Organizations dealing with end-to-end testing truly know the meaning of high stakes and complexity.
Any enterprise undergoing major change in the form of solution deployment is doing a significant amount of testing (or should be). But testing doesn’t have to be painful. Mitigating business risk doesn’t need to come at the expense of business growth when high-quality testing solutions are in place.
What’s more, as organizations scrutinize supply chain processes more heavily in the post-COVID environment, continuous iterative improvements are the key to success. A company shouldn’t stop making enhancements once it starts — there are always more benefits to gain and improvements to make.
The Elevator Pitch for Testing Success
Enterprise supply chain software is greater than the sum of its parts. Warehouses and distribution centers can look plain and simple from the outside, but they’re no strangers to the complicated processes that go on inside them. And they need software that can handle the levels of activity that enable the supply chain.
Warehouse managers are responsible for the orchestration of:
- Material handling equipment
- Printers and scanners
- Desktop applications
- People management
- Inventory management
That’s a lot to contend with, and it demands proper solution planning. However, building the right solutions is nothing without quality.
Companies might solve problems in the short term, but without a focus on quality, even more problems will be waiting to show up in the near future. And when these problems do happen, they can cause painful and frustrating Go Lives for everyone involved. Worse still, it’s all too easy to classify them as bugs, instead of correctable issues rooted in miscommunication and a failure to take a closer look.
But the problem is solvable. The key is to look at software in a different context: software that has solved problems for decades, applied to warehouse and supply chain management. A company trying to automate a single tool doesn’t necessarily require domain knowledge, even if that knowledge can be used to the organization’s advantage — if only the team broadened their view.
A Behavior-Driven Focus is the Secret Sauce for Successful Testing
Model-based test automation is popular but flawed. We are a strong advocate of behavior-driven strategies, which doesn’t require that software solutions be built from scratch. Instead, behavior-driven strategies are based on behavioral validation: emphasizing collaboration between developers, quality assurance, and customer service representatives.
Behaviors bring value. Software is meant for people — no one cares what language software is written in.
Behavior-driven strategies organically work well with our agile approach to software development, using natural language as opposed to granular, programmatic testing. Companies need to understand desirable behaviors that stem from supporting software solutions, even if they’re not building the solutions themselves.
Another way to view this approach is having a behavior-driven mindset. Success doesn’t necessarily come from following specific practices or rules and regulations. Regardless of whether the software is a web app, API, or warehouse management system (WMS) workflow, developers need to focus first and foremost on system behaviors. And they need to do so throughout the entire development and testing process.
Behaviors bring value. Software is meant for people — no one cares what language software is written in. Software empowers the processes of life: Get this right, and everything else should fall into place. A behavior-driven approach enables those processes to take shape.
A Culture of Fear of Change
Enterprises that build software systems integrate several different elements: WMS, labor management system (LMS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and human resources information system (HRIS). But enterprise organizations don’t stop there. They modify, extend, input data, and regularly validate systems to avoid stagnation.
The problem is that all these processes increase complexity and considerably raise the stakes. Higher stakes and complexity breed fear of change within an organization, which can quickly establish itself into a fully-fledged culture.
If the old system gets the job done, why update old systems with newer technologies? But this logic only works if the job hasn’t changed. And in a post-COVID world, supply chain demands and expectations are front of mind for executives.
No one wants warehouse problems like stopped conveyors. But they’re a common problem in such a complex environment, and one type of behavior can ultimately give rise to multiple technologies and even vendors. Organizations need a software solution that can seamlessly jump between technologies within a single test. The end goal is the same — validating a particular behavior — but the means are much smoother.
Many of our clients aren’t software developers but rather users. They know their processes and are passionate about the behaviors they expect from the system. But they benefit from the natural-language approach to facilitating conversation as well as test construction that doesn’t require them to write code.
Instead of fearing change, companies should want to embrace it, and this is much easier with the right tools at their disposal.
Handling the Jump
Tech stacks incorporating multiple technologies within the warehouse and supply chain space need a robust testing solution. A true integration testing tool should cover the end-to-end workflow of an entire system, with out-of-the-box steps and interactions handling each interface as required during test automation. Testing is made easy with plain-language steps describing interactions rather than automated mechanics. It’s a semi-coded solution: neither codeless nor fully coded.
From a deployment perspective, the right testing tool helps establish better communication earlier in the whole process. Agreeing on terms and what different stakeholders want from a system prior to deployment is critical for successful implementation. The use of a common language sometimes even highlights that behaviors are already supported — less quantitative, indirect value that could save a lot of time, money, and pain much further down the line.
Continued validation is just as important. Go Lives of production systems in particular are never the end — they’re just the beginning. Additional changes are quicker to validate, easier to test regressively, and more rapidly in production.
But this doesn’t just apply to software changes: onboarding new vendors, switching suppliers, and updating labels are all complex enough systems that any change warrants regression testing. Evolving a fear-based culture to a change-seeking one incentivizes documenting and learning from all changes — all of which executives can easily view from a dashboard.
Is an Integrated Testing Tool Right for You?
There’s a balancing act between efficiency and resiliency. Doing things better and faster than competitors works only until something breaks. Thankfully, the proactivity inherent in this mindset makes for companies that are ready to embrace change.
All that’s needed is for teams to understand that flexibility demands quality assurance, which often only comes from a strong testing framework. If companies aren’t building their own software and are powered by solutions from different vendors or parts of their own companies, we might just have the answer.
It only takes one changemaker to catalyze real differences across an enterprise and move the business forward.
The near future holds a cohesive system that allows users to design, develop, and execute tests from inspiration to implementation — rather than just narrowly focusing on automation. In testing, the most important thing is not to overcomplicate but rather focus on behaviors on an atomic, independent level — that’s where success comes from.
Organizations should also try to understand their internal cultures and establish whether or not fear of change is a problem. It only takes one changemaker to catalyze real differences across an enterprise and move the business forward.
This article was adapted from the TestGuild Automation Podcast episode, “Mission-Critical Test Automation using Cycle Labs with Josh Owen and Andy Knight.”
Are you interested in learning more about implementing test automation in your warehouse system implementation? Read our customer success stories, check out additional blog posts, or learn more about the Cycle platform.