Friday, 30 November 2012

7 Major Challenges of Successful User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and How You Can Overcome These

What is User Acceptance Testing (UAT)?

UAT is final testing performed when functional, system and regression testing is completed. The main purpose of UAT is to validate the software against the business requirements. This validation is carried out by end users who are familiar with the business requirements. UAT, alpha and beta testing are different types of acceptance testing.

As user acceptance testing is the last testing carried out before the software goes live, obviously this is the last chance for the customer to test the software and measure if it's fit for the purpose.

UAT testing

Need of User Acceptance Testing

Developers and functional testers are technical people who validate the software against the functional specifications. They interpret the requirements according to their knowledge and develop/test the software (here is the importance of domain knowledge). This software is complete according to the functional specifications but there are some business requirements and processes which are known to end users only are either missed to communicate or misinterpreted. UAT plays an important role in validating if all the business requirements are fulfilled or not before releasing software for the market use. Use of live data and real use cases make UAT testing an important part of the release cycle.

Many businesses who suffered big losses due to post-release issues know the importance of successful UAT. The cost of fixing defects after release is many times greater than fixing it before.

Who should be part of the UAT team?

Mainly end users of the software should be involved in UAT. The team can be comprised of beta testers or customer should select UAT members internally from every group of organization so that each and every user role can be tested.

7 major challenges of UAT and mitigation plan to overcome these

It doesn't matter if you are part of a billion dollar release or a startup team, you should overcome these UAT challenges for delivering successful software for the end user.

1) UAT environment setup and deployment process

Carrying out UAT on same environment used by functional test team will certainly end up overlooking real world use cases. Also crucial testing activities like performance testing can't be carried out on test environment with incomplete test data. Separate production like environment should be setup for UAT.

Once the UAT environment is separated from test environment you need to control the release cycle effectively. Uncontrolled release cycle may leads to different software versions on test and UAT environment. Valuable UAT time is wasted by not testing software on latest version. Not to mention the time required for issue tracking on incorrect software version.

2) UAT test planning

UAT should be planned with clear acceptance test plan in requirement analysis and design phase. In strategy planning, set of real world use cases should be identified for execution. It is very important to define test objectives for UAT testing as complete test execution for large application is not possible in UAT phase. Testing should be carried out by prioritizing critical business objectives first.

UAT is carried out at the end of the testing cycle. Obviously it is the most critical period for the software release. Delay in any of the previous stages of development and testing eat up UAT time. Improper test planning, in worst cases, leads to overlap between system testing and UAT. Due to less time for UAT and pressure to meet deadlines, software is deployed to UAT environment even though functional testing is not completed. UAT goals can't be achieved in such situations.

UAT test plan (template) should be prepared and communicated to team well before beginning UAT. This will help them for test planning, writing test cases and test scripts and creating UAT environment.

3) Handling new business requirements as incidents/defects

Ambiguities in requirements get caught in UAT phase. UAT testers find issues arising due to ambiguous requirements (by looking at the complete UI which wasn't available during requirement gathering phase) and log it as a defect. Customer expects these to be fixed in current release without considering the time for change requests. If timely decision is not taken by project management on these last-minute changes this could lead to the release failure.

4) Unskilled testers or testers without business knowledge

If there is no permanent UAT test team, company select UAT staff from various internal departments. Even if this staff is well familiar with business needs, if they are not trained for the new requirements being developed they can't perform effective UAT. Also non-technical business team might face many technical difficulties executing UAT test cases. Also assigning testers at the end of the UAT cycle do not add any value to the project. Little time to train UAT staff can significantly increase the chances of UAT success.

5) Improper Communication channel

Communication between remote development, testing and UAT team is more difficult. Email communication is often very difficult when you have an offshore tech team. A small ambiguity in incident reports can delay its fix for a day. Proper planning and effective communication are critical to effective team collaboration. Project teams should use web based tool to log defects and questions. This will help to distribute work load evenly and avoid reporting duplicate issues.

6) Asking functional test team to perform UAT

There is no worse situation than asking functional test team to perform UAT. Customers offload their responsibility to test team due to lack of resources. The whole purpose of UAT gets compromised in such cases. Once the software goes live, end users will quickly spot the issues which are not considered as real world scenarios by functional testers. Solution to this is to assign UAT to dedicated and skilled testers having business knowledge.

7) The blame game

Sometimes business users just try to find reasons to reject the software. It might be their selfdom to show how superior they are or blame the development and testing team to get respect in business team. This is very rare but happens in teams with internal politics. It's very difficult to deal with such situations. Building positive relationship with business team would definitely help to avoid blame game.

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