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What Is User Acceptance Testing (UAT)? How to Gather User Insights

July 21, 2022

user acceptance testing
Launching software without testing is like shooting an arrow in the dark.
 
To get useful insights into how your software will be perceived, you need to conduct proper user testing. A software development cycle is incomplete without users' voice.
 

Business users test software to analyze its performance in real-world situations and validate changes to meet business needs. Subjecting your modified application to real-world testing ensures that all changes support the business and its purpose. UAT tests identify issues that would go unnoticed in other unit tests.

Organizations test all possible scenarios to ensure the changes match the expected outcomes and fit the business needs. Software can appear fully functional from a technical perspective and still fail because of unclear requirements or communication.

User acceptance testing safeguards against unfinished, ineffective, or faulty software products before the rollout. End users test a product and collaborate with stakeholders such as business owners, business analysts, and development and testing teams to provide relevant feedback. UAT testing puts user needs at the center of software development and release.

While UAT is widely accepted as a necessary stage of introducing change, it can be time-consuming and difficult to realize its full potential. This is mainly due to over-reliance on manual work, spreadsheets, and other methods that hinder collaboration and offer little to no transparency.

Choosing the right testing solution can take the stress out of testing and help your organization stay ahead of the curve.

Why is user acceptance testing important?

User acceptance testing is one of the most effective ways to wrap up a software development lifecycle and has some notable benefits.

  • It confirms that the changes implemented will not affect regular business.
  • Business users are critical to the success of the testing process and a testament that the business has what it needs to function post-change.
  • User acceptance testing verifies that each new code in each virtual deployment model appears effective in a real environment and for ineffective or flawed software products.
  • When done properly, it accurately reflects user requirements, identifying issues that would go unnoticed during integration or unit testing.
  • UAT provides a macro-level view of a system.

Who performs user acceptance testing?

Business users perform UAT as they know exactly what the software change or the finished application should look like in daily practice. Key business users add value with their business expertise at all phases of the UAT cycle, including planning, execution, and evaluation. 

Additionally, application experts such as business analysts and software testing professionals run UAT before go-live and further report on their progress and results for evaluation. They oversee the technical side of software development and play an important role in designing UAT cycles and interpreting the results.

However, involving multiple users in testing can complicate the process. With the right testing management solution, project and test managers can easily assign different steps of a single business process to multiple functional experts or key users, who can then run the tests in an automated workflow.

Coordination is also crucial to ensure smooth workflows and the handover of test tasks between important users. Globally distributed testers can't always tell or are absent when it's their "turn".

This often leads to delays and inefficiencies and impacts the testing experience. Testing management tools help even here. They uncover errors with test records for effortless reproduction. This improves communication and saves time.

Built-in collaboration tools can eliminate idle time, reduce workload bottlenecks, and simplify workflows by effortlessly forwarding test steps to the user.

While engaging key users is crucial, test managers struggle to involve them in the process. UAT is rarely high on their priority list. Business users have other responsibilities and deliverables besides testing. More so, they were not hired or trained to test.

They may also lack technical skills and find the testing process tedious. Business users inevitably have working hours, core tasks, and deliverables, leaving them less motivated to test.

How to prepare for user acceptance testing

User acceptance testing validates changes you make to your software stack so that business is unhindered and continues to run as usual. Successful UAT testing requires careful planning, scoping, and execution.

Planning 

Start by gathering the information needed to create a comprehensive test. A dedicated testing application instead of spreadsheets provides qualitative data and reportable metrics. Using spreadsheets for testing presents many challenges for test managers and testers.

Planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the UAT results requires constant input from multiple stakeholders. Test managers try to meet this challenge with Excel spreadsheets that serve as planning and evaluation tools. However, spreadsheets are not an application dedicated to testing.

Opt for a dedicated testing management solution that reports and monitors project progress in real time, including standard reports that track tests and defects by cycle and business process.

Scoping  

Not all business processes need to be tested, so you must define your project’s scope beforehand. What to test is the million dollar question. Too much to test, and you run out of time. Too little, and you risk not testing enough. Input from key business users is essential when determining the scope of your project. 

However, it’s troublesome to repeatedly ask your users to list the most critical business processes to be tested and the problems that arise for each new feature. When opting for a UAT management solution, focus on key user adoption. The solution should be intuitive, easy to use, and offer easy onboarding that accelerates self-directed learning.

A testing management solution can also automatically record tests for documentation and play them back for scripting. Eliminating the overhead associated with realigning each project encourages users to focus on testing activities and increases productivity.

Execution, evaluation, and monitoring 

An automated execution process helps troubleshoot and decide whether it’s possible to proceed with production. Most businesses think of “automation” first to make testing easier. The formula for user acceptance testing has not yet been fully cracked. Due to the high reliance on visual user interface elements, most companies do not automate UAT. 

However, aspects of UAT related to workflows, business processes, collaboration, and error management can certainly be automated. Automated execution processes offer the ease and convenience of automation and the precision and understanding of manual testing.

UAT also needs to be managed along with your entire testing project so you can see the complete picture from kickoff to change delivery.

How to perform user acceptance testing

Business users are typically experts in their field. However, business processes may run across different disciplines and departments. While users are only allowed to test their steps in the whole process, as a test manager, you simply cannot allow UAT to run as unit testing.

