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Life as a SAP Consultant

Out of college 2 years and 4 Go Lives, I started my career as a SAP Consultant which involved testing of Business processes as well.

So much for a career and so many stark realizations led me to write this blog thinking my learnings might be of some use to someone else.

 

As of a Business Process Tester I realized it’s an entirely different world here or so to say when compared to the live business. Testers and Users are probably people from different galaxies.

 

Somewhere in the race between beating the tight Deadlines and confirming to the high quality of deliverables many a times as a tester I missed the fact, the critical fact, that ultimately it’s a system that someone at a plant, at a shop or at a counter is going to use. The enormity of business and its manifestation in SAP frequently leads testers to become SAP testers rather than Business Process Testers.

 

The big realization comes on the D Day (for me at least it came) the Go Live when users start asking innocent BUSINESS questions!!! Ohh yes they are innocent users using our SAP systems, as innocent as we are while using an Online fund Transfer system or a Flight Booking System.

 

While testing SAP I got so obsessed with SAP (I love SAP so much that If I was SAP I would have been Narcissistic) I started validating if the business process is mapped correctly to SAP in terms that SAP does not throw an error Thanks to the established process which we follow in my company I was forced to test everything

 

But is that all to testing…

The answer is a categorical NO; in fact it’s just the beginning of it.

There are a multitude of things business would do apart from standard Business Process.

 

The standard business process might be a simple sale of a product to a customer but users will find it difficult to use the system initially as its quite common to digress from the standard process leading them to hit the panic button and of course the wrong Buttons at SAP and the way these instructions are understood by SAP might be entirely different from what the user probably actually meant to do.

It is responsibility of the testers to make sure they mess the system more than users and make it behave the way it should. Of course then there comes a trade off between cost of creating a Robust system and Training the Users but let us not get into that for the time being.

There are a few things every tester must keep in mind while testing which will help them remain focused on the business than the business facilitator:

 

BUSINESS vs SAP

1) Always talk with real life examples The Company I was supporting, we tested all of their business using Vehicles (SAP Terminology), Trucks Rail (Business Terminology) Customers Materials and whatever else the Business might need. A user may not be comfortable with the term Vehicle and discussing him using the term Vehicle can lead to confusion.

Key Learning: Make it a habit to refer to entities by their business names rather than SAP names this takes you closer to business and helps you relate better with the users.

2) As a tester we tend to treat plant 0001 (people who work with SD might appreciate this) as a number in system which is something important. Never ever forget that the Plant 0001 you are using in SAP is much more than a number in fact most of the times it’s a multi Million/Billion dollar entity which has its own identity. The simple 0001 which was not assigned a distribution chain is more than critical Configuration error it means you cannot sell from that plant which means huge loss every day, every hour, may be every minute, for business.

Going back to my example of Flight Booking system as users we understand Flight number imagine somebody saying we don’t have 0001 assigned to CT01 which might actually mean Lufthansa Counter1 is not supposed to do business with CiTi Bank branch 01.

Similarly there is much better one can connect when they start realizing that a material 1234567 is more Petrol than a number and similarly a customer 1234567 is Mr ABC or Corp XYZ. Unless one starts thinking of these numbers as real time entities than numbers its quite difficult and hence unlikely that you can suggest some business improvements which is one of the Primary Role of Consultants and Goal of Businesses.

But in real life working sitting in an office sooner or later we start losing the connect with the Ground realities and user expectations

Key Learning: Always try to relate from business perspective as to what a Business process would look like or would be meant to do you will test it much better much more robust.

3) Apart from above one must also understand the business soundly, as users will have basic questions, you may end up handling a query saying my so and so output is not getting printed and you should be up on your feet but it is then that we realize that oh my the output ABC1 is Export License and the truck can’t move unless it gets printed.

Key Learning: Always try to understand why you are testing what you are testing the purpose of testing is not to pass the test but to make sure it works right.

