Step 6: Implement Testing Protocols and User Training

With every new HPXML program launch, there are a number of testing activities that need to occur to maximize the opportunity for success. You should not underestimate the need for testing, but assume at least two months of testing will be needed. Work with the software community to schedule each stage of testing and schedule time for your staff to focus on this activity. If you can set a clear plan for testing early on, and stick to your production schedule, this should allow you to get to market in a timely and organized manner.

There are four main testing roles, each of which requires a different group of testers:

HPXML File Testing

This is best completed between your program software provider and third-party software vendors that are importing data to your system. Ideally, your program software provider will supply third-party software vendors with a testing environment in which they can submit test files and receive direct validation error feedback. Activity will likely be between the IT experts from both your program software provider and the third-party software vendors.

Program Compliance Testing

Based on the validation protocols that you have set up, and in order to check program compliance, a group of testers that are intimately familiar with the program requirements will review files in a test environment. The goal is to see if files submitted by the third-party software vendor are being captured in your program management system and that the system is parsing the data out as expected. Usually, this is completed by someone from the implementation or QA team.

End-to-End Testing

Especially if you are using third-party modeling tools, it is important for testers from the program implementation team to run a series of test homes using each of the software systems as if they were a participating contractor. This is to check to see if data entered into each system is making it all the way to your program database as designed. In addition, you will be familiarizing yourself with the user experience and can identify potential problems before releasing to the contractor base.

User Testing

Once you have completed end-to-end testing, it is always good to identify a group of users (contractors or trade allies) who can try the system in a test environment or as a soft program launch. Using a limited number of contractors, you can identify any potential problems before full-scale release.

It is good to designate a program representative responsible for overseeing the testing process. This person should be equipped to make decisions regarding software requirements and functionality on behalf of the program. As things are discovered during the testing process, it will be important to determine what may need to be fixed before launch verses what can be addressed over time. This role will help ensure that the program requirements are being met, while keeping the project on track.

User Training and Contractor Roll Out

After testing is complete, you can launch your new HPXML-based systems. As in most implementation steps up to this point, it is extremely important to engage your contractor and trade ally networks to achieve success. When rolling out a new software environment, especially if multiple software products are being introduced into the market at the same time, programs should coordinate software training along with the software vendors. Each software vendor may have their own training practices, webinars, or other resources they prefer to use.


HPXML Contractor Training for Arizona Public Service (Source: EnergySavvy)

The trainings should include a clear understanding of how to download and upload HPXML files. This includes making transparent to all users the data collection requirements that you have determined as a part of your HPXML implementation.

Being very transparent about this in training can significantly reduce the tech support required for your program implementation team and software vendors, while also increasing contractor satisfaction.