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May 11
An Effective, User-centric Approach to User Acceptance Testing

Our clients often express the logistical and practical challenges of UAT (User Acceptance Testing). These challenges include inaccessibility to business users due to competing priorities, long test cycles, lack of end user training on the application and lack of visibility into the process. A few months ago, I was engaged on a project to develop a UAT (User Acceptance Testing) strategy and support its execution. This client had a unique and refreshing approach to UAT and avoided some of the common obstacles.

The client planned to involve a large population of end-users in UAT testing. The effort was carried out in 6 waves, with each wave performing a week of training and testing.

The below are a few key attributes that contributed to the success of the weekly UAT waves:

  1. Secure commitment at the top.
    A common UAT challenge is that the testers have too many other priorities competing with the UAT tasks. Success is not going to be possible without leadership communicating loud and clear to the testers and their supervisors that UAT is the most important activity for that week.

    Our client’s leadership reinforced the importance of the testers’ participation in UAT in each weekly session by inviting executives to speak to the group about the impact that their involvement is making for the company. The result was a motivated and engaged community of business user testers.

  2. Get everyone together in one place, outside of the typical workplace.
    Communication is a major factor in ensuring that the testing is productive. While collaboration technologies are becoming more prevalent in today’s business environment, there is no replacement for a face-to-face conversation where feedback flows more freely and non-verbal cues aid in perceiving user experience. Co-locating everyone involved with the testing sessions reduced delays and interruptions that typically occur when clarifications or technical troubleshooting is required. Ancillary benefits of removing testers from their usual environment is that it that it reinforces the concept that leadership sees this as a priority, the testers are recognized for their participation and it encourages networking within the organization that typically would not occur.

    In addition to the tester participants, the client organizers also invited representatives from the following groups at the sessions:

    • Product owner and corporate trainers with in-depth knowledge of the application
    • IT directors and analysts who define requirements and test the application
    • Implementation and QA vendors
    • IT infrastructure and help desk to ensure network stability and security/access

    Collectively, the supporting staff was able to gather feedback effectively and remove impediments quickly, providing a positive experience for the testers.

  3. Bring the right equipment.

    While seemingly obvious, this is an aspect of testing that is often overlooked. UAT testers need devices that that are similar to what they have in their office and out in the field for testing. Are they usually using tablets on in the field? Do most of them have a desktop computer? The answer given is the device they should be using to perform testing activities. In addition to testing devices, equipment for collaboration and productivity should be available.

    Here is some of the equipment that was available during the sessions: Laptop docking stations, supplies for wireless and wired internet, projector, printers and easels (for white boarding).

  4. Set ground rules and expectations
    Communicating ground rules and expectations allowed our client organizers to maximize the efficiency of testers and resulted in a better experience for the entire group. Our client organizers asked the tester participants to put their devices away and postpone work tasks while executing testing. They were also respectful of the testers’ work obligations and ensured there were plenty of breaks to answer calls and emails. This allowed testers to focus on the task at hand.

    Expectations were also communicated prior to the commencement of testing. The organizers acknowledged that the software tested was not the release candidate and would have several iterations of revisions prior to going live. They also shared that while they would document ideas and enhancements, these items would be deferred to a later release. This resulted in testers having a positive impression of the state of the project and directed their focus on reporting critical business process issues.

  5. Plan, plan, plan
    An organized UAT event is a successful UAT event. Thorough planning shows that the organizers value the tester’s participation and it prompts the testers to demonstrate the same qualities. The client organizers defined a detailed agenda for each day of training and testing. In partnership with Protiviti, they defined test scenarios, test scripts and a process for tracking progress and defects. The agenda contained more activities than we anticipated could be done within the timeframe. When things didn’t go as planned, they easily switched tasks and the testers continued to be productive.

    Another success contributor in the process was the effort the client organizers made to test the application thoroughly prior to each round of UAT. While there were occasional unexpected blockers, the overall impression was that the application was stable and unnecessary pauses were avoided.

  6. Visualize progress, status and metrics
    A key UAT objective of our client’s leadership was ensuring full test coverage of functionality. Protiviti designed informative dashboards which tracked test execution progress, results and outstanding activities. The charts provided visibility to a wide audience and allowed leaders to make informed decisions.

    Dashboard Examples

Most importantly, the client organizers were generous in their appreciation of the testers. They shared their gratitude, introduced “rituals” and ice breakers, provided treats, took breaks to connect personally and even had elaborate birthday/ work anniversary celebrations in honor of some of the tester participants. As an observer of this process, it was a memorable experience for me and I imagine that it built a foundation of collaboration and between the Information Technology group and its business user community.

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