When ViaSat, Inc., a publicly traded satellite and digital communications company, approached the impending upgrade of its Oracle E-BusinessSuite to version R12, management took a sweeping, forward-looking approach to testing befitting an organization engaged literally in rocket science.
“As the frequency of our major software change projects increases, we find ourselves more or less constantly in test mode,” explains Aaron Sager, Director of Business Systems and Processes. “We were very conscious of the continuous time demands this put on finance, HR and other functions.We attract talented individuals to ViaSat, but if their focus were test, test and retest, we wouldn’t be able to keep them here very long.”
We wanted to automate as many tests as possible, not only to lessen the burden on testers but also to execute more tests more often while reducing our reliance on risk-based testing.
Sager says Sarbanes-Oxley requirements also are a priority: “Any changes to our financial systems are heavily scrutinized by external auditors. And in the past, it was very labor intensive and costly to provide completeness of testing assurance. The upgrade to our chart of accounts would be the biggest change in our financial systems in several years, and we knew the audit would be painful unless we raised our game.”
Aaron assigned Patrick Hooper, a Business Systems Analyst on his team, to find the best set of testing tools available. The two agreed on three key requirements:
- Solutions must streamline software testing for business users, enabling the organization to execute more tests of any application change in a more rapid and accurate fashion than prior methods, such as simple spreadsheets.
- Solutions must document every test, providing a repository of validation for financial audits and compliance with government regulations, as well as supporting continuous process improvement.
- The tools would be “system agnostic,” not tied to any particular software vendor or technology platform.
We wanted to use our new testing solution across the business – for managing change in our Oracle ERP applications, our Agile product data management software, our Concur expense reporting program, and other technologies like satellite back office systems.
No writing code
In Patrick’s eyes, the right tools would be as easy to use for business people as for QA specialists. He elaborates: “As a systems analyst, I’m focused on business functions. If a software testing solution requires me to write code, it won’t appeal to me. Working with our QA team during the evaluation, we ruled out solutions from HP and Oracle for this very reason. Even if we had the technical skills, it would simply take too long to create and maintain scripts by coding them manually.” After an online search and review of test management and test execution products, Patrick felt the direction was clear:
With Patrick’s recommendation, Aaron’s blessing and the IT director’s approval, ViaSat purchased Original Software’s Qualify for test management, TestAssist to document tests, and TestDrive for test automation. The upgrade of the chart of accounts became the first project using the new tools.
Original Software allowed a very straightforward audit when the financial auditors came in and reviewed the changes,” says Aaron. “Previously, it would have taken significantly more time to complete and reach the required level of confidence. It wouldn’t have been as pleasant.
Facilitating governance & compliance
“As a publicly traded company with a substantial amount of government oversight, disrupting the performance of financial management systems is the number one risk we take when making software changes,” Aaron asserts. “Today’s auditors and regulators are technology-savvy and have their own tools for detecting issues and errors in financial reporting.”
“We performed the upgrade using full documentation within Original Software,” explains Patrick. “Every test case was listed and every test was executed and screen shots captured. Now, when a manager does a review they are able to see screen shots and the data entered and the output. And if there is an issue in production, we can go back and see the exact test that was carried out as well as what the results were.”
As ViaSat moves from its successful upgrade of chart of accounts to other Oracle R12 modules, Patrick says the company is“ positioned well for later projects as all the results of our initial testing have been captured for automation.”
The team involved in R12 testing draws from multiple departments and includes as many as 75 staff members playing diverse roles. Before deploying Original Software, these large multi-faceted teams mainly tracked activity and progress with spreadsheets, email, and phone calls. Now, Qualify AQM serves as their collaboration platform.
“For our R12 upgrade we have daily status calls, where we review current reports in Qualify to gauge status in real-time and determine whether we’re on pace,” Patrick says. “In the past, we would have to go person to person, department by department to assemble numbers for reports. The old process gave us a rough estimate at best.”
He explains their new process: “Now, our test cases are gathered by functional area and then by functional steps so we can see how many have been started, passed, and failed. That structure has been highly beneficial. As soon as we have completed the R12 project, we’ll use recorded tests to build a complete set of automatic regression tests to run against future changes. This way we can test far more than we could manually, and with far fewer staff required.”
Raising quality, lowering risk
According to Patrick, a series of tests that are easy and fast to execute will keep raising software quality while lowering the risk of business disruption. “As a bonus, we’ll use the animation feature to convert screenshots to video training guides for educating new employees about business processes,” he says. Aaron reserved a final comment of appreciation not for the technology but for the people behind it: “We really appreciate the support that Original has given us. It has been phenomenal. We are very, very impressed.”Talk to us