“We just introduced a new process to calculate shipping costs and now I can’t ship product”

“We applied a patch to our A/P module and now I can’t print checks for my vendors”

“Our fulfillment application needs to integrate with our order management system, but we are afraid this will cause a big disruption”

Comments like these are typical of businesses struggling with a well-known problem inherent with complex software systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications. The problem of Business Process Validation.

As the reliance on systems running critical business processes increases, so does the need to validate these processes to ensure agility, quality and reliability. In case of on-premise ERP Applications, the inability to efficiently validate processes is a major cause of the so-called ‘version lock’ where a large installed base of customers prefers to stay on an older version for fear of business interruption that may occur subsequent to a software update or upgrade.

Cloud-based ERP Applications are multi-tenanted and multi-tenancy allows the software vendor to keep all of their customer instances upgraded to the latest release, seamlessly and cost effectively. Customers get upgraded to a new release automatically, typically, twice a year. This significantly improves the potential for the software to be agile and avoids version lock.  However, customers need to prepare themselves to take advantage of the new release and perform regression testing to ensure that there is no disruption to the processes in production.

At this point readers are probably saying– “This is all well and good! We would thoroughly test our business processes too if testing wasn’t so mind-numbingly tedious”. Why is testing so difficult? For starters, you need a test plan. Next, each scenario to be tested needs to be identified. Then, expected results need to be defined. If the use case required a process flow to be tested, one use case scenario may involve multiple test cases. This is even before any actual testing has been done. So then, somebody has to actually enter the test case/s in the target system and document results. If actual results do not match expected ones, this process needs to be repeated. By the way, you also need to provide some analytical reporting on test plan execution.

On-premise ERP Applications have been around a long time and software vendors in this space have tried to tackle the problem with test automation tools. So what options do customers of popular Cloud ERP software have?

I will address this question in the context of NetSuite Cloud ERP in the next installment of this blog. Stay tuned…

-Karan Karandikar