Automated testing makes it easier than ever to ensure the quality of your business solution – and makes good business sense
Many companies still regard testing changes or extensions to their business solution as complex and time-consuming. This often results in the testing stage starting too late into the project, which minimises the positive effects testing can bring.
“This is simply an off-the-wall, obsolete approach. In fact, testing – in particular, systematic, automated testing – should be regarded as an investment that provides returns on many levels,” said Mikkel Bertelsen, Senior Solution Architect at Columbus.
Improved methodologies and better development tools take much of the credit for the fact that today’s IT solutions generally maintain a much higher quality than their ancestors. But testing is just as crucial.
“Today’s global software and development firms conduct consistent, automated, efficient and thorough tests. But they don’t do it for fun. They do it because it pays off,” Mikkel continued.
“However, companies tend to overlook the value of automated testing in the development and implementation of business solutions. That’s a shame. Because in a way, you’re subjecting both the company and your customers to unnecessary risk.”
Tests detect errors before they become critical
For example, testing ensures the quality, stability and capacity of a solution and its integrations with other systems. Testing also detects errors in advance and checks that everything is working as it should and will continue to do so – even when many people are using the solution at the same time.
It’s important to know this, not only before a new solution goes live, but also when changes are made to a solution that is already in production.
“It can be critical, for example, if an ERP system starts churning out wrong shipping documents, or if one day it’s impossible to issue invoices or order new raw materials. In the worst-case scenario, with poor software quality you may suddenly find yourself in the red. Testing can substantially minimise these risks,” said Mikkel.
Start well in advance and take one step at a time
Many companies start testing far too late. Maybe not until the very end of a large project, when the solution is almost complete, and when the project group is stressing about meeting the deadline.
“You should get started as early as possible in the project process. First, of course, you need to define a strategy. Then you must test the individual solution elements as and when they’re ready. It’s about taking one small step at a time instead of trying to tackle everything at the last moment,” he says.
This makes it easier to manage the project and reallocate resources efficiently along the way. At the same time, you’re already in the process of building the library of test cases, which can be used as a template for future tests, and which will be part of the final end-to-end tests of the entire new solution.
Automated testing provides efficiency gains of at least factor 10
“In the past, manual testing was laborious. That gave the practice a bad reputation as something that was cumbersome, slow and costly. That reputation was fully deserved. For example, I once worked on a project in a pharmaceutical company. We had to review 17 test cases, which took three days of full-time work involving manual scripting and testing.”
“Each and every time, we made just the slightest change to a particular interface. It was hard, monotonous and costly. But automated testing has now made the work much easier, and it’s something businesses should really take advantage of,” recommended Mikkel.
“If we take the above example, today it would still take a few days to prepare and conduct the very first tests of the software in question, while all subsequent tests could be completed in 2-3 hours. In other words, that’s an efficiency gain of at least a factor of 10. It’s amazing!” he said.
Stress test the business system and avoid tedious surprises
Using automated testing, you can more easily stress test the solution by simulating a situation in which many users are accessing different parts of a solution (or the same sub-element of it) at the same time. This helps prevent surprises when there’s peak load: for example, during public holidays or when presenting annual accounts.
Mikkel concluded: “At Columbus, we always recommend preparing and following a testing strategy as part of a process that includes the development, configuration, implementation and operation of a solution – or when implementing updates.”
“On the one hand, this ensures quality and increases the likelihood that all business-critical processes will work as intended. On the other hand, it’s basically just good business for the customer.”
“So, if I have to give a short answer to the question of when testing is relevant, my answer is: ‘Again and again and again!’ And fortunately, it has become easier than ever.”
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