ABAP Programming approach to writing testable code

No matter how good our code is, if we cannot test it properly, it is a tedious task to modify or enhance it. This situation results in problems for both users and developers.


Because requirements frequently change during the development process, you constantly need to modify the code. Sometimes the requirement changes might involve a complete change in the process.

Writing testable code is always more difficult than actually testing your code. However, in the long run, testable code makes life easier for the developer than the one who is testing the code.

You may face the following situations:

  • You are asked to change your own code. You might like this idea, but you don’t remember the details of the code that you originally wrote.
  • You have to change someone else’s code. This situation is not ideal, but it is common.

How can you be sure that you won’t break anything after implementing changes if you cannot test the code? The traditional approaches that we’ve seen over the years include the following:

  • Write some tests in the development environment, and check that there are no dumps.
  • Transfer to the quality testing environment, and test again.
  • Deliver to the functional consultant to let them test at their end.
  • Release to the user for User Acceptance Testing (UAT).

When someone encounters an issue with the code, we’re likely to blame a difference in test data. Even if it’s true, the real issue is that the software is poorly written and not robust enough. You cannot test it without real data. In other words, the program has dependencies, and you can’t test it.

Test-driven development and ABAP

Test-driven development (TDD) solves these issues by enabling you to deliver high-quality software and products.

TDD is a software development process that relies on the repetition of a very short development cycle: requirements turn into very specific test cases, then the software is improved to pass only the new tests. (Wikipedia)

In ABAP, all of the code gets converted into an ABAP Unit, which is nothing more than a specific piece of code. Testing ABAP units is not necessarily a purely technical process performed by the developers. Because you don’t need a developer key to run unit tests for an ABAP program, anyone with the proper authorization to display programs or classes should be able to run the tests. As a best practice, involve our business experts and functional consultants in testing whenever you can.

Behavior-driven development

Behavior-driven development (BDD) is a software development process that emerged from TDD. BDD combines the general techniques and principles of TDD with ideas from domain-driven design and object-oriented analysis and design to provide software development and management teams with shared tools and a shared process to collaborate on software development. (Wikipedia)

BDD simplifies testing methods, so the methods labeled for testing in an ABAP unit should have descriptions that make sense to a developer, business analyst, and users. You can achieve this by setting each test method so that it fulfills the phrase IT SHOULD.

Then inside of this method, you create three helper methods by using the following pattern:

  • GIVEN: Include inputs or initial conditions that the program receives.
  • WHEN: Describe the activities that you are going to test.
  • THEN: Specify the success and failure outcomes.

Sample refactored test class

The following code sample, which uses dummy code to define the process, is a sample refactored test class for the zcl_instruments class.

class lcl_test_class definition deferred.

"Allow access to private components within the class

class zcl_instruments definition local friends lcl_test_class.

class lcl_test_class definition final for testing
  duration short
  risk level harmless.

  private section.

    types: ty_guitars type standard table of zguitars with empty key.

    data: mo_class_under_test type ref to zcl_instruments,
	   guitar_instance type ref to zcl_guitar,
             guitars type ty_guitars.
	   guitar_to_add type ref to zcl_guitar.
	   guitar_to_search type ref to zcl_guitar.
	   mo_exception_raised type abap_bool.
	   found_guitars type zcl_instruments=>guitars_tab.

      "User Acceptance tests:

      "IT SHOULD....................
      add_guitar_to_instruments for testing,
      add_duplicate_and_get_error for testing,
      search_within_the_instruments for testing,

      "GIVEN ..................................................

      "WHEN ..................................................

      "THEN ..................................................

      "Other helper methods
      load_mockups returning value(re_guitars) type ty_guitars.


You should include IT SHOULD methods that come right out of the functional specification document.

In this example, the zcl_instruments class should be able to:

  • Add guitars to instruments.
  • Restrict duplicity.
  • Search any specific guitar in instruments.

The following sample shows an implementation of the add_guitar_to_instruments() method:

  method add_guitar_to_instruments.

    given_guitar_attribs_entered ().

    when_guitar_is_added ().

    then_instruments_has_guitar ().


To add a guitar to the instruments, you start with some guitar attributes, add the guitar to instruments, and check if is successfully added. If there’s no green light when you run a test for this method, that indicates that something is wrong with this part of the process.

The following given_guitar_attribs_entered() method just initializes one guitar object.

  method given_guitar_attribs_entered.

  data: guitar_spec_attributes type zcl_guitar_spec=>ty_guitar_attributes.

    guitar_spec_attributes-builder = zcl_enum_builder=>fender.
    guitar_spec_attributes-model    = 'XYZ'.
    guitar_spec_attributes-type     = zcl_enum_guit_type=>electric.
    guitar_spec_attributes-backwood = zcl_enum_wood=>maple.
    guitar_spec_attributes-topwood = zcl_enum_wood=>maple.

    data(guitar_spec) = new zcl_guitar_spec (guitar_spec_attributes).

    data(guitar_record) = value zcl_guitar=>ty_guitar_attributes (serialnumber = 'ABC0001'
                                                                   price = '1000'
                                                                   specs = guitar_spec).
    guitar_to_add = new zcl_guitar (guitar_record).


The WHEN part of the BDD description, from the class under test, enables you to test the method.

  method when_guitar_is_added.

        mo_class_under_test->add_guitar (guitar_to_add).
      catch zcx_guitar.


Finally, you can check that the object instruments have a guitar by using the following method. This check represents the helper method for the Then part of BDD.

method then_instruments_has_guitar.

    data(guitar) = mo_class_under_test->guitars [ serial_number = 'ABC0001'].

    cl_abap_unit_assert=>assert_not_initial (act = guitar
                                             msg = 'Guitar is not in instruments').



This blog highlights the importance of writing testable code and shows how to do that. By focusing on test-driven development, you can adapt your programming style to include testable code. As a result, you end up with clean, easy to maintain, and reusable code. Writing testable code helps you to become a better developer. Sometimes, when you have tighter delivery deadlines, it is easy to ignore the testability aspects of the code, and by doing so, you might save time. However, in the long run, you end up spending more time and resources fixing bugs. Therefore, by adopting the test-driven development concepts described here, you not only make your own life easier, but you also help the next developer who works on your code.

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Akash Jain

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