What is a quality gate?
A quality gate is a milestone in an IT project that requires predefined criteria to be met before the project can proceed to a next phase. It is important that the demand and supply party are aligned on the expected quality levels. These responsibilities should be transparent and clear in advance.
A quality gate can represent the start or end of a testing phase and can be visualized by a checklist. This checklist is used during and at the end of a testing phase in an SAP project. It requires predefined criteria to be met before the project can proceed to the next testing phase. This checklist contains entry and exit criteria. The most important aspect of a quality gate is that all involved stakeholders agree that a certain testing phase is completed and that the project is ready for the next testing phase or go-live. Fill out the quality gate checklist with all stakeholders involved and discuss the status of the quality gate at the end of a testing phase. Besides using quality gates to start a particular testing phase, quality gates are also used for project phase transitions.
Quality gates in the Demand/ Supply model (hybrid)
In SAP projects quality gates are often used for the handover between solution-teams, the System integrator, the (business) testers, and internal and external parties, when starting a different testing phase in the project. This is called a Demand/Supply model.
When the demand party works according to a sequential IT delivery model, a project manager and a test manager are assigned to the project. The supplying party working with Scrum will have a Scrum team with a product owner, scrum master, and team members. This setup may lead to tensions between demand party and supply party, for example when the project manager has a clear end date of the project, but the Scrum team determines what to deliver for every individual sprint. This can be mitigated by having clear agreements about the handover between demand- and supply party and (later) between supply – and demand party.
At a general level, you could distinguish the goal of the demand and supply parties as follows:
- The demand party establishes what is required and validates if that has actually been delivered and whether they have actually achieved the pursued business value.
- The supply party evaluates the requirements and uses these to configure the SAP solution, working towards the definition of ready. The supply party delivers the IT system and demonstrates that what is demanded, is actually delivered.
In this situation there are two clear quality gates: one where the demand party hands over their requirements to the supply party, and one where the supply party delivers the IT system to the demand party (IT delivery models for SAP).
Example quality gate checklist
Some examples to include in a quality gate checklist to start a SAP User Acceptance Test (UAT):
- Are SAP business testers selected and are their schedules blocked for the UAT period?
- Are SAP business roles ready and available?
- Are SAP business roles and SAP logons mapped for the attending SAP business testers?
- Are the required interfaces for the SAP application available?
- Is the set-up of integration partner profiles ready and available?
- Is the test environment set up and available for the SAP business testers?
- Is the test environment filled with correct test data?
- Is availability and correctness of SAP master data validated?
- Is the in/ outbound communication verified for all interfaces?
- Are test cases for UAT available?
- Is there a physical room booked for the UAT?
- Is all the required hardware available?
- Is anomaly management procedure available, clear and set up?
- Are SAP business testers properly trained?
- Are developers available to fix anomalies found during UAT?
- Are all blocking problems from previous testing phases fixed or handed over as known error?
- Are work instructions and release notes available?
A quality gate is monitored during the testing phase and has a deadline that matches the end of one testing phase. If the quality gate is not completed at the deadline, it is important that the test manager takes the following actions:
- Discuss with the involved stakeholders which actions need to be completed to start the next testing phase or go-live.
- Set new actions and deadlines together with stakeholders and make sure the actions are assigned.
- Make sure that all required resources are available to complete the open actions to meet the quality gate.
- Inform all stakeholders about the delay in the next testing phase or end of the project and discuss and share how to move forward. This can impact the Go/No-go for the go-live of the project.