Why did StarBase’s move into Dynamics come about?
I recognised an emerging opportunity: Dynamics AX is starting to become a serious choice for medium-sized enterprises, but there are not the skills in the market needed to provide the kind of quality assurance that those larger implementations need. While Dynamics AX partners are scaling up their delivery organisations, they do not have the specialist testing capability and testing culture to do this.
At StarBase, we have been testing large ERP systems for many years. We saw that we could adapt our knowledge and experience from this to produce a right-sized solution for Dynamics AX implementations with a smart tool set to match.
Why is there a need for a dedicated Dynamics AX practice?
As you customise any ERP system, complexity increases and this introduces significant failure risk when you then try to scale it or upgrade it – this is as true of Dynamics AX as it is of Oracle or SAP.
While the Dynamics AX partners are responsible for certain aspects of quality assurance, the client must do its own acceptance testing. The client’s testing needs to cover not only whether the system functions as business users expect but also whether it can handle expected current and future transaction volumes without failing or slowing down. It’s important to realise that this is outside the scope of what Dynamics AX partners test.
Elsewhere in the IT world, clients widely use specialist testing providers to manage and execute elements of their assurance process. But in the Dynamics AX market, this is relatively new. Partly this is because until recently most Dynamics implementations were for smaller numbers of users. But with the number of large projects growing – in some cases running to thousands of users – the time is definitely right for a dedicated AX testing practice.
So what are you actually doing for your clients?
Some clients are very experienced at testing, but for many, management of their testing from inception through release to live brings huge value. We put in place smart testing strategies to identify and address what needs to be tested. Not having a proper structure around this can quickly lead to unmanageable situations.
Our philosophy is to automate testing wherever feasible and where it pays to do so. We have developed a framework in-house for automating Dynamics AX which has two benefits: it drastically cuts the time and cost of testing each upgrade or new release; and it enables clients to achieve much greater test coverage than they possibly could with manual testing.
Then there’s our traditional core capability in performance assurance. For larger Dynamics AX implementations, this can be critical to success: there’s the point just ahead of launch where we’re answering questions like “what will happen to our system’s responsiveness when the 5,000 users from our global locations are brought on-board?” And then there’s monitoring of system performance in live, identifying reasons why key business transactions are running slowly and working with the client, their Dynamics AX partner and with Microsoft to fix them.
In summary, mid-sized enterprises are now spending significant sums migrating core processes to Dynamics AX and they want to know that they will get the competitive advantage and cost savings they were expecting. We have a right-sized solution that can provide the assurance at the technology level that this will happen.