Verizon’s Lauren Adelson, VP of Financial Systems Operations, and Nick Germanotta, Director of Financial Systems Operations, recently sat down with Tom Wailgum for a live ASUG TV session to discuss how Verizon uses test automation to accelerate their SAP Projects. Below you can watch the live interview, and find their full SAPPHIRE NOW presentation to learn about how Verizon leverages automation with Worksoft Certify to maximize their business agility, shorten project timelines and optimize budgets as they rationalize multiple ERP and SAP systems.
The presentation below was originally presented by Nick Germanotta, Verizon’s Director of Financial Systems Operations, on May 6th at SAPPHIRE NOW 2015.
Tom: Hi, welcome to the ASUG News studio. My name is Tom Wailgum. We’re broadcasting live from ASUG Annual Conference, and Sapphire Now 2015. I’m really happy to have a couple of people in from Verizon this afternoon to talk about test automation and how that really has accelerated Verizon’s SAP projects. So first to my right is Lauren Adelson. She’s the Vice President of Financial Systems Operations, from Verizon. Welcome to the studio, Lauren. And to her right is Nick Germanotta. He’s the Director of Financial System Operations from Verizon. So let’s first talk about some of the SAP convergence projects at Verizon. Why are these projects so important to Verizon?
Lauren: Verizon has grown over the years and as you may know we get involved in a lot of merger and acquisition activity. Over time, we’ve come across multiple instances of various ERPs, including SAP, so it’s really important to us, from a standardization and finance transformation perspective, to make sure that we are collapsing into standardized processes and bringing platforms together to gain greater efficiencies across our financial systems.
Tom: Right, and that’s critical. As you said, as you grow and you want to continue to grow that has to be front and center.
Lauren: Right. We grow as a company, but budgets are always a consideration, so more systems means more people, division of labor. Collapsing the pieces together, especially in the finance industry, not only accelerates the closing of the books and the results, it also helps from a headcount perspective to get synergies across different organizations.
Tom: That’s a great point. Nick, for those like me who don’t know the ins-and-outs of automated testing, can you give us why this is critical to actually achieving success with these big projects?
Nick: Sure. One of the things that was really interesting to me when I started doing this was that the testing phases were the longest phases. You’d think that construction was, but it’s really about testing, so anything that you can do to shrink that cycle, but not add risk to the project, is really important. Test automation is key. It really allows us to do more with less. It allows the automation to drive the complex scenarios, and allows the tester or the business SME to focus on areas of complexity or where something broke after running the test automation.
Tom: You must discover a lot of interesting things when you’re going through this.
Nick: Yes. Absolutely. We try to do everything we can to break things, so that we are catching those things before the users do!
Tom: So what happens if you don’t do adequate testing? What are some of the things that can go wrong?
Lauren: Well, besides general user frustration, we are a Fortune 20 organization. We are publicly held, so the financial integrity and the data integrity are critical to us. Not only the performance of the system, but pitfalls, in terms of rework, expense, overall user frustration and other areas, are big risks for us. We have to be accurate. When we’re closing our books and reporting to the street, we have to be absolutely accurate and know that we can stand behind our data. These systems run all of that. Income, revenue, everything comes through these systems, so we have to be absolutely sure that they’re intact before we go live to make sure that Verizon withstands the test of time.
Tom: Right. Absolutely critical systems. You’ve used Worksoft. Can you talk a little bit about that – are there a lot of little benefits in this process, or are there big dramatic ones?
Nick: What we’ve found with Worksoft and with test automation is that to allow the business user to create test automation really drives adoption. Instead of taking a test case that was written by a user, handing it to someone else to build the automation, and then bringing it back, the user feels a sense of ownership and is therefore more likely to use the test automation and trust its results.
The other place that’s been very helpful is end-to-end or “string scenario” testing. When you have a scenario, for example Procure-to-Pay, where you’re involving multiple groups, heretofore, with manual testing, you’re engaging this user to do step one, two, three, then calling up this user to do four, five, then getting this user to do six and seven, and then coming back over here for a goods receipt, for example. It really elongates the process because of those handoffs. With test automation, if you can string all those modules together, you’re not having people wait on a testing bridge, or having to call somebody and say, “Can you please do that piece?” so you get a real time compression as well as an accuracy increase.
Tom: And that can make very happy users in the long run? And bosses.
Nick: Yes. It makes for happy project participants, because they feel like their time is being spent in the areas that are most complex, and they’re not spending their time running the same scenario, over and over again, with a little bit of a change in an input. So they feel like they’re more productive and their time is more productively used.
Lauren: Right, and we are under pressure to make sure that we’re doing these conversions only at particular times of the year – not during the fourth quarter, not at a quarter close, not at a year-end close. Having automation and our ability of being able to control more of our timeline, actually helps us get more done, quicker, versus having to do, five to ten years of conversions, we can condense the total timeframe and investment into much smaller timeframes.
Tom: Lauren, I’ll give you the last word here. Do you think automation technology is going to be part of every SAP project going forward?
Lauren: Absolutely. Part of what we’re building, and Nick’s helping build, is the baseline. You do the work once and then you build off of it. You keep it on the shelf, so as change requests come through or upgrades, you can pull these regression cases off the shelf to help going forward. We wouldn’t have invested the time and energy to build the baseline if the plan wasn’t to then use it, adapt it, and change it for every release we have going forward.