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Preventing business process downtime with automated testing

Jan 22, 2020

Every week, vendors push updates to their business applications to customers worldwide to ensure that everyone has access to the latest functionalities and state-of-the-art security services. However, these updates can cause bugs as well. To prevent these from disrupting our day-to-day activities, test architects at delaware have developed an automated testing framework. 

Back in 2015, delaware was one of the first six companies worldwide to go live with SAP S/4HANA, SAP’s intelligent, cloud-based ERP. As part of a co-innovation trajectory, the goal was to pave the way for a broad rollout by reporting meticulously on performance issues, bugs and incidents. 

How we handled update-related issues

“SAP wants every customer to run the same software version of SAP S/4HANA,” explains Tom Vandewinckele, delaware’s solution lead for cloud enablement & operations. “This makes it a lot easier to deal with security threats and other issues. To make this happen, SAP pushes forced updates to all of its clients every quarter to make sure that every user benefits from the latest functionalities and patches.”

As delaware would soon discover, there is a major downside to this practice as well. “SAP always tests the updates on the most common functionalities,” Tom continues. “However, there are a myriad of ways to use these applications, and it’s impossible for SAP to test them all, especially when there’s a lot of custom development next to the standard business app. So every three months, we were confronted with errors and aspects of the system that simply stopped working altogether.”

To prevent this from happening, SAP provides users with a three-week testing period before upgrading the production environment. During this time, key users can report issues back to SAP. In practice, this approach often failed. Tom: “Key users simply didn’t have enough time to run tests on top of their daily tasks. When issues were detected, it was often too late to do anything about them before the update.”

Taking a different approach to testing

“In short, we needed a new approach,” says Andreas Faes, test automation architect at delaware. “We started by talking to key users at delaware to find out how exactly they were using certain functionalities, and which tests they needed. Then, our team started writing scripts to automate these tests so they could run continuously in the background while the program is active. Now, users just have to check the report from the automated tests before the update.”

The advantages of automated testing are staggering. Andreas: “It frees up users’ time and gives them peace of mind. We now have about half of all processes – including all high-risk flows – covered. Even in the unlikely event of a major crash, our colleagues in the field will always have access to the most critical applications. And there’s an important upside for SAP as well: since the tests are performed before the update takes place, they help to avoid unknown vulnerabilities as well.”

Towards zero-touch testing

To further improve test automation, delaware is collaborating with universities VUB and UAntwerp. “Automated testing is very popular these days,” Andreas explains. “And while a lot of progress has already been made, the test scripts themselves are still written by humans. This takes time and effort that could be spent on more valuable projects. The ultimate goal is to achieve ‘zero-touch testing’, which takes humans out of the equation altogether.”

delaware’s testing framework is now available in the delaware store and offers integrations across multiple applications. Find out more.

Discover testing as a service in the delaware store