As businesses grow and become increasingly reliant on technology, the usefulness of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can’t be overstated. But implementing an ERP can be a daunting task. Enter the ERP testing process, an indispensable phase of implementation that proactively prevents budget- and productivity-sapping problems from cropping up after deployment. Thorough testing is a must for companies looking to smoothly transition to an ERP — whether it’s their first or an upgrade to a more modern system — and get the most out of what the tech has to offer.

What Is ERP Testing?

ERP testing is one of the last steps in the ERP implementation process. Before going live, an ERP system is thoroughly tested to ensure that it’s working as intended and meets the business’s requirements. The testing process aims to identify and correct any minor issues — or major errors — and establish remedies for anything not fully up to what the business needs. It can also help reduce the risk of implementation failure.

Key Takeaways

  • Thorough ERP testing is integral to the implementation process because it helps guarantee that the system will go live at its optimal state.
  • There are various types and stages of ERP testing, each focusing on different aspects of the system, such as functionality and scalability.
  • Automated ERP testing is an efficient way to get a jump on the process, but manual testing is a must for features and capabilities that rely on human judgment.
  • A successful ERP testing process depends on the strength and organization of its project team, realistic expectations and a willingness to take an exacting, methodical approach.

ERP Testing Explained

Bugs and glitches might sound indicative of poorly designed software, but that’s not necessarily the case. ERP systems are complex and almost always require some degree of configuration or customization to meet a business’s needs. These modifications can inadvertently cause issues, such as dashboards that don’t display correctly or automated workflows that skip a step. Customizing an ERP to meet the business’s needs requires comprehensive validation and quality assurance (QA) through testing.

To conduct ERP testing, businesses need to carefully identify who will be testing the software and what is going to be tested. The ERP vendor typically supports this discovery process. Various tests are then conducted to cover all aspects of the ERP system, including its functionality, integration capabilities, security vulnerabilities and overall performance. The testing teams note any defects or issues that need to be addressed. Once resolved, often by the ERP development team, the system is retested to confirm proper functioning and verify that no additional issues have subsequently popped up.

In other words, ERP testing isn’t a simple one-and-done “test.” It’s often an iterative process that requires the testing team to repeat certain stages multiple times until all issues have been fixed. Once all testers — including a group of end-user employees who will be using the ERP on a day-to-day basis — agree that the system is working and will meet the business’s requirements, the testing team and business stakeholders can sign off on the system, indicating that it’s ready to go live.

Types of ERP Testing

ERP systems rely on complex technology and are usually tailored to a business’s needs. In turn, various types of tests are needed to complete the testing phase of ERP implementation, each test focusing on a different aspect of the system. For example, functionality testing ensures that the ERP system works correctly, whereas performance testing checks lags, response time and scalability. Here’s an overview of 11 common ERP tests, each of which is necessary to ensure a properly functioning system that’s ready for deployment.

Functionality Tests

Functionality tests verify that each feature, module or component of the ERP system functions as expected and meets business requirements. For example, a functionality test would check that the system accurately calculates and records financial transactions within the financial management module or that invoices are automatically generated for customers.

Performance Tests

Performance tests evaluate the system’s performance under various conditions to validate that the ERP can handle the business’s current and future workload expectations. Performance tests should reflect potential peak demands — and even outlier “edge cases,” such as a test that exceeds peak demands — to confirm that the system is adequately robust. For example, a performance test would verify that the system can process a large number of orders within a reasonable amount of time or that every employee can log in and start running workflows simultaneously.

Integration Tests

Integration tests check that the ERP system seamlessly integrates with other necessary business software and systems; it also makes sure that individual modules within the ERP communicate with one another. This type of test includes verifying that data flows between these systems as expected. Integration tests should mimic actual work activities, such as confirming that forecasted demands trigger inventory reorder points or auto-generate purchase orders for approval.

Security Tests

Security tests assess the ERP system’s security features to identify vulnerabilities or potential security risks. This is particularly important because ERP systems contain massive amounts of sensitive employee and employer data, as well as supplier and customer data. For example, a security test would confirm that sensitive data is encrypted and that the system is protected against unauthorized access. Security tests might also make sure that only authorized personnel have access to certain sensitive data, on a need-to-know basis.

