Making a first data conversion test cycle a success requires good planning and proactive work. Here, we take you behind the scenes of 7 key steps that we do at Premier to help make your test cycle a success.
1. Identify similarities
Serving as a strategic partner for clients with multi-year, multi-division ERP rollouts often means we encounter similar requirements across different parts of the business. To minimize cost and accelerate development, we review existing documents and conversion code and leverage as much prior art as possible when building something new for the client. It helps that our main competitive differentiator– Applaud® - is a rapid application development environment that enables our team to centralize development and quickly identify and reuse relevant code.
Business Challenge: Premier converted Customer Master data for multiple sites of a single client over several years. Each site’s Customer Master came from the same legacy system and most of the conversion requirements and programming was reusable from site to site. But a new set of sites came into scope that used a Customer Master totally different from the earlier sites. Drivers related to the load application were updated at the same time that these complex new sites came into scope. It turned out that these updates broke the previous process of loading data to the target database. This failure required a new load application to be used. The client was faced with the challenge to maintain their aggressive go-live schedule while addressing the complexities arising from the newly introduced legacy system and technical changes to the load process. Premier’s ability to test load processes ahead of time prevented unexpected issues from emerging during the first test cycle for the new sites.
2. Generate “pre-load” conversion error reports
Another competitive differentiator for Premier is our repository of “critical-to-quality”(CTQ) checks that identify and report data issues. Our CTQ tool validates that data is structurally valid and that it fits configuration. For a basic example, this validates that customer site level information appropriately ties to the customer header and that the pay term for the customer is configured. These CTQ checks identify data issues before we even push data to the target system. These checks are carried forward from project to project to decrease development time and improve the results for our client. By doing this, we can quickly identify numerous issues that need to be addressed. To contrast, standard load programs typically only identify one issue at a time and must be rerun repeatedly after solving each successive issue.
3. Spearhead data cleanup activities
To maximize the success of your test cycle you need to first improve the quality of the data. The legacy system is rife with issues, and this is often one of the reasons to implement a new ERP solution. Premier’s best practices approach to data migration integrates data profiling, analysis, and cleansing with the data conversion itself. Many data cleanup activities can be fully automated and are carried out in the conversion code and appear in the target system. Automated cleansing could include translating atypical code values to the desired target value or merging duplicate customer or supplier records. Other cleanup activities can be reported before and during the test cycle for manual cleanup in the legacy system – often driving business value. Examples of these manual cleanup activity include closing old order or invoices that have been left in open status or filling in required fields.
4. Mockup records for test loads before development is complete
While conversions are still being developed and legacy data is being cleaned up another key activity is to mockup sample data to test the load process. This step to reveals if there are additional dependencies or configurations required that have not been previously identified. Dependencies are critical to an implementation because any delay to a master data (or any object that has downstream dependencies) will lead to delays in later conversions. For instance, Sales Orders cannot be loaded until Customers are successfully loaded.
Business Challenge: Load requirements are not always clear. In one example, a client used alphanumeric identifiers for their Accounts Receivable (AR) transactions. The alpha characters were an important feature of their legacy identifier because it classified the transactions and drove business processes. The division considered the letter a required attribute. The target transaction identifier was also defined as a character field, so it seemed that there would be no issue with retaining the original alphanumeric values. However, Premier’s preemptive load tests discovered that the load program pushed the transaction identifier into a second field, a document number, which was defined as numeric. This meant that the document “numbers” with letters would fail to load. Testing the load program before going into the test cycle gave us the opportunity to address this issue and figure out a solution for the client. Had the load program not been tested until the integration test cycle, AR would not have been ready for the integration test.
5. Report and escalate issues and new questions arising from test loads
Documenting findings, noting configuration gaps, and identifying necessary scope changes are all part of the progressive elaboration of a project. This part of the process will vary based on what tools are available, but no matter the method, it is important to track issues and decisions to help with successive test runs. Inevitably, questions will arise later in the project as to why something is being done the way it is and a test management tool (e.g. Jira, HPQC, DevOps, etc.) will have the answer.
6. Facilitate client review of data before it is loaded
When it comes to full test cycles it is critical for the business team to review the data to make sure that what is being loaded matches expectations. Inadequate testing is one of the primary sources of project failure, which is why we serve as our client’s partner throughout their testing and review. Premier speeds this process by providing a series of reports that help connect the dots between the legacy and the target system. This usually includes an extract of the data being loaded in excel format with key legacy fields and descriptions for key coded fields, a record count breakdown and error reporting. Ultimately, this approach demonstrates that converted data fits the requirements and can reconcile back to the legacy data source and satisfy auditors.
7. Optimize runtime performance
Even in the earliest phases of the project, our team is already thinking about cutover and go-live. To accommodate aggressive schedules and minimize business disruption, we optimize the conversion process to run as quickly as seamlessly as possible. Often, this requires that we parallelize high-volume portions of the data extraction from the legacy system and the data load to the target system. Sometimes, system configuration impacts load throughput or fine tuning of batch sizes can save precious hours from the cutover schedule. Whatever it takes, We understand the importance of a timely go-live and strive to keep business shutdown as brief as we can safely accommodate.
Enter your test cycle with confidence and focus
By carrying out the preparatory steps listed above, Premier minimizes data risk from your transformation project. This allows the business to focus on learning and optimizing the new ERP system, instead of chasing data issues. Less distractions for the wider project teams means that more time can be spent on functionality, configuration, training, and the future or your enterprise.