created for testing in multiple test environments before go live. With Tricentis Tosca, the team responsible for warehouse operations converted their batch job creation into an automated process, enabling them to create 232 batch jobs in 15 minutes. This task would have taken approximately 75 hours with the previous approach.
Additionally, the warehouse team has been able to build regression tests in the pre-production environment to monitor ongoing development. “They’ve built out a lot of their external warehouse tests, which can now check any changes made after go live instead of having to manually test in the warehouse and transportation workstream,” says the Senior Manager of Applications, “so it’s helped them keep their code cleaner from a regression perspective.”
The initial goal was for the Tricentis team to help the company’s testing team automate around 400 test cases between July and December. “This goal was accomplished in 6 weeks,” says the Senior Manager of Applications, “and by the time Tricentis rolled off of the project in December, there were well over 1,000 test cases built in the system.” Now, the testing team at the company continues to build on what Tricentis started, adding test modules that are used and extended for pre-production, cutover, and regression testing.
Tricentis Tosca continues to figure into the company’s plans going forward. After the SAP S/4HANA go live, the enterprise applications team will form a core competency center for testing and will become experts in the use of the tool, with the ability to train others on how to build test modules and leverage the tool in an agile way. “The plan is for my team to evangelize the use of Tricentis Tosca across our organization,” says the Senior Manager of Applications, “and we’ve already started that to some extent. We’ve demoed the tool for teams that are curious about it, and a few of them have even started taking training classes so they can start using it in their day-to-day work.”
Sharing key test automation wins in quarterly tech talks run by the company’s CTO has been generating interest and excitement in the new tool, as well as teams informally sharing how they’ve been able to save time with automation instead of performing these tasks manually. As other teams are learning about the successes with Tricentis Tosca, the company is also expanding Tricentis automation beyond testing. Some business users in the finance department, for instance, have already started training on Tricentis automation so they can use it to automate tasks such as running month-end financial reports.
“Up to now, Tricentis automation has been used by teams that were focused on a high-visibility project (SAP S/4HANA migration),” says the Senior Manager of Applications, “but that has already added up to a lot of hours saved for those teams —and it’s is getting other teams excited about the possibilities in their areas.”