Regression Tests

Regression tests verify that any changes or bug fixes have not inadvertently introduced new problems. Regression testing usually happens following the first round of testing, after any found issues have been resolved. It can also occur after the system is live — for example, when the ERP software is updated.

Other Tests

Besides the usual functionality, performance, integration, security and regression tests, additional ERP tests to consider include:

  • Smoke testing: An initial quick check to verify that the ERP system’s most critical functionality is working before more comprehensive testing is conducted. A hotel chain, for example, might first smoke test the system’s ability to manage reservations and housekeeping tasks, before conducting usability testing.
  • Installation testing: Ensures that the ERP system can be installed and configured in the business’s environment and that it can communicate with other systems in the environment, as needed.
  • Data-handling testing: Makes sure the system can accurately process various types of data, including text, images and numbers. For example, a manufacturer might run data-handling tests for different types of inventory — raw materials, works in progress and finished goods — to check that they can be easily tracked via barcodes, serial numbers and product descriptions.
  • Adaptability testing: Evaluates how readily the ERP system can adapt to changes in the business environment, such as new regulations or sudden market shifts. For example, an adaptability test might check that the system can quickly adapt to price changes or that the business can successfully add new software solutions.
  • Acceptance testing: Makes sure the system meets end users’ — i.e., the employees — needs and is easy to use. This testing phase, also known as user acceptance testing, is conducted by select employees. For example, an acceptance test might require a procurement employee to perform a common task, such as creating a purchase order.
  • Usability testing: Measures how intuitive and easy to use the software is. Usability testing is generally conducted by employees and is often part of acceptance testing.

Note that overlap can occur with some of these testing terms. For example, “usability” and “acceptance” testing might be used synonymously. Additionally, different companies might have their own definitions of test types or even use different names for the same types of tests. One company might use the term “scalability” testing when referring to adaptability testing, for instance.

What Is Automated ERP Testing?

Automated ERP testing uses specialized automation tools to create and run tests without the need for manual intervention. Testing teams with appropriate coding knowledge develop automation scripts for a set of test cases, simulating user actions, such as clicking buttons or entering data into fields. When test scripts are run, they automatically check whether test results match expected outcomes. A report is automatically generated to show the test results and highlight any issues that may have arisen.

Automation can perform a wide variety of tests much faster than humans can, which greatly speeds up the often-lengthy ERP testing process. It also helps reduce the number of human errors that might be introduced during a manual testing process. But even if a business conducts automated ERP testing, it’s still important to run manual tests. Automation can quickly and efficiently cover a huge swath of test cases, but it doesn’t replace the human judgment required to effectively spot cosmetic issues or conduct acceptance tests, for instance.

ERP Testing Process

A carefully planned ERP testing process makes it easier to identify and resolve issues before the system goes live, minimizing disruptions to business operations and ensuring a successful implementation. At a high level, the testing process usually involves creating a test environment, conducting automated and manual testing, running user acceptance tests, reviewing and prioritizing issues, correcting those issues and, finally, running regression tests. This wide variety of testing-related tasks calls for a dedicated testing team to own the process and see it through, from project managers and test engineers to the employees best suited to acceptance testing. (More on these roles later.)

ERP Testing is Critical…

…but it’s just one step to a successful implementation. Set yourself up for success with a quick breakdown of six other steps, along with tips on building the right team, setting budgets, and choosing the right implementation strategy. Get all of that, plus two implementation success stories, in this three-page guide.
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Create a Test Environment

A test environment is essentially the crash test dummy of the software development world. It’s a controlled environment that replicates the live, operational environment where the ERP will be deployed and used for day-to-day business operations — the “production environment,” for short. In other words, the test environment is kept separate from the business’s live production environment. This is to prevent the chance of accidentally breaking functionality or introducing issues that could lead to business disruptions.

