Strategy is paramount to the successful execution of organizational objectives.
Setting and sticking to a project timeline, developing and executing tasks, and accelerating projects with automation all require careful planning. These plans bring together the what, when, who, and how.
However, too often, even the most detailed plan fails to adequately address the testing stage, which moves silently in the background of most projects. By not accounting thoroughly for testing, many businesses under-realize a project’s potential.
While automation plays an essential role for testing, focusing on the people within a project is still vital: After all, they are the ultimate drivers of a project’s success.
To effectively develop a framework that allows for rapid project implementation, it’s important to understand not just which structures to put in place, but also how to adequately distinguish between testing specialists and business experts (and plan accordingly). These measures enable organizations to move quickly, while also achieving their overall objectives.
The Client Role in Testing
Data, measurement and improvement, and (most critically) people are at the foundation of best practices for testing across a diverse range of industries.
What happens in the ramp-up period before a project begins? Clients engage with vendors or internal development teams to focus on key questions about the business objectives and rationale for the project. This collaborative stage is designed to ensure that the client’s needs are met.
But where does testing come in? Testing is notoriously difficult, and vendors know this. But avoiding the challenging conversations in the planning stage only creates roadblocks down the line. Vendors are sometimes hesitant to initiate conversations surrounding testing, which can mean the task gets, inadvertently, passed back to the client (or the client’s system integrated partner).
Clients are actually receptive to this: They understand the technology, data, and processes better than vendors do. But while it may make the most sense for the client to assume most testing responsibilities, those conversations should be made explicitly, not by default.
Testing and Business Are Two Different Things
Testing is deceivingly easy. Business IT teams typically estimate timelines and resources in terms of the people needed to complete tasks — tasks which are frequently scheduled at the end of a given project plan.
Business involvement and its impact aren’t always fully understood in the planning stage, which then carries over into testing. Before testing has begun, there’s already a disconnect.
Sometimes a vendor’s IT specialists will take care of technical testing, but it typically falls to the business users (individuals who already have their own set of commitments and lack the time to dedicate fully to the project).
Because they are already overstretched, business experts tend to focus on the “happy path.” When individual units are agile and the whole system is working well, this isn’t an issue. But problems arise when they spot a bug, encounter multiple defects, or the data doesn’t match reality.
For large-scale transformation programs like replenishment and warehousing, many complex scenarios need solving. There will, inevitably, be lots of testing. The answers aren’t yes or no, but are instead dependent on factors like expiration dates, stock availability, and customer allocation. The “happy path” is a myth.
So what happens to the team members who get involved in a project with lots of hurdles? They get worn out and frustrated by drip-fed work that’s not understood upfront.
A burnt-out team doesn’t need replacement: It needs support. This means properly deploying test specialists to support the business experts in the process.
Developing the Framework
Ensuring workable reporting structures within a governance framework for a given project program is especially key to effective transformation. These structures should not operate in silos: Rather, they must be embedded in the project.
Consider building a fulfillment solution by consulting with a planning manager or solution architect.
A test specialist who supports a small or medium enterprise (SME) will write multiple test cases to explore. By taking this approach, there isn’t just one “happy path,” but rather many routes, all worth exploring. By testing multiple options, the best solution is likely to surface.
Test case writing specialists who understand test results and can map those results back to a traceability matrix are a worthwhile investment, particularly for complex scenarios. Specialists also ensure tests align with functional business requirements as articulated by the business users, tying the details back to the core business goals and promising a better end-product from the testing process.
Specialists aren’t just test case writers. They also play central roles in automation, security, and performance. Although they can be expensive, it may not be necessary to employ testing specialists full-time. The important thing is to ensure testing specialists have access to the necessary information and resources within the organization.
Testing the Right Way
Constructing valuable functional and performance-based testing strategies can change the motivation for testing. Tests may begin as primarily defensive tactics intended to protect against bugs and system changes that result in regression. But soon, they may morph into offensive opportunities and solutions.
With automated testing, teams have the freedom to innovate and focus on business growth rather than just risk mitigation.
Organizations focused on defensive rather than offensive strategies will lose in the long run. By finessing and perfecting the testing framework, organizations are positioned for exponential growth and success.