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I spend the whole week in Walldorf to take part at SAP’s Customer Engagement Initiative – It’s great to be part of it!.  It was really awesome because I could test some of the new developments of NetWeaver 7.03. I had challenging discussions with developers from SAP and I spent the night at the one and only “Marktstube” thinking about product strategy. I’m not a streetwise tester so I used the evenings to recapitulate the day and plan my activities for the following day. I identified and prioritized test aspects and tried to focus on functional and non-functional requirements.

Functional Requirements

Does the software fulfill my expectations? Is it easy to use? Is the documentation correct? How can a tool be improved? What functionalities should be realized in future versions? Are there “quick wins” i.e. small changes that make the software much easier to use?

So talking to product managers is in fact the most important thing: Discuss the business process with them. Which functionalities are really necessary? What is useful and what is a golden handle?

Non-functional Requirements

Another important aspects are non-functional requirements: Is the software easy to customize? Can the software handle mass data? What about extensibility? Especially this aspect is very important to me. Because standard software needs extensions points so that can be adapted to the end-users needs. Without extensibility there are serious limitations:

  • SAP Partner solutions can’t be extended to the need of their customers.
  • The same is true for larger custom development projects (think of world-wide companies) which require extensions on multiple levels.

Administrative issues and aspects of application lifecycle management is very important, too. Are there administration functions like reports for monitoring? Are there automatic  tests of complex customizing? Batch jobs are one of my favourite area of interest, so I’m asking the following questions:

  • Does the report support parallelization?
  • Is there a simulation mode?
  • Is there a trace level?
  • Does the job log contain the parameters from the selection screen?
  • Is there a BAL protocol? Is it easy to find? Does it contain an aggregation of the output?
  • Can I extend BAL messages by custom error messages?
  • Can I restart a job that dumped?
  • Is every selection parameter documented?

And what about dumps?

Personally I tried to produce a dump at least once a day. In fact I wasn’t much successful  because the tools I tested have been very stable & robust.  But producing as many dumps as possible is of course the least important aspect of testing. The reason for this is simple: there is no error free software and so we have to do risk management: some critical parts of the software have to be tested very intensively and others not. So it is most important to do risk management and define priorities of test aspects.

But if you want to produce dumps I suggest you to push the software to the limit: If there is a versioning feature and there are 999 versions allowed then create 1000 versions. When there are complex search helps and selection screens then type in weird data. Try out complex navigation paths, have a special look at amodal dialoges… Of course I’m trying those things to get a feeling of the quality of software and its robustness.  But Customer Engagement Initiative is such a unique chance to exert influence on quality and strategy  of SAP products so that you should try to make the best of your time. So try to focus on usability, functional and non-functional requirements. And last but not least: ask for the documentation and perform a review.

How to convince your line manager to take part at CEI?

A lot of reasons come to my mind why your boss should send you to CEI:

  • Helping SAP to improve software quality has impact on your business. There is the chance of getting better software and this means saving costs and streamlining processes.
  • Taking part at CEI means acquiring knowledge about features of the software.
  • You have the chance to get in contact with product management to give SAP feedback about the overall solution, its strengths and weaknesses.
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7 Comments

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  1. Thorsten Franz
    Tobias,
    I wish you all the fun a person can have and, for the record, I’m not frequently envious, but I’ve got to admit that I would have loved to join you. Man, this stuff is so interesting that I cannot wait to lay my hands on it. I feel pure envy. 😉
    Cheers,
    Thorsten
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  2. Tom Cenens
    Hello Tobias

    It sounds really interesting and I bet it was a fun experience. One can only wish to get the chance to do this.

    I strongly believe these kind of events along with pilot programs etc can have a significant impact on the quality of the end product.

    Listening to what customers want is important, no matter what product one sells.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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  3. Marco Dorn
    Hello Tobias,

    Thanks for the positive feedback about the CEI program! A fellow SDN Mentor gave me a heads-up about your blog.

    For everyone who is interested, have a look at the current 40 projects where SAP product teams are searching for customers and partners to collaborate with during definition and development: https://www.benchmarking.sap.com/cgi-bin/qwebcorporate.dll?idx=88TT4T&q=2. The registration is open until March 18th.

    Best regards,
    Marco

    Customer Engagement Initiative Unit
    SAP AG

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author
      Hi Marco,

      you are doing a great job! In my opinion you should try to make review of documentation part of customer tests because world-class software needs world-class documentation and feedback cycles by customers are really useful.

      At the moment I’m starting a SAP Mentor project to improve SAP’s documentation. If you are interested I can give you information about it.

      Best Regards,
      Tobias

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      1. Marco Dorn
        Hey Tobias,

        thanks for all the good feedback!

        What parts of the documentation would you think about in particular to start with? Then I will touch base with our colleagues from Knowledge Management.

        Best regards,

        Marco.

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        1. Tobias Trapp Post author
          I’ll keep you informed.

          But my first idea for CEI & documentation is very simple: If there is already some documentation then testers could read them before the test as preparation. Later they can give feedback about the documentation.

          Best Regards
          Tobias

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          1. Marco Dorn
            We recommend our supported teams to involve the colleagues who write the documentation. But up to now, I don’t have an overview how much this is done by the product teams.

            My idea was to start a stand-alone project to look into a certain documentation.

            Maybe an idea for now could be to proactively ask for the documentation for those projects you are part of. It is usually written in parallel to the development.

            Best regards,
            Marco.

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