Since the ERP test environment is meant to simulate typical operations, it should include any and all hardware, software and business data representative of what the business would use on a daily basis. It should also include the test cases and any automated test scripts that will be used to conduct ERP testing, all of which should support the business’s needs and purposes.

Automate Testing

Using automated ERP testing tools, engineers run the test scripts that were created when the testing environment was established. Assuming the automated tests are reliable and accurate, automation makes it easy to get the ball rolling and quickly begin to identify any issues. The actual results of the test scripts should be matched to expected results, with all discrepancies, however minor, diligently noted.

To create sound automated tests, it helps to:

  • Define clear test objectives that align with the overall testing strategy and the company’s business goals.
  • Use test scripts that accurately reflect both real-world scenarios and the types of data the system is likely to encounter on a regular basis.
  • Develop robust test scripts that can not only handle a wide range of inputs and scenarios but also are easy to maintain and update, as needed.
  • Regularly review the test scripts and results to confirm efficacy.

Test Manually

Manual tests are necessary to round out the ERP testing process. This means having hands-on human testers execute tests to identify any issues that require human judgment or that the automated tests might have missed. An automated script, for instance, can’t really tell if a system is intuitive to use; in this case, employee perspective is a must. The key is to have qualified testers handle the manual testing process. Ideally, testers should demonstrate keen attention to detail, show the ability to think critically and analytically, have patience and possess strong communication skills.

These eagle-eyed workers should rerun some tasks, such as processing invoices, managing inventory, automating approval processes and upping capacity (of users, orders, inventory, etc.), to make sure the system will perform well under various situations and workloads — there’s no such thing as too much testing. Finally, compare actual results to expected results, taking care to thoroughly note all discrepancies.

Conduct User Tests

If the ERP system isn’t intuitive, employees are less likely to adopt it in their day-to-day workflows — thwarting the implementation altogether. User testing is necessary to make sure workers will be able to get the most out of the software. This step is performed by a team of end users who will test the ERP to make sure it genuinely meets their needs and requirements, is easy to use and navigate and will clearly improve their work experience.

Since not all end users will be highly tech-savvy individuals with knowledge of software development or coding, it’s imperative that test cases be clearly defined and accurately represent real-world business scenarios. Testers should fully document test results.

Review and Prioritize Issues

After automated, manual and user tests are completed, test results should be reviewed to assess any issues or defects. It’s best to prioritize the issues according to their severity and impact on business operations. For example, any issue that can cause system crashes, data loss, security vulnerabilities or functional issues that will prevent users from completing mission-critical business processes should be addressed immediately. Low-priority issues, such as minor cosmetic matters or noncritical bugs, can be addressed later.

The value of clear, thorough documentation cannot be overstated. ERP testing involves multiple types of people, all with different levels of technical capability and insight into the business’s needs. Well-written, comprehensive documentation prevents the risk of development teams not understanding the bugs employees are seeing, and it also eliminates any jargon and technical terms that might confuse the average employee. Text writeups, surveys, screenshots, videos and even interviews can all be used to paint a detailed picture for all parties involved.

Correct Issues and Run Regression Tests

Using clearly identified and documented issues as their guide, development teams can go back to fix any problems. But it’s not yet time for the business to dust off its hands and call it a day. Regression testing must first be conducted to validate that problems have indeed been resolved correctly — and that no new issues were inadvertently introduced. Corrections should also be thoroughly documented to serve as a foundation for future bug fixes and testing efforts.

Download the ERP Testing Roadmap

Implementing an ERP system can be a complex process, of which ERP testing is a critical component. A strong ERP testing strategy can help businesses identify and resolve issues before their systems go live, ensuring a smooth implementation and reducing the risk of costly downtime. This downloadable ERP testing roadmap(opens in a new tab) outlines the key steps necessary to successfully test your ERP system.

Benefits of ERP Testing

ERP testing can be time-consuming, especially if some fine-tuning is required — and it most likely will be. Nevertheless, it’s an essential step in a smart ERP implementation plan. Without testing, a business is at risk of disruption in a variety of ways, from lost data and security vulnerabilities to system failures and expensive downtime. These potential outcomes hamper business success, productivity and user adoption — all of which are counterproductive to an ERP’s end goal of increasing business efficiency.

