Retailer Halfords has invested in automating back-end system and business process testing to halve the time it takes to deliver new business functionality.
Testing is thought of as a necessary evil that is typically done at the end of projects, but with the right approach, testing can save 50% to 60% of time and cost, according to Tony Smollett, head of business systems at Halfords.
Testing new functionality early and often is also about testing whether business requirements are met, he told attendees of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group Conference 2010 in Manchester.
"Testing can drive business advantage by accelerating projects to develop new IT system functionality to enable new business capability," he said.
Faced with this challenge and migrating all stock information to a new datacentre hard on the heels of an upgrade to the Halfords Warehouse Management System, Smollett turned to testing services firm Experior.
"It was an easy choice as I had worked with Experior before at another retailer to reduce an SAP upgrade by three months," he told Computer Weekly.
Eighteen months ago, it took Halfords 24 weeks to develop new business capability, which allowed for only two projects a year.
Experior's testing programme for Halford's SAP, data storage, web systems, and warehouse management system, reduced project time to 12 weeks, said Smollett.
This was made possible by reducing the time for each test on average by 50% and the time for each test cycle by up to 87%, taking it from two to three weeks down to two to three days.
With greater speed and flexibility to overlap projects, Halfords is now able to deliver new functionality for the Easter, summer and Christmas shopping seasons.
"This year it meant we were able to introduce plastic gift cards before the Christmas season that could be loaded with monetary value at the point of sale," said Smollett.
Having a testing programme from the very start, he said, enabled Halfords to set a timetable for the full project and accelerate business advantage.