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A Better Way to Test

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Michael Gutsche has a lot of problems on his hands—about 18,000 of them. That’s how many desktops operate in the Sisters of Mercy Health System, an 18-hospital organization based in St. Louis. Gutsche, executive director of security and client systems, needed to figure out a way to determine how modules of a new enterprise resource platform system from Lawson Software would work across all those computers.

On top of that, the health system wanted to standardize desktop configuration. Before a recent consolidation in IT services, Sisters of Mercy had a fragmented approach to desktop maintenance, leading to more than 40 variations of desktop configurations—a major stumbling block to the deployment of enterprise applications such as the Lawson ERP. “We already support 1,000 different applications,” says Gutsche. “It is very challenging to make sure the applications work well together.”

Although Gutsche’s crew had a testing method, it was a clumsy process at best. A technician would install an application, then a business application analyst would determine how well the particular application ran in a given configuration. The entire process took up to three weeks, with the critical hands-on analyst work taking a week.

To automate the testing, Sisters of Mary deployed software from two vendors, Mercury Quick Test and Surgient, at the beginning of the year. Together, the two products enabled more rapid, accurate testing, reducing the middle portion of the testing process from five days to four hours, Gutsche says. In essence, Mercury Quick Test sets up an automated script that can run a model workstation through its paces with different demands placed on a given application. Surgient, the second layer, schedules the testing, builds workstations “virtually,” and returns test results automatically. Intermediate steps that business analysts used to handle manually were embedded in the Surgient program, thus eliminating human intervention and ensuring consistent testing, Gutsche says.

Sisters of Mercy is midway through its Lawson rollout. Its supply chain component, which enables users to request supplies from their desktop, is now running across all 18 hospitals, Gutsche says. A human resources module is in the works, and is expected to take two more years. In the meantime, the health system hopes to have the desktop standardization effort complete by year’s end.

—Gary Baldwin