Some top benefits of ERP testing include:

  • Ensuring system functionality: Testing plays a critical role in ensuring that the ERP functions optimally while meeting business needs. Without testing, it’s difficult to know if the system will work as intended. No business wants to pay a pretty penny to invest in an ERP, only to go through testing and find the software doesn’t work quite right.
  • Identifying defects and risks: Any defects, bugs or errors in a live system are, at best, going to detract from worker productivity. At worst, they can lead to crashes, data loss, inaccuracies, security breaches and more. Spotting these issues in advance can prevent downtime and other issues that could disrupt the business, aggravate customers or frustrate employees.
  • Improving system performance: Testing can identify performance bottlenecks and areas in need of improvement. Resolving these issues before going live can help make sure the system is working smoothly and more efficiently than before. For example, let’s say integration testing reveals slow data flows between inventory management and procurement modules, delaying purchase-order generation by a day. Testing gives development teams the opportunity to figure out how to eliminate or reduce the lag, which could impact production or lead to an inventory shortage.
  • Simplifying implementation time and cost: This might seem counterintuitive because testing itself costs time, resources and money. But an up-front approach makes it easier to catch issues early in the implementation process, which, in turn, decreases the time and costs a business might otherwise waste on post-implementation fixes.
  • Boosting end-user adoption rates: Nobody likes buggy software, but it can be especially frustrating for new users trying to adapt to a new way of working. ERP testing stops these bugs from hindering the training and onboarding process. Similarly, acceptance testing will confirm that the system is user-friendly, intuitive and meets the needs of the people using it most in the organization. This is critical to successfully boosting adoption rates — and high adoption is key to maximize the ERP’s return on investment.

Challenges in ERP Testing

Businesses can face several obstacles when conducting ERP tests, many of which aren’t very different from the challenges of an ERP implementation. ERP testing challenges can include:

  • Poor project management: ERP testing is a multistep process that requires planning, various forms of testing and multiple iterations of feedback and adjustment. Each of these steps has its own important elements and tasks. What’s more, ERP testing requires collaboration and participation among many groups of people: ERP implementation experts, development teams, business leaders and end users. Staying on schedule is key to a swift rollout, making meticulous project management a must.
  • Resource limitations: Lack of time, budget or personnel can make it challenging to dive as deeply into the testing process as necessary. Planning the testing phase well in advance and figuring out how to allocate sufficient resources will help support a seamless testing process and limit the chances of critical errors going live.
  • Resistance to change: Whether it’s change-averse leadership or employees who don’t want to say goodbye to legacy systems, resistance to change can delay testing and implementation of new technology, including an ERP system. As part of an effective change management plan, businesses should clearly communicate the benefits of the ERP and closely involve employees in the testing process.
  • Technical troubles: Compatibility issues or connectivity problems can disrupt the testing process. For example, an ERP system that can’t integrate with existing financial management software due to a firewall issue that interrupts financial data synchronization makes it hard to accurately and properly test the system. Before diving into the testing phase, check that the testing environment is properly configured, that all firewalls and security mechanisms are properly adjusted and that any necessary technical support will be available.
  • Data quality: An ERP system can appear to function properly even if the test data is incomplete or erroneous. But poor data quality can lead to inaccurate test results, and inaccurate test results can lead to poor decisions that don’t accurately reflect the needs of the business. Before testing, all test data must be clean, accurate and complete.

Tips for ERP Testing

ERP testing is a complex process with many moving parts. But with a comprehensive testing plan, sufficient resources, clear and regular communication and a strong business case, it’s possible to reduce the risk of major issues and experience a smoother, more efficient implementation process. The following tips can help guarantee success.

Take Your Time

Rushing through the ERP testing process leads to oversights and mistakes that can increase implementation costs and make the process more troublesome than it needs to be — or, worse, result in failure. Take all the time necessary to completely work through each test, without skimping on documentation. Taking your time can also help you and your testing team get a better understanding of the ERP system’s capabilities, make onboarding easier and pinpoint potential issues that could crop up in the future.

