The top three critical factors for a successful ERP implementation are the proper establishment and execution of a training plan, data migration plan, and a comprehensive implementation test plan. From my experience, the proper establishment and execution of a comprehensive implementation test plan is perhaps the most overlooked of the three plans.
The test plan needs to be representative of how the company does business as a whole and should include the following:
- Customer-facing (i.e., quote to cash, customer service, customer self-service);
- Operational (i.e., demand to pay on the procurement side, inventory management and warehouse operations, manufacturing planning and execution); and
- Compliance and control (i.e., financial management and reporting, lot traceability, quality management, industry compliance).
Let’s discuss how a company goes about establishing a comprehensive implementation test plan. The starting point for the creation of a test plan can be to select some 50-100 customer orders out of the existing customer order files at random. Experienced personnel can review these randomly-selected orders to make sure they collectively establish how the company does business as a whole. Should there be some nuances that need to be added, specific customer orders meeting those scenarios can be pulled from the files as well and added to the list.
Assuming you did a good job of establishing a software demonstration script during the software evaluation process, the script can be another key input into the test plan creation process. The test plan should consist of a series of test scenarios which may also be called “use cases.” Associated with each test scenario would be some narrative about what is being tested, specific data that is to be used in the test, and the expected results of the test.
The test plan should also include some test cases to stress test the system to verify there are no issues with data tables that need to be re-indexed or infrastructure bottlenecks that need to be addressed (network capacity, memory requirements, processor speed, etc.).
The test plan should be executed by functional end user personnel – not just a couple of IT people running through the process by themselves. There are two key benefits to this process. First, the functional end users will be aware of nuances that may not have been addressed in the existing test cases. These process anomalies need to be identified and added to the test plan. Second, this process reinforces the training functional end users have received to date to verify whether or not additional training is necessary to ensure a smooth go live experience.
The test plan document should include space on each scenario to document the actual results of the test, the names of the individuals who performed the specific test case and the date it was performed, and any pertinent observations made during the test run. Results should be documented in writing – or electronically – so the results can be shared with the implementation core team consisting of both customer and software vendor personnel and the customer’s executive sponsor.
The test plan should be a living document, which is updated as the business changes over time.
The test plan should be re-executed when a version upgrade is being implemented to validate there are no business processes that have become broken as a result of the upgrade process.
Additionally, a good rule of thumb for ERP software system enhancements is to establish the associated functional test plan or use case for that enhancement at the same time the enhancement is being defined. This incremental portion of the test plan can be incorporated into the overall test plan.
By effectively establishing and executing of a comprehensive implementation test plan, companies implementing Enterprise 21 can expect their go live experiences to be as smooth as possible with the successful entry, picking, packing, shipping, and invoicing of customer orders day one.