business simulation testing

The Importance of Business Simulation Testing in Project Implementations

By: Ben Barrell

Picture this: Two separate companies are each in the process of a major business transformation and are implementing a new system to improve their customer’s shopping experience. Both have the same goal to grow sales through an improved experience. Both companies are using an Agile methodology. Yet, only one has discovered the benefits of using a Business Simulation Testing (BST) phase to minimize the likelihood of serious defects being detected during the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) phase and subsequent go-live.

Company one applies a typical approach to development and testing where the development team makes changes and demonstrates them incrementally to the business for approval. The development team also performs system and functional testing prior to UAT. The UAT phase then becomes the first time the business users have hands-on access to the new system. As a result, serious defects detected in UAT end up risking a delay in the release date. Even if released on time, this approach risks negatively impacting customers and revenue.

Customer two has leveraged an additional BST phase of testing to allow the business to fully review and test the new system before moving into UAT. As a result, this company increases the likelihood of identifying serious defects earlier on, while minimizing the amount of time and money needed to patch the errors. Better yet, the chances of any customers experiencing defects decreases because they were resolved far before the system rolled out. 

business simulation testing

The Goal of Business Simulation Testing

BST is a testing phase in agile development where your business team will test your end-to-end business processes. The goal of this testing phase is to uncover defects in everyday end to end processes. The faster you find and identify defects in the system processes or in the test scripts themselves, the faster you can resolve them before more employees or customers feel the impact of those errors. 

Testers in the BST phase are encouraged to get creative when testing. Testers need to go deep in their workflows and span the entire surface that their job role covers so they can test as much as possible. While taking this deep and wide approach, testers should also try to break everything they can by going off script to find as many defects as possible before the system is rolled out to the entire team and, if it’s front-facing, to the customers. 

Looser Governance is Critical

In most UAT testing phases, you have tight governance processes in place for documenting every move and approaching every decision compliantly. You dot every i and cross every t in the instructions and scripts given to the team. 

In BST, looser governance is critical — but there is still governance. 

Management of successful BST phase uses a very specific plan to ensure a compliant approach. The testing focuses on capturing only the evidence necessary to recreate and resolve defective behaviors, which means there’s typically less governance in how the testers approach their work. It’s not until later, during the UAT phase, that companies focus on screen capturing and having multiple layers of documentation and a compliance review. 

Governance in BST comes into play before testing begins to make sure there is a holistic approach and nothing is left un-tested including making sure satellite systems are ready and in place. A team must be assembled and committed to testing. The processes must be completed and available for testing. As your dedicated BST team enters a testing phase, they will receive entry and exit criteria to follow. This is where rigid compliance ends.

Once your team is set loose, you can dial down the governance discipline. Having a less rigid approach and directions allows the team the flexibility to try processes that you might not have outlined in the scope or scripts. While that might sound like you’re unleashing the Wild West, there is a reason for inspiring a little less rigidity to the testing process.

Advantages of Less Governance in BST 

There are distinct advantages to having looser governance in your BST testing system. Because the goal of this testing phase is to find what’s broken, you want your team to try anything and everything in the system. That fluid movement allows the testers to throw more into the system and break it in ways you might not have anticipated. Without rigid testing constraints, your team is able to get a lot more creative. 

For example, rather than restricting testers to upload a specific file, your testing team might try uploading a file with an incompatible extension or an incorrect format. That lack of compatibility might not have been found had your team been operating under specific guidelines and not given the ability to be creative in their approach. 

Compliance is important, no doubt. Still, we suggest leaving those strict steps in the right places up front for BST and all across the UAT process. Instead, letting your team loose will help you find defects you might not have known to look for in a clearly defined scope. 

Putting Together Your Business Simulation Testing Team

Because you want your BST team to get creative, it’s important that you assemble a wide variety of team players. When choosing your team members, it’s important to pull dedicated members from each core business unit and process. 

Despite your team members having different job descriptions, each team member chosen will be following the same end-to-end process. But, because their job roles are different, they will each approach the problem a little differently which will help shine a light on a wider range of defects. For example, if the end-to-end process was to ensure the order was delivered accurately and on time to the end consumer, each team member would approach that process in the same way they would in their job role. In casting a wider responsibility net, your BST team would ideally identify all the different areas where an order wasn’t delivered accurately long before UAT and especially before the process rolled out externally. 

When assembling a BST team, diversity is critical to stopping issues like these before the project unfolds to ensure adoption and reduce costly problems. 

The Business Simulation Testing Process

When the IT team first presents a demo to the stakeholders, they’re simply showing the possibilities for meeting the business requirements. The stakeholders then give a thumbs up to the idea or a thumbs down. It’s not until the BST process begins that the stakeholders really gets their hands dirty in the new system. This is the time that allows teams to dig in deep and find defects.

You may be reading this and thinking that the loose governance and creative approach turns the BST process into a free for all. Fortunately, that’s not quite the case. While testers are encouraged to get creative in their approach, there are processes that are integral to the BST phase. Procedurally, once the BST team uncovers a defect, a defect management process is applied. 

In addition, you must have a test management plan to track all the many moving parts. It’s important to understand the scope, breadth, and depth of how those parts fit together, so you can better identify the defects. Further, BST is a temporal development process. As you go through the process iteratively, the team is bound to uncover even more defects, which they can then report and repair them all before UAT.

Putting the Tech In Motion When Starting the Business Simulation Process

To have a successful BST process, each satellite system must be in place. When we say “satellite system” we’re simply referring to the systems that feed data in and out of the core system at the heart of your project. 

When deploying a very large program for testing, you will have numerous satellite systems for reporting, connecting to the various departments such as tax, gathering consumer preference data, generating reports, etc., etc.

Without these systems linked and updated before you start your BST, you’ll have a much harder time processing and supporting changes to the core system. Think of this as a domino effect. Once you plug each system into the end-to-end satellite system and begin following the new business process or scope, you’ll see the ripple effects of defective behaviors. For example, if you place a purchase order and transfer it to a satellite system, you might find that it gets sent back in a different way than expected, leading to shipping delays. Having the end-to-end technology in place first is crucial to uncovering the dominos dropping due to a defect.  

Maintaining Data Integrity Throughout the Business Simulation Testing Process

Everything in the BST phase is a dress rehearsal, including how you move your data, or migrate your data, into the new system. It’s crucial that you maintain data integrity as you populate your newly changed system. 

The BST phase allows you to see how your data will be impacted as you cut over into production. The data team will load all of the data into the new system just as they will before they go live, which allows you to see where there are leaks in your new system’s bucket and where you could get dirty data out as an unintentional consequence of this system update. 

You Can’t Afford to Ignore Business Simulation Testing

Ultimately, the BST phase is crucial to include because it saves you massive amounts of headaches and expensive repair dollars by finding defects in the new system early on. With each new phase in your project, fixing defects becomes more expensive in dollars and time. Worse yet, if defects make it to the end consumer, you could erode the customer experience. Implementing a BST phase within your agile testing methodology provides your project team with confidence that the best possible version of the system will be tested in UAT and released to the customer.