4) Know your Design: Test however well you might there is nothing like a 0 error system I would love to excuse aviation though. Users may say SAP is suggesting so much quantity but it is not practically feasible it might be an error it might be business ignorance. As a tester you must know the system in and out to be able to sure what you have tested is working right.

Key Learning: Know your design

5) Always give security its due respect. When you are in a development server you have access to the whole world but that is not quite so in real life you cannot approve your own design. Always make sure you test with the right authorities so that right people have got right authorities lest a truck driver chooses which deliveries he carries.

Key Learning: Roles are important part of testing not only to comply standards but to ensure a smooth running business

6) Always try to know the people who are going to use the system you are testing what exactly is it that they do and it is then that it will be easy as a tester to test the process exactly (how many times while using a website you thought why don’t they understand what we need)

Key Learning: Know your users

It does not get over once you finish testing and it goes live the post live support especially for first couple of month is critical it is when they will face the maximum problems and would need the maximum support. While you are you helping users resolve their issues it is as important to win a user’s trust as it is to solve the problem

How to handle users efficiently

You may get calls from users who are really stressed/angry/furious/verge of crying

Here are a couple of tips about how to handle them efficiently:

1. Greet him/her say how are you this morning. It cools them down believe me it really works
2. Listen to them patiently they are the customers it is for them that we manufacture/Support the software and always remember they are calling us because they have a problem
3. Assure them that its just a issue and it will be resolved sooner than later
4. You are doing your best with the best intent to get his problem solved
5. Simple but significant: Keep them updated with the developments

 

Conclusion

Always remember SAP is just a facilitator to run business smoothly which is always paramount.

As a SAP consultant whatever you do always think how it is going to affect business and what can you do ease the user’s life when he is using SAP.

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11 Comments

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  1. Somnath Manna
    US Go-live was a nightmare with users giving you a really hard time. You might like to add Murphy’s Law – If Mother Nature does not like the application then you cannot Go Live on the stipulated day 😀
    Really nice of you sharing your experience
    Somnath
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  2. Vijay Vijayasankar
    Very well written – good job.

    I have always taken pride in being a thorough tester, but had that belief shattered recently. We had a global user base, and I did check that Japanese users can see their data in Japanese language. I was quite embarassed when a Japanese user told me after we went live that what he sees in the system as Customer name is infact some illegible characters, which I had originally thought was a “proper” Japanese character. It was a unicode issue that was easily fixed, but nevertheless caused me some grief. Guess one can never cover all possibilities 🙂

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  3. Gretchen Lindquist
    Abhishek,
    Thanks for the plug for testing security with the pertinent end-user security roles. Even over 10 years after our initial go-live, we on the security team still occasionally have developers say to us, “what do you mean security is broken? It worked when I tested it with my ID!”

    Gretchen

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    1. Abhishek Swarup Post author
      I must admit i never cared for security enough till i realized what it means to be without it and what better an experience than experiencing it live…
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  4. Gurdeep Singh
    Hi Abhishek,
    I plan to circulate this blog to all the new team members joining our team, where testing forms a major part of our work.

    Your ‘Business vs. SAP’ points can be named something like ‘Technical Myopia’ akin to Phillip Kotler’s “Marketing Myopia’.

    Keep bogging
    Francis

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    1. Abhishek Swarup Post author
      Hi Francis,
      Thanks a lot this is a complement 🙂
      I wish this turns out to be useful for your team.
      And the topic idea is too good may i just steal that away and rename my Blog with your permission?

      Regards
      -ABS

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  5. STUDENT LEARNER

    Hi Abhishek,

    I am from B. E background and MBA in systems and mktg .I have worked in marketing side of IT products .Later i have done SAP SD course  but opportunity are nill to become SAP SD Consultant.So i want to move into testing side gain some knowledge and later move into support.and consulting.So how can i move into SAP testing side with my background please let me know.

    Regards

    Darshan Desai

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