About Pick n Pay
Pick n Pay is a leading retailer in South Africa. Headquartered in Cape Town, Pick n Pay operates over 1,650 stores in 7 countries on the African continent. While new stores are opened every month, online shopping is an increasingly popular channel for Pick n Pay customers.
Transformative eCommerce Goals and Quality across Platforms and Devices
To drive smooth, cost-effective retail operations, Pick n Pay depends on enterprise information systems, including CRM, ERP, Enterprise Warehouse Management (EWM), and Point of Sales Data Transfer and Audit (POSDTA) solutions from SAP. Keeping these mission-critical systems working 24/7 requires thorough application testing, for which Pick n Pay had long used a test automation solution based on Micro Focus ALM/Quality Center, integrated with Jira to enable effective tracking of issues and defects for all stakeholders.
Leon van Niekerk, SQA Manager at Pick n Pay, says: “Our initial engagement with Micro Focus slashed our release cycles for retail solutions from five weeks to just two weeks – enabling 3,000 weekly tests across 9 main solution areas, including key capabilities such as disaster recovery. Combined with Micro Focus UFT One and UFT Mobile, the solution allows us to put our mobile apps through their paces in realistic user scenarios, contributing to outstanding experience for customers.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, retailers were compelled to rely more than ever on their digital channels to engage with customers.
Van Niekerk comments: “We saw a clear opportunity to make our existing digital storefront even faster and easier for customers to use both online and on mobile. To enable our digital transformation in this and other areas, we had started to adopt a DevOps strategy, which meant that we needed to refresh our existing tools for managing software development and testing.”
Enhanced Release Velocity with Senior-Level Visibility into Test Automation Results
Pick n Pay set out to improve its approach to application testing – especially for the in-demand e-commerce services. The company has rolled out a range of new digital offerings, including an “ASAP” service that offers ultrafast home grocery deliveries within as little as 60 minutes. To keep bringing new capabilities to market ahead of competitors, efficient development and testing have never been more important for the business.
The company’s three key goals were to roll out new releases faster, to release with no manual testing, and to enhance visibility of the results of its test cases. In the longer term, the objective is to shift from a waterfall approach to a DevOps methodology, allowing increased agility and greater responsiveness to new business imperatives.
“One of the primary goals was to make it easier for the senior management teams to see the results of our test cases faster and in greater detail,” comments van Niekerk. “To accelerate the transformation and enable smarter decision-making around software development, we decided to build on our existing Micro Focus solutions.”
ALM Octane for DevOps with Enhanced Visibility, Traceability and Velocity
In collaboration with its trusted business partner VicIT, Pick n Pay selected Micro Focus ALM Octane – a process-agnostic solution that empowers development and testing teams to shift from iterative approaches to agile and DevOps practices. Deployed as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, ALM Octane empowers Pick n Pay to make work more visible and traceable, promoting faster delivery and higher-quality output.
“Based on our years of positive experiences with Micro Focus solutions, selecting ALM Octane was an easy choice,” says van Niekerk. “We use enterprise solutions from SAP to drive our business, so it makes sense for us to choose enterprise-class solutions from Micro Focus to support our application development and testing. We see ALM Octane as a strategic platform for Pick n Pay, enabling us to overlay DevOps practices on top of our existing automation capabilities.”
Working with VicIT and Micro Focus, Pick n Pay assessed its existing processes and identified the changes required to enable the new approach. VicIT helped Pick n Pay to ensure that it could migrate its existing test cases from Micro Focus ALM/QC to the new ALM Octane solution.
“The support we received from VicIT and Micro Focus was extremely valuable,” recalls van Niekerk. “VicIT handled the lion’s share of the implementation work for us, which enabled us to continue business-as-usual development activities throughout the project. Micro Focus also played a key role, helping us map out integrations with Micro Focus Connect to keep all our solutions synchronized, and providing excellent training and documentation. The fact that we opted for a SaaS solution meant that the go-live portion of the project was seamless. Over a weekend, we migrated our existing test cases to ALM Octane, and within three months all our e-commerce test cases were in production.”
