When you mention User Acceptance Testing, people sometimes get that deer-in-the-headlights look. UAT can be daunting – but we’ve got five steps that your organization can use to develop a testing plan that will help ensure a smooth and successful round of UAT.


Choose a testing tool that meets your needs

Take some time to evaluate different tools.  It’s easy to go overboard and choose a tool that is so complicated that users struggle to understand how to run their testing tasks – even with training.

Here are some things to take into consideration when selecting a UAT tool, so that you can find the one that’s best for your organization:

  • Will you need a tool that you can continue to use once UAT is complete to test other applications, or additional customizations?
  • Will you need a tool that provides metrics [eg – percentage passed versus failed]?
  • Is the tool intuitive enough for those writing the test cases as well as the users who will be testing? If not, have you built in UAT tool training into your implementation timeline and plan?


Write good test cases

Good UAT test cases will cover business processes enabled in the system. Each test case should include the test objective (what you are testing), test steps, and the expected outcome.

While you may need to write steps to ensure certain functionality is covered in testing, you’ll want to be sure your test cases are broad enough to allow users to test as if they were really working in the system. Giving testers the flexibility of testing the system as they will actually use it in their day-to-day will enable them to surface legitimate issues that might have otherwise gone unnoticed had they been following a more rigid test case.

Once you have decided on a format for test cases, put together documentation for test case writers to reference to ensure that test cases are consistent. This standardization will help your users and will provide a ready-made framework for user identified issues – allowing your development team to determine where breakdowns in the process occur for more accurate troubleshooting.


Select your testers

UAT is the point in the implementation process where you ask users to test business processes in a system that is probably unfamiliar to them. The end goal is that the many months of work designing, configuring, and customizing have resulted in a product that users will adopt – and selecting the right mix of testers will be critical to helping you get there.

Here are five common types of users:

  • Highly Motivated and Highly Skilled – This user is almost always a default tester. Tech savvy, they’re excited about new tooling capabilities and handle challenges at work in a positive manner.
  • Highly Motivated but Lacking Skills – This user is eager and quick to learn, but doesn’t have the technical skill needed.
  • Somewhat Motivated and Skilled– This user has the technical skill, but they need help being motivated to participate.  Incentives often help this user with adoption.
  • Somewhat Motivated but Lacking Skills– While it’s possible to motivate this user, they lack the skill needed to complete the task. They need a good amount of training.
  • Not Motivated or Skilled– This user doesn’t understand what user acceptance testing is. They lack basic computer skills and require lots of training and motivation.

If possible, choose testers who are highly motivated. Frequently, these are the kind of users who find real issues with the way the system has been configured for their processes, and are also a positive influence for adoption to their fellow users.

If you have a mix of users that must be involved but are low in motivation or skill, think about what you can you do to help them so that the acceptance of the system is not limited.

No matter which kind of user you select, match your tests to the tester so that they are testing what they find most familiar.


Train your testers

It’s easy to skip this step, but without proper training you’ll find that you burn a lot of time helping testers navigate the testing tool instead of actually testing.

  • System Training – Testers do not need a full end user training, but UAT will go much smoother if they are trained on the areas of the system they will be working in as they test.
  • Tool Training– Be sure that the testers are familiar with the testing tool you’ve chosen.
  • Pass/Fail Training – In order to ensure that bugs are validated and escalated for triage quickly, give your testers clear definitions about what constitutes a pass/fail. It is also recommended that you provide them with clear instructions for how to report a defect so that your development team has the information they need to reproduce the error for streamlined troubleshooting and fixing.
  • Reference Guide – Documentation that testers can reference with instructions on how to use the testing tool, pass/fail criteria, and an example of the preferred defect write-up format will help reduce questions during the testing process while providing a framework that everyone can refer back to should edge-case scenarios arise.


Communicate with your testers

  • Talk it up– Spend some time with your testers prior to the big day to find out if they have questions that can be answered before testing gets started. Are they excited, nervous, angry? Talking to them will give you time to find out how you can make this experience better for them.
  • Add incentives– Think of some ways you can motivate your testers and let them know ahead of time of any incentives. This can be anything from a free lunch to an additional day off for participating.
  • Clear their schedule– It’s important to make sure that your testers have a clear schedule for the UAT week. Where possible, help them to shift deadlines or transfer some tasks to others so that they’re able to focus on testing and not be distracted by potentially conflicting priorities. Do this in advance of UAT so that they do not feel stressed about participating.
  • Set expectations– Set expectations before testing begins. This should be part of your training, and should be reiterated as you lead up to the UAT session. If you will have multiple UAT sessions throughout an implementation, communicate thoroughly about what will be tested in each session that the tester is involved in.
    • If the UAT session comes at a point when not all configuration/customizations have been implemented and testers may run into something that does not function as they expect, let them know ahead of time that this may be the case so that they are not surprised by ‘broken’ functionality. The goal is to test only what is complete, but testers often go off-script to test the full breadth of a process. If they know ahead of time that the system is not completely implemented for testing, it will help to alleviate confusion and will prevent false ‘fails’ from being reported.
    • If data conversion is still in progress, communicate to the tester that they may not see certain records or types of data in this round of UAT. It’s very helpful to have this information listed for the testers during the UAT session.


User Acceptance Testing doesn't have to make you feel like a deer in the headlights - Zuri Group can help
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Susan Arrington is Zuri Group’s Director of Business Analysis (and resident UAT wizard) with 30 years of nonprofit experience. She understands the critical role that change management plays in ensuring project success, and strives to help her clients adopt system and business process changes in a positive manner. Susan finds the passion of nonprofits inspiring, and is personally involved with two nonprofits who have missions that are close to her own passions.


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