Solving hidden risks in public sector supply chains

Image of a city with abstract scientific shapes on top | Solving hidden risks in public sector supply chains

The past few years hit supply chains with unprecedented shocks, from a global pandemic to geopolitical hotspots. These disruptors transformed supply chain management (SCM) – rewriting inventory playbooks, altering supplier relationships, raising the bar on business continuity and prioritizing SCM for executive leaders.

This new reality doesn’t just apply to SCM-heavy industries like manufacturing, retail and consumer products. It has had an equal impact on the public sector. After all, military, federal and state agencies alike depend on SCM to process the vast array of materials, parts and supplies that enable them to sustain operations, serve the public and fulfill their missions.

To that end, agencies rely on complex SCM systems to keep supply chains humming. And to bolster their SCM capabilities, a growing number are enhancing, migrating, or replacing their enterprise applications.

But these forward-thinking initiatives also introduce risk. SCM solutions are typically built on core ERP systems. Those same ERP systems provide the foundation for finance, human capital management, enterprise services and more for large government organizations, making it even more critical to take extra precautions to prevent breakdowns and significant disruptions. Adding to the challenge, many agencies still rely on electronic data interchange (EDI), so modernized SCM systems also have to play well with legacy technology.

The often overlooked solution? Continuous automated software testing. Automated testing can help ensure that integrations don’t break and processes don’t fail when updating supply chain ERP. With effective testing, you can be sure your SCM systems remain operating with optimum performance and reliability, so your supply chain remains resilient.

Downsides of inadequate software testing

Across industries, more organizations are upgrading their core systems – for example, migrating from SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC) to the higher-performing SAP S/4HANA. In fact, 93 percent of SAP enterprise customers that haven’t yet upgraded plan to do so in the next 24 months. That’s according to a recent study, “State of Worldwide Business Assurance for SAP Solutions 2023” by Capgemini and other IT providers.

There are several considerations these organizations must take into account to ensure a smooth upgrade process. Given the complexity of SCM and other core systems, it is challenging for organizations to predict how changes will affect their operations. Without end-to-end functional, performance and integration testing, an SCM upgrade can expose your agency to unacceptable risk. Inadequate testing can result in poor application performance, problems with data quality, system downtime, supply chain disruptions – plus higher costs when those issues must be remediated.

In fact, many agencies face prolonged system “hypercare” following an SCM upgrade. During these periods, emergency teams spend weeks or months trying to uncover and fix problems that could and should have been addressed before go-live.

Automated testing for supply chain ERP

The good news is that agencies can avoid these problems with proactive, automated software testing. Automated testing replaces traditional manual approaches, which are simply too slow, cumbersome and resource-intensive to keep pace with major SCM upgrades. Agencies should look for automated testing solutions that cover these key areas:

Impact testing. AI-powered impact analysis can pinpoint the risks of any change to core systems so that you know exactly what to test. That way, you don’t waste time and resources testing aspects of the system that didn’t change. In fact, an effective change-intelligence solution can reduce the number of needed tests by 85 percent.

Functional testing. Functional testing reviews each aspect of a piece of software to make sure it functions correctly. An effective solution automates regression testing to help ensure changes haven’t created issues with existing code or broken software functionality in some way. AI automation can accelerate functional testing to reduce traditional testing bottlenecks. While, codeless capabilities can relieve your software engineers of rote testing tasks, enabling more entry-level team members to handle quality assurance.

Performance testing. SCM system upgrades can appear to be working fine – until they need to scale during times of peak usage. That’s where performance testing comes in. An effective automated testing tool enables you to stress-test everything from enterprise applications to microservices to APIs. You can realistically simulate high user and data loads to be sure your upgraded SCM is ready for prime time, like the April 15 tax deadline and Medicare enrollment dates.

Data integrity testing. Poor data quality can result in inaccurate supply chain forecasts and inventories. Data integrity testing makes sure information remains correct and fit for purpose as it travels from source systems and data warehouses to applications, dashboards and reports. An effective testing solution will enable you to check data integrity at scale to catch data errors before they become costly downstream issues.

Supply chain ERP upgrades are never without risk. However, agencies shouldn’t forego the advantages of a modernized SCM system because of worries over system downtime and supply chain outages. They shouldn’t skimp on software testing because of outmoded manual approaches. With continuous automated testing, your agency can quickly and cost-effectively confirm the functionality, performance and integration of your upgraded SCM system – and benefit from a smoother, more resilient supply chain.