Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Testing SAP in the age of the robot

Like everywhere else in software industry, in SAP testing is the key factor to have things working in a stable and robust way. The main difference is that while some evolve their systems based on a large set of automated tests, in SAP projects it is common to depend on people performing tests.

We can try to dig some historical and technical reasons for doing things manually in SAP, but that is just looking for excuses. Reality is that we can and we should build testing robots for SAP.

I believe the best way to explain how this can be so effective is to show some examples. I will start with a master data test example.

    def test_atp_group(self):
        wrong = marc[(marc. != 'X1')&(marc.matnr.isin(mara[mara.mtart=='FERT'].matnr))]

So what is it so special here. First the code is very short, it takes advantage of python data science tools to write very compact code. Being able to write tests in very few lines allows not only to create large number of tests but also to be easy to rewrite tests as many times as needed. Most of my tests are 1 to 5 lines of code and that is important. With a big screen I can see a few hundred tests without much need to scrolling and that makes it much easier to go back from test failures to the testing rules. Also it does not feel bad to delete a line of code when a rule changes, while deleting 100 lines would feel a bit depressing.

And why testing master data is good? My experience shows that master data tests have the best return of investment. Tests take little time to write (5 or 10 minutes) and will run dozens of times and will find hundreds (or thousands) of errors. Same tests will run in development, regression, pre-prod and production systems. Most projects will create master data in waves, so tests will also run for multiple waves. And sometimes we need to ask others more than once to get something properly fixed. All this multiplied makes many checks, many errors found and a lot of saved time. During a project making master data tests early is like investing in bitcoins when it started, we get a huge return on the time invested.

In the code above it shows mara and marc variables, you may wonder how it gets there. These two database tables for material master and stored as a special data structure called data frames. To get these data frames from SAP data I use an API inspired on Django, that we built at Cognitiva, that works like this:

    marc = ReadTable(con).table('marc').filter('werks',['P001','P002']).all()
    mara = ReadTable(con).table('mara').filter('matnr',marc.matnr.unique()).all()

Again it takes only one line of code for each table, so quite easy to get data from 50 tables or more.

After master data I think the next most useful test robots (larger ROI) are the ones that test large calculation that depend on complex master data setups. One such example is delivery scheduling that dependes on multiple condition tables and calendars. Another is pricing calculation when there are multiple and complex discounts schemes. Whenever these complex tasks can be isolated, it is easier to build a specific test robot than to try to test as part as end to end testing. This is how it looks like a test on delivery scheduling, where the call to schedule is just wrapper call on BAPI_APO_SCHEDULING. It is also very quick to write tests so it is easy to have an extensive coverage.

    def test_std_10_03(self):
        """standard request before cut-off on Wednesday
           GI Wednesday at 18h, delivery Friday at 18h
        items = [('ZDMODE','STD'),('LOCFR','7309'),
        times = self.schedule(20140423100000, items)
        self.assertSchedEqual(times['WADAT'], 20140423180000)
        self.assertSchedEqual(times['LFDAT'], 20140425180000)

And finally end-to-end (E2E) test robots are also quite useful. Some years ago E2E testing was mainly about testing the GUI that users would use to perform the actions on the system. But nowadays what we see in SAP is that large usage of the system happens through interfaces (EDI, ecommerce, point of sales, external warehouse systems, etc) so automated testing the interfaces and batch jobs exactly as in production and replacing the GUI with some equivalent RFC calls is a good strategy. An example of this would be replacing the action the user would take in VA02 to remove the delivery block of a sales order with a call to the sales order BAPI to do the same change in delivery block. The last option is technically simpler to automate and good enough to catch errors.

To build E2E test robots some time is spent to create building blocks, like a DESADV IDOC for external warehouse, or a TLB queue for orders created from APO transport load builder. But after having these building blocks writing E2E tests is also quick, a example test looks like:

    def vmi_sales(self, plant, mats, country, routedays=2, channel='04'):
        transport_size =
        sold_to, ship_to =
        items =, transport_size)
        mdoc = self.load_stock(items, plant)
        self.check_material_mov(mdoc, plant, country)
        order_id = self.create_tlb(sold_to, plant, items, ship_to=ship_to, 
        time.sleep(15) # wait for CIF processing
        self.check_sales(plant, country, order_id)
        dlv = self.create_delivery(order_id)
        self.check_delivery(dlv, plant, country)
        self.delivery_pgi(dlv, plant)
        return {'order_id':order_id, 'dlv':dlv, 'mdoc':mdoc, 'plant':plant, 

This test would load stock, create a VMI sales through the CIF queue, check sales correctness, create and check the delivery and PGI the delivery by creating an external WMS IDOC. Then finally invoice is created by a batch job. The extension to more complex E2E with transfers between plants and multiple invoices is just a few more lines of code. Then for each E2E writing variants can be just one line of code.

    def vmi_sweden(self):
        return self.vmi_sales('P001',[123,321,112,221],'SE',routedays=14)

Because it is so quick to build variants, robots can test multiple plants, combinations of transfers between sequence of plants and final sales, multiple types of materials, partial deliveries, batch splits, etc.

Although the time investment in E2E test robots is higher, in my opinion it is well worth. Running hundreds or thousands of E2E tests is the best way to be sure we have a robust system or to know which areas need improvement.

Robots are good. We need more robot testing in SAP projects.

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