SharePoint Testing for Process Owners: First Steps

Ellen Van Aken

by Ellen van Aken on 2/19/2015

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Date Revised:

Applies to:
business process, software process, testing, training, usability

When I create a solution, I always casually ask the process owner to test it. Still, I have found that I often get change requests after the system has been running for some time. This has made me realize that process owners may not always know how to test properly.

Although SharePoint is pretty flexible, it can be hard to make changes afterward without compromising content and setup. (Ever tried replacing a Choice column by a Lookup column mid-process?) I would like to prevent the difficulties that after-the-fact changes can cause.

How should end users test?

I have looked for good websites that give guidance like “Software Testing for Dummies,” but I have been unable to find something sufficiently practical for this purpose. Remember, my users excel in other things than IT and testing. They do not need a lot of theory. They just want to get it over with as soon as possible.

So I thought I’d write down an average test scenario for the business users, based on the solutions I usually create. Please let me know if you have additional resources and ideas.

My usual SharePoint solutions

My solutions usually consists of a list and a few actions.

Someone enters values in the list, clicks OK. Then an Alert (or workflow email) is sent, and the recipient does something. There may be several cycles like this.

Or, a little more structured:

Data Entry > Save > Notification > Recipient takes action > Recipient enters or changes data > Save > Repeat from Notification if needed.

I will use two examples that I’ve described before:

  1. Software Cost Reductions. As you can see in Figure 1, this is a very simple one-step process: Data entry > Save > Notification > Recipient takes action.

  2. A simple survey directs stakeholders to identify need_SharePoint testing process
    Figure 1: Simple process: Survey with two questions.

  3. CRM in a TeamSite. As you see in Figure 2, this is a multistep process with different roles and several cycles of Notification > Recipient takes Action > Recipient enters or changes data > Save.

  4. You can gather all of the required information for a multi-step system_SharePoint testing process
    Figure 2: First part of a multistep process

Why don’t I do this for my users?

Oh I do. Before I ask the process owner to test, I have made sure that it works—at least from a functionality standpoint. But I know too much about SharePoint, so I generally know what to expect and where to look, even if the solution is not very intuitive. And I do not know the process as well as my process owner does, so I do not know which mistakes their colleagues may make. Only the process owner can give me that information.

But it is so much work!

Well that depends. Some processes are very simple to test and will take 15 minutes. The CRM example, however, was a complicated process and it took several optimization rounds and several weeks to be OK and clear for everyone. The business case was enormous, so all effort was worth it! And implementation went very smoothly because it was tested rigorously by several people.

So, if you want to know how I do it, here goes:

How to test your SharePoint solution

Please test your SharePoint solution properly to answer the following questions:

  • Have we understood and captured your needs correctly?
  • Will this help you with a better and smoother process?
  • Is it simple enough to be adopted quickly by your team?
  • Do you feel confident enough with the solution to introduce it to your users and own the solution?

Step 1. Check the process

Have the process description or flowchart ready. If you do not have a flowchart, you may want to write down the different steps schematically, from first entry to finalization. Note the different roles that you can have:

  • Software Cost Reductions: You will be an end user and the local IT manager
  • CRM: You will be customer service, the distribution department, the quality department, the transport organization (external), the business manager and treasury

Step 2. Sketch some common scenarios

Imagine some likely scenarios. For example:

  • What is the ideal process?
  • What are the different routes an item can take—e.g., approval, rejection, delegation, wait for more info, etc.
  • Are there any mistakes that are often made?

Be prepared to test all those scenarios.

Step 3. Set alerts

If this process depends on Alerts, make sure you have the proper Alert(s) set up, even if you will not be the recipient of the Alerts in the real situation. You will need to check to see if it all works OK before handing this process over to others.

Step 4: Plan time!

Plan time in your agenda to do this. You are expected to run the process several (2 to 5) times in its entirety by yourself. Please allow time to make notes about your findings and give feedback.

  • Software Requests: 15 minutes
  • CRM: Could take a day

OK, these were the preparations. In my next article, we will start to test properly!

Topic: Business Solutions

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