End users are also consumers living in a digitized world. They’re familiar with cloud computing, exemplifying simplification, collaboration, and communication. Your UAT solution shouldn't lag. Getting started needs to be intuitive, and training shouldn't require more effort than adapting to a new device.

A business process-centric approach means that UAT cycles are validated with an uncompromising holistic business process awareness. A test management solution should support this model with business process-centric management, monitoring throughout the test lifecycle, and full transparency at every stage – planning, execution, and evaluation. 

A testing solution must provide test managers and business owners with complete visibility into the overall quality and status of business processes. When rolling out a trial solution, it's essential to ensure a smooth user experience that drives adoption.

When conducting user acceptance testing, make sure you’re prepared with the following:

  • Product analysis requirements and key deliverables
  • Suitable timelines formed by a dedicated UAT team
  • End-user testing tools and onboard testers
  • Output information
  • Time to fix bugs, retest, and sign off

System testing vs. user acceptance testing

Testers and developers perform system tests between the components and interactions with different system parts such as hardware, software, and interfaces. On the other hand, end users and customers perform user acceptance tests.

Individual units must first be integrated into separate builds in system testing, while user acceptance testing examines the entire design. System testing requires test cases to be written using appropriate software based on the software requirements. Errors like UI, data flow, and interface crop up in this test.

User acceptance testing challenges

In a user acceptance test, determining who conducts it is crucial. Some organizations settle for a limited environment, where many issues slip into production due to a lack of resources to perform user acceptance testing. The purpose of the UAT test is compromised in such cases. 

Business users are not IT professionals. As discussed earlier, they need to test in addition to their day-to-day work, so the process needs to be intuitive, simple, and fast.

Key users need to document each step using the cut and paste method. It’s time-consuming and painful to paste hundreds of screenshot links into a spreadsheet. Moreover, reporting becomes an even greater challenge when a defect is found. This challenge becomes twofold when reported back to developers who may be unable to fix defects.

Setting timeframes for UAT testing is a stumbling block for many organizations. Ambiguous requirements show up during the UAT, and if the requirements aren’t well-defined, it’s up to the tester to check the box for specific requirements. 

Testers wouldn’t have to waste time with screenshots and step-by-step documentation when armed with the right tool. Imagine a test management solution where documentation is part of the actual test process, effortlessly documenting each test execution.

User acceptance testing best practices

UAT comes with many challenges, but it's a great way to learn more about your application's functionality and troubleshoot problems before it goes live. Here are a few best practices to make the process easy and effective.

  • Identify the audience: UAT workflows often feel like a blindfolded relay race. The handover has so many dependencies users are unaware of. Identifying the target audience is critical to determining end-user problems and needs. Choosing the right business users for UAT is vital as their feedback helps track changes and improve the software significantly.
  • Support key users: Help your key users execute their steps without dependencies, even in a multi-tester business process with embedded workflow automation capabilities within the business process. You can set a "Reset" notification for testers to update when a bug is fixed and a "Close" notification for developers when a retest is successful.
  • Declare testing objectives: Declare the objectives of what you want to verify and validate, including the scope. Smart testing determines what gets tested and what doesn't. Eliminate the hassle of realigning each project and encourage critical users to focus on testing activities and increase productivity. 
  • Automate workflows: Automated record-and-play reduces back-and-forth between developers and testers and provides a record of steps for test reproducibility. In addition, it has the added value that the documentation is always audit-proof and ensures compliance with all internal and external quality standards. Automating workflow management and other process orchestration activities can reduce global testing efforts. Features such as automated sequencing of manual tests, handoff of test tasks between key users, progress monitoring, and centralized defect management accelerate the entire execution process. Most defects are typically discovered during the UAT phase of a project. This makes defect tracking and management a mission-critical function.
  • System-wide defects solutions: Defect inflation occurs when multiple bugs are associated with the same objects or problem. System-wide fault resolution automates fault monitoring and management. This allows you to quickly determine the impact of a single defect on your project and define the degree of impact on your testing activities. 
  • Smart defect management: It includes centralized monitoring and resolution of defects and the business processes they affect to identify impacted tests and block or warn testers until the primary defect is resolved.
  • Business objective confirmation: Sign-off of UAT before going live. The sign-off approval indicates that the change meets business requirements and is ready for deployment.

Make smart choices

Choosing your test solution wisely simplifies UAT cycles for everyone involved. This ultimately saves resources and ensures quality results. The goal is to ensure a better return on investment (ROI), fewer bottlenecks, and full visibility into the testing project. 

Incorporate the best practices into your UAT management tool to simplify your UAT cycles. This facilitates better user adoption and provides complete visibility into your cross-organizational, multi-geographic testing project.

After conducting sufficient UAT and functional testing, you can have smooth rollouts. Ensure your users are bought in, bugs are fixed early, and testing is efficient in future roadmaps.

Beta tests are another great way to gather user feedback on software before it's released to the public. Learn more about beta testing and the steps you need to follow to get valuable feedback.

software testing tools
Monitor and analyze your testing efforts

Use software testing tools to assess software quality, make improvements, and easily collaborate with other testers.

software testing tools
Monitor and analyze your testing efforts

Use software testing tools to assess software quality, make improvements, and easily collaborate with other testers.

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