Learning SAP Testing: An Interview with Greg McNeil and Donavan Stephens

By PQATesting

September 10, 2019

Learning SAP Testing can be a daunting task for any tester who is unfamiliar with this long-standing enterprise resource planning system. Greg McNeil and Donavan Stephens recently took on the task of learning SAP Testing and working with it for a new project with PLATO Testing. We sat down to talk with both of them about the experience of learning SAP testing, and to get helpful tips from them for other testers who are looking to take it on.

Did either of you have any previous experience with SAP Testing?

Donavan: I didn’t have any experience outside of this project.
Greg: None whatsoever!

How is SAP involved in the project you are currently on?

Donavan: SAP is being used as a database for various aspects of this project such as expenses, device information at customer locations, and for order creation.

To help a reader who might want to learn SAP, can you take us through how you started? What worked well? What would you change in your approach, if you had to learn again?

Greg: If you can, I recommend delving into SAP and how it works in advance of when you might need it.  Check out which companies might be using something like SAP (hint: many!).  It is a thorough and complex system and I’m still learning something every week, but learning something about it in advance will help get you started on the right foot.

It was great to have a new learning experience. Fortunately for us, there are more than enough people here with SAP expertise to back us up and help us along in that process.

Donavan: SAP is a pretty big application and that requires learning in pieces. A good way to start would be by learning how to navigate through SAP. Learning the user interface will help make SAP less daunting. In this current project, we have people who have worked with SAP for over twenty years, and we rely on that knowledge pretty heavily.

"Asking 'x' person" may not be viable for everyone, but if you can, it is worth asking someone who might be able to help you understand SAP. There is knowledge everywhere. No one should fear asking questions as learning new skills and applications will ultimately make us better testers.


Would having knowledge of, or previous experience in, the business domain help or hinder someone in meeting a client’s SAP testing needs?

Donavan: Each business that uses SAP can set up their own custom transaction codes that may not exist in other businesses that also use SAP. These can be anything from shortcuts to functions that would otherwise take longer by having various fields in a single screen.

Greg: From my perspective, having the knowledge of the business domain makes it a lot easier to see what is happening, and what is coming from the client side to the SAP side of it. We do a lot of validation testing with SAP. So, once we do our validation testing on the client side, we go into SAP and check to see if that data actually made it into SAP, or if data that was supposed to come from SAP made it over to our client site.

Domain knowledge is definitely helpful in being able to compare and validate a client’s needs with what they’re looking for from SAP.

Do you have any hints or tricks that might come in handy for new learners? Or, do you have any tools that could help to make newcomers more effective?

Greg: Learn as much as you can before you start. SAP is a massive application, so much so, that I do not even think I will use all aspects of it while I am here. The more you know about it before you start, the better.

Donavan: Mine would be that there are dozens of icons in the user interface. You can mouse over them to get the name of the icon and Press F1 to get more information about the field, and potentially its function.

For tools, it is important to remember that there are hundreds, if not a couple thousand, transaction codes that let you access the many functions of SAP. You can set your most-used transaction codes as your favourites; this will make them much easier to access.

Greg: Also, having a good understanding of Excel and Word programs will come in handy when recording data, or files that can be mapped for easy access reading.

How does SAP compare to other testing you’ve done and learned so far?

Donavan: SAP has certainly been the largest application, in the terms of concept and functionality, in comparison to my previous project’s applications.

Greg: Ultimately, learning SAP will pay off. Knowing about SAP and having worked with it directly is a great addition to your resumé. It will be like having the ISTQB certification in that it is known worldwide.

Finally, to help anyone still on the fence and unsure if it is something they would be able to take on; what skills or personal attributes do you think would help someone to be a good at SAP testing?

Donavan: For SAP Testing, a good understanding of Query functions would help to leverage the various parameters required to pull information that a user would need to complete their task.

Greg: Yeah, I would say first having the willingness to learn. Like I said, there is a lot there that can be learned. Just for myself personally, when I started meeting all of the other testers on this project they were all very helpful, allowing me to absorb and adopt what I could, when I could. I am still going to the people with experience to learn and ask questions. I think the next most important lesson is to adapt to the challenges. And finally, I’d say attention to detail to be able to access what you need to access, and find what you need to find, is a huge component.

This is my first SAP project, but I know it is around the world with a lot of other companies using it; from my perspective it is massive. A willingness to learn SAP, not only from your client site but in general, will be useful for anyone who is in software testing. It is a big part of the skills I would like to have in order to grow as a tester. Having SAP knowledge is something everyone could benefite from because it is worldwide now. And with the S/4 Hana update coming, I feel like we’re at a new beginning for this ERP solution.


 

About Greg Mcneil

Greg McNeil is a Quality Assurance Analyst from Vancouver, BC and part of the PLATO Testing Vancouver team. He is from Northern BC belonging to the Nisga’a Nation. He has been working as a software tester for two and half years. Making the transition from the Hospitality Industry to IT, Greg was one of the first students to participate in the Indigenous software tester training course with PLATO Vancouver back in the fall of 2016. Since then, Greg has worked on a wide range of projects in industries ranging from restaurant and service, to oil & gas, transportation, and government.

 

About Donavan Stephens

Donavan Stephens is a Software Tester and is part of the PLATO Testing Vancouver team. He’s been working as a software tester since 2017 and was a student in the second Vancouver Indigenous software tester training course. Donavan, in his time with PLATO, has experience on projects working with SAP database merging and in industries such as oil & gas and housing.

 

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