User Acceptance Testing gives an organization the chance to test its software (a new implementation, an upgrade or even a customization) by leveraging real-world examples and personnel who will be using the software routinely. It is often the final stage of the implementation process—conducted to ensure that system requirements meet business needs while allowing for issues (if any) to be fixed before the system goes live (which is the premise of effective application management service).
Unfortunately, user acceptance testing is often that part of an implementation project which records the maximum number of slips due to resource unavailability. End users required to conduct user acceptance testing tend to already be stretched to the limit in running their organization and so, find it difficult to afford the time to test new software. Once the project goes live, the issue expires with the project team typically going back to their day jobs and contractors being released.
Nevertheless, user acceptance testing is vital not only to the successful deployment of any new business application or software enhancement, but also in ensuring organizational efficiency and success. It mitigates risk, increases the ROI of an application, and ensures that your customers do not wind up being user acceptance testers by default.
User acceptance testing is often mistakenly considered a one-off step that needs to be carried out at the end of an implementation project. Truth is, it extends beyond your business applications project due to:
1. Additional phases
Your organization may have chosen to roll out a new business application or upgrade existing software in a phased manner. Phases can consist of different types of users, additional locations, different companies (for mergers, acquisitions or parent companies) and more. Separate, and additional, user acceptance testing needs to be planned for and conducted for each individual phase. The results need to be communicated to ensure that earlier phases benefit from later testing.
Developer testing or bug reporting during normal day-to-day operations may lead to a hotfix. These bug fixes need to be tested by end users to ensure they solve originally reported problems.
3. Releases or further modifications
Software organizations regularly release updates. Microsoft, for instance, produces General Distribution Releases (GDR) and Limited Distribution Releases (LDR). General distribution releases are usually heavily tested before release, whereas limited distribution releases fix issues within a specific problem area. However, both need to be tested within an organization to ensure they fit your real-life scenarios and help you achieve your business objectives.
Your organization may decide to make further modifications or customizations to your business application(s) to help handle unique business requirements. It is essential that end users test these using the same scenarios and ensure that modifications fit processes being carried out and objectives are met.
Dynamic organizations upgrade their software regularly to ensure they are following industry trends, keeping up with the latest technology and offering their customers the most advanced experience. Irrespective of which upgrade approach you take (vanilla, with significant customization, or somewhere in between), it is important that user acceptance testing is completed after a careful review of business requirements. An upgrade is the most important time for end users to ensure that the end result matches the original business requirements.
Where does that leave you?
I’d recommend having a regular team of end users that spend a part of their day job testing your systems. Whether that is ad-hoc, weekly, monthly, or projects based is up to you. It is important to remember that as you evolve as a business, your software needs to work for you—and the best way to avoid problems with functionality, automation, corrupt data and more is to have those closest to your business applications monitor and test them.