Shift-Left Test Automation with Collaboration and Integration across the Lifecycle
Today, automated test cases are managed in ALM Octane, which leverages Micro Focus Connect and the ALM Octane – Test Management plug-in for Jira to share the results back into Jira. Pick n Pay offers stakeholders a single view for manual and automated tests: including what’s been tested, what’s passed, and what’s failed.
“In the past, we tested code manually, and automated testing was only available at the end of a release cycle,” states van Niekerk. “Today, we’re bringing automation into the process earlier. When developers start creating local branches of code, we pull them into local automated tests and start to create the appropriate automated test scripts. When developers are ready to pull the releases from our Bamboo continuous integration and deployment tool, we run automated smoke tests to reveal any simple – but potentially severe – failures. The result is that now we can automate both regression and functional testing, which dramatically reduces the need for manual testing and code revision further downstream in the process.”
By ensuring stories and front-end development tasks are always synchronized in ALM Octane and Jira, Pick n Pay enables senior stakeholders to access all the test data they need to see from Jira, reducing friction in the reporting process. Van Niekerk adds: “The tight mapping between the two platforms also offers us a potentially valuable opportunity to move all project and issue tracking functions to ALM Octane in the future.”
Support for Waterfall and DevOps Methodologies in a Single Solution
With ALM Octane, Pick n Pay can continue to steadily transition from waterfall to DevOps methodologies while supporting both practices in the same solution.
“We know that full DevOps is a far-reaching philosophy that takes time to achieve, encompassing Plan/Govern, Build/Test, Release/ Deploy and Operate/Monitor. We wanted to start with the lowest-hanging fruit to build the confidence of the business in DevOps, so we decided to focus our efforts on the Build/Test elements first, and work towards continuous testing. After four months of work and very strong support from our senior management, we’ve now fully adopted DevOps methodologies within testing. Achieving full DevOps continues to be our long-term goal, but we are already seeing powerful benefits around processes standardization and simplification.”
Faster Time to Market While Boosting Quality and ROI-Improving Efficiencies
With ALM Octane at the heart of its automated testing processes, Pick n Pay is enhancing its ability to identify defects in code before applications get as far as the QA environment. By catching defects earlier in the process, the company saves considerable downstream time, effort and money. The solution is also helping the company to increase the frequency of its release cycles: from two weeks in the past to around once a week today. Crucially, these new capabilities are contributing to faster and higher-quality development, helping Pick n Pay to expand its thriving digital channel and stay ahead of rivals in developing and deploying innovative services for consumers.
“Today, we’re already starting to pick up defects at the local development stage, which means we’re spending less time in QA and achieving shorter cycle times overall,” confirms van Niekerk. “Thanks to ALM Octane, we can now maintain better visibility across projects, departments, methodologies than ever before. This is particularly important for applications where we engage external development resources. Our testing and development teams are now able to work together much more effectively: they can see while we’re building the test cases, how we’re going to test, what we’re looking for, how the automation will work, which contributes to better deliverables and a shorter time to market.”
Tools in Place for End-to-End Testing Today and into the Future
Looking ahead, Pick n Pay will continue to develop its Micro Focus platform. The company is planning to configure ALM Octane dashboards to track the quality of software – for example, by integrating data from Bamboo to compare the number of lines of code being deployed against the number of defects.
“We believe that it’s imperative to test from end-to-end, especially the places where your applications integrate with one another and with the other components in your environment,” states van Niekerk. “With Micro Focus UFT One and UFT Mobile, it’s easy to achieve that because the solutions are technology-agnostic. With many other vendors, you’re restricted to testing a particular sub-set of components.”
Van Niekerk concludes: “One of the best things about working with Micro Focus is how versatile their offerings are – we’ve never encountered a problem that we couldn’t find a solution for. In fact, their user base is so large that there’s a high chance someone will have experienced and solved the challenge already – the community and the support are outstanding.”