Home Energy How one of the ‘Big Six’ ensures business as usual

How one of the ‘Big Six’ ensures business as usual

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Scott Arnold and Prabhu Raman share a British Gas case study in partnership with Cognizant Technology Solutions, on successfully implementing the SAP Solution Manager Toolset at Britain’s largest energy and home services provider.




In the past few years, the IT industry has embarked on a fast paced transformational journey to deliver accelerated business value. It is more important than ever for business and IT teams to align and develop synergies for a faster time to market. Serving around 12 million homes in the UK, British Gas is the biggest UK energy supplier and is considered one of the ‘Big Six’ in the domestic gas and electricity market.

In the British Gas Information Systems department, the Business As Usual (BAU) test team is responsible for carrying out regression testing against all core SAP releases.

Historically, any fix or change proposed to the SAP application required a manual assessment of impact to existing processes and customer journeys. This manual process was time consuming and as with any manual process, it could be open to human error. This could result in testing too much or not testing enough, which could result in production incidents.

The SAP Solution Manager product contains a tool called Business Process Change Analyser (BPCA), which the test team identified could potentially be used to address this challenge. Since its introduction, it has resulted in a number of benefits for the business.

The technology

BPCA is an application which helps in executing change impact analysis and allows the customer to carry out risk based test planning and execution. It is part of the end to end integration testing standard for SAP solutions. The different phases of BPCA include preparation, change impact analysis and risk based testing scope.

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Major drivers for BPCA implementation in British Gas

British Gas makes a high number of production SAP releases of varying sizes all year round. Regression testing is essential for all of these releases and it is critical that this is conducted in the most efficient and reliable manner possible.

  • Manual scoping of changes going live can potentially cause the following issues:
  • Difficulty in identifying critical business process affected by change events.
  • Difficulty in arriving at test recommendations for those change events.
  • Missing transparency about the business process/scenarios to be included in the BAU regression pack.
  • Missing transparency on the business processes that are going through the change across releases.
  • Justifying the priority of regression test coverage. If timelines were shortened for any reason, it could lead to incident leakage to production.
  • Withdrawal of some changes of a release due to conflicts, meaning a time consuming and repeated manual test scoping process.
  • Test scope optimisation was risky due to the fact that the manual process was highly dependent on variables such as correct documentation or availability of key resources.

The solution

British Gas’ Testing Services department worked with Cognizant Technology Solutions to trial usage of the BPCA tool. Scott Arnold (Testing Service Manager for BAU) led this initiative working with Prabhu Raman from Cognizant Testing Services. The main purpose of the tool is to analyse the objects included in any number of SAP transports and automatically compare these to the objects contained in the Technical Bill Of Materials (TBOMs) of the target system. Since every TBOM is clearly assigned to a certain transaction in a certain scenario, business process or process step, it is then possible to determine precisely which parts of a business process hierarchy are affected by the change. As test cases are mapped to business processes this provides a rapid and reliable method of test scoping. The trial was successful and is now used comprehensively.

Impact of BPCA

The British Gas BAU team now delivers innovation through better project planning, and delivers scoping faster through a better assessment of the testing effort using the ‘Effort Analyser’ feature of BPCA. Other advantages include streamlined business process hierarchy documentation across customer journeys.

BPCA also gave the team the ability to provide technical evidence to the regression test scoping activity for every round of regression execution. It also enables smart ranking of business processes/process steps, with highest impact using the test scope optimisation feature of BPCA. British Gas has reduced its test effort across test phases by prioritising testing of most impacted business processes.

For example, on SAP upgrades, such as enhancement pack or service pack upgrades, it is almost impossible to manually go through each and every release note to determine the impact. Whereas BPCA provides an automated way of providing the business process impact.

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Cost savings

Scoping and execution of BAU regression

Scope identification efficiency has been increased after implementing BPCA. Below are the main types of releases to production for SAP‑centric changes in British Gas for which regression testing is run:

Operational release (OPR): Frequency is three to four times monthly. They contain small changes and incident fixes, but typically approximately 40 changes. The BAU regression team normally executes one round of regression testing after the final merge build going live, as part of the release.

Planned build release (PB): Monthly planned builds with projects, small changes and incidents that are going live as part of the release with a larger capacity than an operational release. The BAU regression team executes two rounds of regression testing against the merge build going live as part of the release.

Rapid release (RR): Ad‑hoc frequency and an ability to quickly promote urgent fixes to production without going through major assessment from technical teams. The BAU team executes one ‘mini’ round of regression testing against the against the merge build going live as part of the release.

Reduced defect/incident leakage into production

As a result of this work, defect detection efficiency has improved because of the extra scope identified using BPCA. The company can now focus on the specific test cases required based on technical impact analysis. This helps in the identification of defects early, by running regression against a more targeted and accurate set of business process based test scripts when compared to manual regression scoping. The table above shows the actual defects found so far in BAU regression using both manual scoping and also added BPCA scoping. Significant cost savings are now made as more defects are being found via BAU regression testing because of the more accurate and efficient scoping.

Summary

Once the British Gas BAU testing team embraced SAP Solution Manager Toolset and BPCA a number of advantages followed very quickly.

“Through best use of technology in SAP Solution Manager we have transformed our regression capability resulting in increased quality and reduced cost. Scott and Prabhu have done a great job in making this happen.” said Ed Reid, Head of Testing Services at British Gas.

By using BPCA, the main benefits include:

Cost optimisation: The BAU regression team has seen an approximate 25% reduction in the cost of comprehensive SAP regression testing.

Reduced timeline: There has been a 30% reduction in test scoping and execution time.

Increased quality: BPCA has enabled testing effort to be more accurately focused on the processes at risk. This has resulted in improved defect identification, which in turn has prevented incidents occurring in production that may otherwise have been missed in testing.

By reducing the manual effort and optimising the scoping process it has benefited the team by enabling staff to work on developing the automation pack further. This is resulting in increased automation coverage for the British Gas SAP changes.

 

This article first appeared in the November issue of TEST Magazine. Edited for web by Cecilia Rehn.