As a child, many of life's lessons were learned in the sandbox at school. It is where we learned to share and to be kind to others. It is where we learned that jumping from the top of the monkey bars sends horrible pains into your feet and many other invaluable lessons that we brought with us into adulthood. The sandbox was an incredible place for learning, but why? Because, in the sandbox, it was OK to make mistakes. Wouldn't it be nice in our adult world to have a place where it is safe to make mistakes? At work, I would have test colleagues whom I could practice on before conducting a difficult meeting with real people. At home, I would have test kids to make all of my mistakes on so that my poor first born could stop paving the way for his younger brother. I could even have a test audience to read this blog post before I put it out there for all the world to see. Wouldn't it be great to have an ERP sandbox where you could safely learn? Fortunately, you can.
After my last blog posting, How to Prepare for a Smooth ERP Software Update, I received a few questions about setting up an ERP sandbox. A large percentage of our customers are already doing this for various reasons, but there are still many out there who are not. Here are five great reasons to start:
1. Update Preparation: I will start here since this was the focus of my last blog. The short story is that having a test instance where users can play with the new version of software before they start using it in a live environment can be a big confidence booster and cut down on surprises after the fact. Read the longer version of my blog here.
2. Software Validation: Are you in the medical industry or another industry where software validation is required? Then a test database is a must have for you. Install the latest version of your manufacturing ERP software on the test server, validate processes and review and document any changes while still running the previously validated version in your live environment.
3. Implementation Phase: Whether you are implementing a new software system or just starting to use a new module within your current system, the sandbox is the perfect place to train users, define procedures, write process documents and conduct conference room pilots. With EnterpriseIQ, an export of your live database can be taken at any time and imported into the test/training environment, which will ensure the data matches your live system while learning new modules.
4. Beta or Custom Software Testing: At IQMS, our customers drive development. Through our online Community Server tool, users have the ability to submit Software Change Requests (SCRs) when they want to see further enhancements added to EnterpriseIQ. After changes are approved, coded and tested by our Quality Assurance Department, users can request to be a beta site. This allows for a preview of the changes to come in future releases and the ability for users to give feedback on the changes they requested or those requested by others. Sometimes, even with the best written request, details are lost in the translation. By becoming a beta user, a customer can ensure the change that was made matches the intention of the request.
5. What If Scenarios: Are you considering making a major change to how you use your ERP software? For EnterpriseIQ users, maybe you are considering turning on standard costing, but want to make sure everything is set up correctly first. Or, as I just saw posted on the EnterpriseIQ Yahoo Group recently, are you considering running autoload in scheduling for the first time? Are you installing your first software update? The instructions look straightforward, but you want to practice once before you do it live. Maybe you are thinking of changing your general ledger account structure. Would you feel better trying this in a controlled environment first? Again, a test server is just the answer.
For those of you who don't have a training/test instance installed, I would strongly suggest it for the reasons above and the peace of mind it brings. I am sure there are other ideas out there for how to use an ERP sandbox, so please share. Post a comment below and tell us your most creative use of your ERP training/test instance. I look forward to reading your ideas.
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