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February 25, 2022

For continuous quality, you need continuous, automated testing

New approaches and tools, particularly in S/4HANA environments, enable automation, virtualized testing and best-practice-based test scenarios to assure the quality that customers demand.

No matter which industry you serve, today’s customers demand a high-quality experience on terms that they define. For a shopper, it may be the ease of ordering a product. For those returning a product, it might mean quickly generating a return label and understanding when and how they’ll receive a refund. For a video game player, it might mean the speed of play, the realism of the graphics or the dramatic pull of the story. In each case, what matters is not how the business defines quality but how the customer defines it.

Quality has always been a critical competitive advantage. But the digital economy has changed both its role and how it’s obtained. First, it’s much easier for customers to compare offerings online, and to find alternatives if they don’t like what you’re offering. It’s also much easier to shift to a new provider when the experience doesn’t measure up. The result: lost revenues and increased customer service costs.

Second, customers expect the same level of quality from digitally enhanced products as they do from physical products. This applies to everything they encounter during the experience, from ordering, payments and returns, to getting real-time updates for electric vehicle charging stations, using vehicle infotainment apps or trying out the customized recipes accompanying an online grocery order.

Driving new levels of quality into customer-facing processes is only becoming more important as companies make the shift to new business models driven by digital experiences. For example, we’re helping a major vehicle manufacturer move beyond traditional vehicle sales to subscription-based services. The company is using S/4HANA from SAP for everything from quickly analyzing customers’ credit worthiness, to tracking the vehicle through sensor data, to using predictive analytics to maintain an optimal parts inventory at a nationwide network of maintenance facilities. At each step in the customer journey, quality is essential.

A new approach to testing for quality

While testing application quality has historically been a largely manual activity carried out only after lengthy development cycles, the faster application development cycles required for digital experiences require a different approach. Testing needs to happen more quickly and more often to meet the quality standards that employees and customers demand, even as new code is deployed more often.

Until recently, continuous, automated testing has been challenging to set up and maintain because of a lack of quality automation tools and the difficulty of managing test data and test environments. Today, however, we’re seeing our global clients achieve continuous, automated testing in the S/4HANA environment. We believe this is made possible by:  

  • The availability of smart automation tools adapted to the specific needs of the SAP application environment

  • Virtualized test environments that can be quickly and cost-effectively provisioned, maintained and paid for, only as long as they are needed

  • Prebuilt test scenarios, including those for regression testing, based on SAPs best-practice templates that developers can easily use throughout the software development life cycle

These capabilities replace yesterday’s cumbersome, expensive centralized testing processes with more agile and cost-effective quality assurance capabilities. We’re even seeing clients build a complete automation solution using a consumption-based pricing model. Developers and business owners can easily, quickly and cost-effectively test every new feature or function as it’s developed.  

Continuous quality results

Working with a North American beverage provider, for instance, we used our preconfigured test environments and scenarios based on SAP best practices to speed testing cycles by 40%, achieve zero critical defects in production and reduce quality assurance efforts by 60%. By finding and resolving software quality issues earlier in the development lifecycle, the manufacturer can now deliver the same level of quality to their code as what their products are known for.

We also helped a global pharmaceuticals company that was upgrading one of the most complex SAP implementations we’ve ever seen to speed its S/4HANA conversion by 35%, with 100% coverage of critical business processes and a 30% reduction in the quality assurance effort. Working with a partner, we also upgraded the pharma’s existing test scenarios to meet its strict regulatory requirements.

Getting started

Continuous, automated testing is an essential ingredient to delivering the new, high-quality applications and services that can be delivered in a modernized environment like S/4HANA. But success requires a deep understanding of the business's needs, as well as the needs of the employees or customers who will use the application. Among the questions to ask are:

  • What level of quality does the business need for each application or service?

  • How do employees or customers define quality — speed, ease of navigation, ability to recover from user errors?

  • What regulatory requirements, such as those governing product safety or data security, must be met?

With these insights, businesses can build the foundations for the automated test cases that will enable them to adapt to changing business models, sales channels and customers while meeting the ever higher quality standards required today.

Andreas Golze
Global Head of Quality Engineering & Assurance
Headshot of Digitally Cognizant author Andreas Golze

Andreas Golze is SVP & Global Practice Head of Cognizant Quality Engineering & Assurance, where he’s helped build the largest, most recognized QE&A practice in the world and supports clients with quality-led market differentiation.

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