Set Realistic Expectations

If you establish unrealistic timelines or testing goals, your implementation team and testing teams might feel overwhelmed. This can lead to lower quality work and undetected issues. Be realistic about the time, budget and resources needed for the ERP testing process. Carefully define the scope of the project: the functionalities that will be tested, what types of testing will be conducted, expected outcomes and anything else that might be considered outside the scope of the project. Doing so can also mitigate scope creep, which is the uncontrolled expansion of project scope or requirements until it exceeds original goals, leading to delays and overrun budgets.

Follow All Steps Thoroughly

If you’re pressed for time or haven’t yet found many errors, it can be tempting to skip over some tests. But every test — functionality, integration, performance, security, regression, acceptance, etc. — is equally important. Forgo one or more and you risk having bugs crop up in live production. Execution of each step of the ERP testing process leads to greater confidence that all potential issues have been proactively identified and resolved.

Don’t Wait to Fix It Live

Regardless of how badly you want to get up and running, waiting to resolve issues until after implementation wastes time and money, especially considering the added costs incurred by potential system downtime, lost data or productivity setbacks. Addressing issues during the testing process — in the testing environment, where adjustments won’t affect operations and workflows — is a safe way to minimize the negative aftereffects of frustrated employees and customers.

Create an In-House ERP Manager Role

ERP testing involves many moving parts, each of which introduces an additional risk of miscommunication, not to mention the issues that can crop up if roles and responsibilities are unclear. To make life easier, assign an in-house ERP manager to serve as a point of contact for testing issues and progress reports and to mediate communication among teams, as needed. The ERP manager can also help keep the project on track and help testers and developers meet timeline targets. Ideally, this individual should be able to resolve conflicts, be trusted to make sound decisions and be highly knowledgeable about the organization’s needs and processes.

Test Every Scenario

If you skip a scenario, whether intentionally or because you just didn’t think of it, you risk encountering unexpected errors or system failures. Such issues can be prevented with proper, thorough testing. Explore every possible scenario and user interaction with the ERP system, including edge cases. These abnormal usage scenarios may be unlikely, but that doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t happen. For example, a manufacturer might want to test that the ERP can handle a scenario in which a major customer places an order for an item that the company hasn’t stocked for a long time but could still produce. Can the ERP process the order, while determining whether the manufacturer can fill the order in a timely manner? Testing for such a case would help to make sure the system can handle such an unusual scenario without disrupting operations.

Recommended Roles for ERP Testing

Just as you’ll need a solid ERP implementation team to get the system up and running, it’s also worth putting together a dedicated testing team to launch the project and trigger processes, as necessary. Ideally, this team should collaborate closely, making sure testing is comprehensive and that the ERP can be deployed successfully. The exact makeup and structure of the testing team will depend on the business’s size and its specific requirements, but some key roles to consider include:

Project Manager

The project manager oversees the entire ERP testing project. This includes developing the project plan, defining project tasks and timelines, assigning tasks to team members, monitoring progress and making sure testing is completed on time and within budget. The project manager should serve as the main point of contact for the ERP vendor, developers, testing teams, business owners and staff, and might also work closely with the test manager and QA manager.

Test Manager

The test manager is responsible for managing the testing process, including developing the test plan and test cases, managing found defects and making sure that bugs are resolved. The test manager might also work closely with the project manager, QA manager, test engineers and automation engineers to make certain that all testing activities align with project goals and timelines.

QA Manager

The quality assurance (QA) manager oversees the testing process to ensure that the ERP system meets the company’s desired quality standards. This person might work closely with the team of test engineers, the development team, the implementation team, business analysts and other stakeholders to check that all aspects of testing have been fully completed. The QA manager might also be responsible for reviewing and assessing issues and validating that they’ve been resolved. Depending on the size of the business and the ERP implementation, the same person might fill the QA and project manager roles.

