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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 27, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 23
Testing, Testing ... HopkinsOne Project Reaches a Milestone

Carolyn Gaskins and Kathi Strasser, members of the HopkinsOne project team, on the first day of testing phase one of the new enterprisewide business software.

By Glenn Small

Craig Hofferbert has worked on some pretty big software projects, including one at T. Rowe Price to combine customer statements on various investments and another for The Baltimore Sun to handle all of its circulation. "We built that one from scratch," he said.

But Hofferbert said nothing he's worked on can compare to HopkinsOne, the multiyear effort to modernize and upgrade Johns Hopkins' business systems, including such areas as finance, human resources, payroll, purchasing and grants/sponsored projects.

"I tell my staff, If we were only implementing a payroll system for the university and health system, that would be a huge project," said Hofferbert, the IT development project manager. "This is massive."

Last week, the work of Hofferbert's team of programmers and that of dozens of experts in various areas such as finance and payroll began undergoing serious evaluation as HopkinsOne staff kicked off the first phase of so-called integration testing.

The experts — called functional experts within HopkinsOne — have designed and configured individual "modules" for their particular areas. They've tested those alone, but now the question is how well they work together in the integrated system.

In the testing room in Mt. Washington, more than 60 people crowded in for the kickoff, as Sam's Club-sized boxes of candies and snacks stood by for emergency fuel.

"As I look out across the room, I see a lot of people who have been with the project for three years, as I have been," said Jayne Spence, the testing project manager. "Reaching today is quite a milestone."

Cele DiGiacomo, HopkinsOne project director for information technology, agreed. "I think it's a pretty big deal," she said. "If you look at the project from its inception, it's taken us three or four years to get to this point. It is a significant milestone — a lot of blood, sweat and tears."

The HopkinsOne project is using software developed by SAP, a German firm that is one of the world's leading business systems software companies, with more than 12 million users and over 100,000 installations. Among them are a number of higher education institutions, including Duke University and Baylor College of Medicine.

To reach this point of testing, the Hopkins-One project staff — half of whose members came from elsewhere at Johns Hopkins — spent thousands of hours with university and health system employees to document business processes and design how Hopkins will use the new system.

At one point early on in the testing, Debbie Jackson, the supply chain purchasing team lead, worked through a business scenario involving a staff member making an online purchase from within the system.

"We know what we blueprinted and what we designed," she said. "Now we see how it all works together."

In her example, Jackson included a vendor that was not approved, so when the user pushes the button to make the purchase, the system should say no — and that's what happened. "The purchase didn't go through, [and] that's what we wanted in this scenario," she said.

The functional experts configured most of the system, probably more than 80 percent, using default abilities within the software. But when the configurations wouldn't do the trick, they called on Hofferbert's team of programmers to create special system "objects." These objects — pieces of computer code — are part of what's being tested.

And now HopkinsOne staff await the testing results. As in any software deployment, they expect to encounter problems, but the point is to identify those and correct them.

"This is really going to give us a feel of how far we've come," said Hofferbert.

Between now and the end of March, when this cycle of testing is scheduled to end, the teams will be running through hundreds of processes that involve thousands of individual steps, and each step will be carefully documented and given either a pass or a fail, Spence said.

Through two and a half days of testing last week, 469 of the nearly 3,000 steps had been tested, and 98 percent had passed. "It's a good start," Spence said, acknowledging that there is still a long way to go. "We're excited to get going."


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