Sandbox tests – with 5 simple steps to the right decision

Sandbox - the simple method for introducing new systems and processes

Sandbox testing allows complex changes to be tested with a manageable effort before commissioning an elaborate implementation.

Children love to let their imagination run wild. While sand castles, caves or small cakes are being playfully created, the little explorers also learn a lot, experimenting with different shapes and materials.

The world of digital transformation (digitalization vs. digital transformation) is not much different. Managers who want to safely guide their companies through the choppy waters of the fourth industrial revolution must also constantly deal with new ideas, processes and systems.

Particularly in the case of extensive transformation projects, there is usually a lot at stake – high investment sums, the company’s reputation or even one’s own career. The risks and the associated uncertainties are correspondingly high.

With Sandbox Tests, you can easily and quickly reduce these uncertainties noticeably and accumulate valuable experience for your organization. Complex changes can be tested with a manageable effort before a costly implementation is commissioned.

Especially in the context of system introductions, such tests are suitable for gaining reliable insights into the potential and suitability of the future system at an early stage.

5 steps to your own sandbox tests

With these five steps, you can prepare and implement sandbox testing with relative ease.

1. Select the possible providers

Depending on the size of the company and the process area, there are usually several software providers that can theoretically provide suitable products.

Consider a set of business and technical criteria that can be used to make an initial selection. Try to identify the so-called knock-out criteria immediately, such as cloud vs. on-premises, critical business requirements, licensing costs, etc.

Internet research and initial discussions with the sales department of the respective providers usually provide the first insights and help you to specify the selection. Arrange the first appointments with providers you have classified as potential candidates.

2. Take advantage of the sales event

The market of software providers is highly competitive. For this reason, many providers take the opportunity and gladly present their products in a personal appointment.

Use such events to ask your questions and to get a deeper impression of the product and the employees of the potential partner. If you have a specific technical focus with your selection, a prior briefing of the vendor is quite useful.

Preparing such a briefing is at the same time a great opportunity to get the internal stakeholders on board. Try to include the requirements of affected departments in the briefing documents. Be mindful of scope, however, as initially it’s just a matter of getting acquainted with the vendor.

Ideally, you will have identified your favorite after the first meeting and already know exactly which provider you want to start the sandbox project with.

3. Prepare the sandbox thoroughly

As already mentioned, a sandbox test is a small project that must be prepared and executed accordingly. The central building blocks of preparation are the human resources and the requirements that will be tested in the sandbox project.

When selecting staff, you should not only focus on technical competencies, but also on mindsets and beliefs of those selected. Even if the project is small at the beginning, it is about nothing less than a profound change in the processes of your company. Therefore, employees must be fundamentally open to such changes and have the courage to implement them.

Define the business transactions typical of your value creation that are to be mapped in the new system. Document the requirements in a form that the provider can understand. Concentrate on the most important core elements of your business process.  Ensure a sensible balance between the level of detail and criticality of the requirements. The sandbox is not intended to test the implementation of the relevant topics down to the last detail! It is much more important that the project team focuses on the feasibility of the implementation and the degree of coverage of the process landscape.

Please take special care that the “historically grown” peculiarities of your processes are not included in the requirements.  The introduction of a new system is a great opportunity to cut the old ties and redesign the processes. Use this chance!

4. Stay focused

The total duration of the sandbox project should not exceed four to five weeks. That’s why it’s so important to plan the division of work between the project team and the vendor in detail even before the project starts.

You probably want to implement and try out as much as possible yourself in the sandbox environment?

Please note that in the case of mature IT products with extensive functionalities, it takes time before you can admire the first results on the monitor.

In such cases, it makes sense to have the implementation closely accompanied by the provider or even to have parts of the requirements completely implemented. Keep an open mind about best practice approaches. Experienced consultants may show you another way to redesign your processes.

It is important that you always keep your goal in mind and gather as much information as possible about whether the system fits your value creation from a business and technical point of view. Stay pragmatic and focused!

5. Evaluate the results

At the end of the day, you should have evaluated as many criteria as possible to make a well-considered and informed decision.

Try not to lose sight of the end user’s perspective when evaluating. Employees who will be working with the new system on a daily basis are ultimately the ones who will be most affected by the change.

By introducing a system that does not meet modern UX / UI requirements, you create additional hurdles and cause an enormous training effort. In these times of widespread smartphone use, you can only do one thing right – make your employees happy with an intuitive and well-designed system!

Just try it out!

Even if not all requirements have been tested and evaluated down to the last detail, after 4-5 weeks you will certainly have developed a feeling for whether the provider fits your company. You will probably have learned a lot of new things about your processes and assembled a quick-witted team – nice side effects of a sandbox!

In uncertain times of digital change, the Sandbox Method delivers a fast and resilient result that can not only prevent an expensive wrong decision, but also provides new food for thought for your organization.

Just give it a try!

Mein Name ist Alexander Pevzner. Ich bin Experte für Prozess- und Projektmanagement, Startup Gründer und leidenschaftlicher Ideenentwickler. Seit mehreren Jahren beschäftige ich mich mit der Modernisierung und Digitalisierung von Beschaffungsprozessen. Meine Mission ist das Phänomen „Digitale Transformation“ zu entmystifizieren. Ich bin davon überzeugt, dass man mit einfachen Mitteln große Veränderungen bewirken kann.

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