Test Automation Engineer

The test automation engineer is responsible for developing and executing automated test scripts. This person should be capable of using specialized automation tools and have a strong knowledge of coding. The test automation engineer should work closely with the test manager to design realistic test cases, implement them and certify that results match the system’s functional, integration, performance, and security requirements. If discrepancies are found, the test engineer should update scripts and help troubleshoot any issues that arise.

Test Automation Architect

While a test automation engineer develops and executes test scripts, the test automation architect is in charge of developing the overall automation framework and strategy. This person chooses the appropriate automation tools to use, informs test scripts and makes sure the testing process is as efficient and effective as possible. The test automation architect works closely with automation engineers to make sure processes are executed smoothly.

Manual Test Engineer

A test engineer is responsible for designing and executing manual test cases that validate the ERP’s ability to meet functional and nonfunctional business requirements. This person might work closely with the QA manager, project manager, test automation engineers and other business stakeholders to identify and resolve defects to improve the quality of the ERP system.

Schedule an Implementation Call With NetSuite Pros

NetSuite ERP, the leading cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution now celebrating its 25th anniversary, is known for its flexibility, scalability and ease of use. This unified platform can manage multiple business functions — including financials, inventory management, order management and human resources management — eliminating the need for multiple software systems, integrating business processes, reducing manual errors and improving data accuracy.

With tens of thousands of deployments under their belt, NetSuite’s dedicated implementation experts will work with your business to ensure a successful implementation and pave a clear path to success. Schedule an implementation call to learn more about NetSuite’s capabilities, the implementation process itself and what to expect during the testing phase.

ERP testing is an indispensable part of the implementation process. Though it might be tempting to rush a few steps to deploy the new ERP sooner, taking the time to ensure that the system has been installed correctly and runs smoothly is critical to maximizing its benefits as quickly as possible. Successful testing requires thorough assessments of the ERP’s functionality, performance, integration capabilities, security and ease of use. Additionally, having a clear plan in place with strong, knowledgeable project management and test management teams that are eager to collaborate is essential to making sure the ERP system flawlessly meets your business needs, now and in the future.

ERP Testing FAQs

How important is testing to ERP implementation?

ERP testing is a necessary step of ERP implementation. Without it, a company risks costly business disruption in a variety of ways, such as lost data, security vulnerabilities and system failures. These potential outcomes hinder business success, productivity and user adoption — all of which are counterproductive to an ERP’s end goal of increasing business efficiency.

Why are experts required when testing and implementing the ERP system?

ERP implementation and testing experts have the knowledge to properly configure, test and deploy an ERP system. This can minimize errors, save time and money and make implementation a stress-free process.

How much does ERP testing cost?

The cost of ERP testing can vary, based on several factors, such as the complexity of the system, the scope of the testing and the expertise of the testing team. Investing in proper testing can save time and money in the long run.

What does ERP stand for?

ERP is short for “enterprise resource planning,” a type of business software designed to help companies manage multiple business functions from one centralized hub.

What is ERP and how does it work?

An ERP system integrates and manages a company’s core business processes within a centralized database. By nature, these systems collect and store vast amounts of data on finances, sales, production, customers, inventory, employees and suppliers. The ERP can access that data in real time to streamline and automate processes, improve communication across departments and enhance decision-making.

How do I test my new ERP system?

Reach out to your ERP software vendor to get professional tips on how best to test your system. Generally speaking, the testing process involves creating a test plan, executing tests, documenting issues and resolving them before going live. A dedicated testing team and a well-defined testing strategy can increase the likelihood of success.

What is an ERP example?

Say a growing business has an accountant who manually records and maintains all financial transaction data using a spreadsheet. At the same time, the business’s sales manager is tracking sales figures in a separate database — leading to data redundancies and contributing to unnecessary manual work that’s prone to human error. The business decides to implement an ERP system to automatically update all financial data, including sales figures, into one centralized database. The ERP boosts organizational efficiency while reducing redundancies and errors. In addition, the accountant and sales manager can easily access shared, up-to-date information in real time, as needed.