If your company makes software or other systems that must produce specific outcomes for clients and customers, it goes without saying that your success is defined by your ability to produce those results.
Create platforms that fall short of expectations and you’ll soon begin losing business to the competition. Your reputation will also suffer greatly in the process, making it that much harder to rebuild.
This is why UAT testing is such an important process to companies like yours. When changes must be made, you cannot risk leaving success to chance. Instead, you need a reliable process to make the changes your market requires.
What Is UAT Testing?
User acceptance testing (UAT) is the final stage of any software development life cycle. This is when actual users test the software to see if it is able to carry out the required tasks it was designed to address in real-world situations according to the client’s or customers’ specifications.
The main goal of the UAT testers is to validate the changes that were requested against the original requirement.
Who Conducts UAT Testing?
Functional experts and business users are generally both required to participate when carrying out UAT testing.
Obviously, the former party is the authority when it comes to the technical side of software development. However, business users are still absolutely critical to a successful UAT test. After all, they’re the only ones who know exactly what the change outcome must look like. The software can be completely functional from a technical standpoint and still fail because it falls short of the change requirement’s standards.
This is especially true when packaged application testing is being done. During this UAT testing, end users and subject matter experts are necessary for determining whether or not implementing the requested change produced the desired result without negatively affecting any other processes.
For example, carrying out a technical testing of software could look to confirm that a new purchase order has been improved to include a new subfield of Internet orders. Utilizing an approach that focuses on the business process would test to ensure that the same purchase order functions the same way throughout all of the purchase-to-pay process.
The new format for the purchase order should function properly, from its initial creation all the way through to approval, receipt and invoice creation, and, finally, accounting.
Why Is UAT Testing Important?
Without conducting proper UAT testing, requested changes may appear as though they have been completed when, in reality, there is still work that needs to be done. The only way this problem will then be caught is after the platform has been released and clients/customers discover it on their own.
This will cost the software development company both in terms of having to go back to conduct a more thorough UAT test and also in reputation. Customers will remember that the software development company released an erroneous platform.
In the end, the true importance of UAT testing can be summed up by the question, “Have we produced the result the client/customers want?” Thorough UAT testing is the only way to find out.
That being said, not all UAT tests are created equal.
Thorough, well-thought-out, well-designed UAT tests are important for accurately capturing user requirements in a direct, verifiable way.
High-quality tests are also essential for identifying problems that would otherwise go unnoticed by integration or unit tests.
Finally, they provide a macro-level overview of how complete the system is.
Nonetheless, to some, user acceptance testing may seem redundant. After all, as we’re about to cover, it only occurs after development. That means it takes place after the platform in question has already been through Unit, Integration, and System tests.
Acceptance tests still remain an important part of the software development life cycle, though.
For one thing, the features provided come from developers based solely on their own understanding. That leaves ample room for errors.
Similarly, UAT tests are also a good safeguard against the kinds of problems that occur when change requirements aren’t effectively communicated to developers. They may think they followed these requirements to the letter, but as we touched on earlier, you’d only realize if they made an error after it was released to your customers or client.
This is an especially common problem when these requirements change while a project is underway. Sometimes, news of these changes doesn’t reach the developers who need to implement to them.
In Which Environment Is UAT Testing Done?
Ideally, your software development company should have three environments:
Your UAT test processes should occur during the second environment, before your software is released to your customers or client.
The 5 Types of UAT Testing
The specifics of the software test you decide to run will depend on the type of software you’re developing.
However, most companies utilize one of the following types of UAT testing.
1. Alpha and Beta Testing
Usually, alpha testing is carried out during development. It is generally the responsibility of the company’s internal staff members and has to be completed long before the platform is provided to external testers, much less customers.
Potential user groups may be used for alpha testing, but it’s still done within the development environment.
In any case, alpha testers are responsible for collecting feedback and providing it to the development team that will then address certain issues and improve the product’s overall usability.
The other half of this type of UAT testing, beta testing, is commonly referred to as “field testing.” In contrast, it occurs solely in the customers’ environments. It requires extensive testing by those who utilize the system in their own environments.
As with alpha testers, these customers are required to provide feedback, which will be used to improve the product.
Alpha and beta testing always occurs before the widespread release of a platform to all customers.
2. Contract Acceptance Testing
With contract acceptance testing, a platform is tested against specific criteria, which were predefined and outlined in the client’s contract.
Before the contract is agreed upon, though, the project team is responsible for defining the relevant specifications for acceptance.
3. Regulation Acceptance Testing
Regulation acceptance testing is also referred to as “compliance acceptance testing.” As the name suggests, this type of UAT testing looks at whether or not software is in compliance with certain regulations. Those regulations could refer to governmental, legal, or both.
4. Operational Acceptance Testing
This is another test that comes with alternative names. You may hear it called “production acceptance testing” or “operational readiness testing.”
All of these names refer to test cases that confirm there are workflows in place to ensure the software or system can actually be used.
Some examples of these workflows could include user training, backup plans, security checks, and maintenance processes.
5. Black Box Testing
Black box testing is frequently categorized as functional testing, which looks at a platform’s specific requirements and lacks the type of user component that’s essential to UAT testing.
However, to some extent, black box testing can be categorized as a type of user acceptance test, as well. It certainly shares the same principles involved.
This type of testing examines certain functionalities, but it does so without allowing testers to see the software’s internal code structure. They only know the requirements which must be met.
Hence, the name “black box” describes this anonymity. An input is provided and an output is given, but testers don’t know anything about the intermediary code involved. In other words, they know what has to be done. They just don’t know how.
What Are the Frameworks of UAT Testing?
The right framework is essential to the success of your UAT tests.
Fortunately, the four involved are fairly straightforward.
1. Knowledge Gathering for Test Plan Creation
UAT test planning should always begin by gathering the information required to create a comprehensive test, one that stands the best chance of successfully testing for the requested changes.
In order to gather this kind of information, a software development company needs:
- The list of business processes they must test
- The sequence of actions/steps that must be tested at a high level (e.g. purchase-to-pay business processes contain the following actions: → Create Purchase Requisition → Create Purchase Order → Release Purchase Order → Goods Movement → Invoice Verification)
- Guidelines that focus on which data to use, the intended results, and the team responsible for testing it
Generally, the entire process requires a large degree of collaboration between the integration manager, the different functional leads, and the relevant business process owners.
2. Allocation of Business Steps
We’ll elaborate on this in the next section, but you should never begin UAT testing until you’ve defined the scope of your project. Until you do, it will be impossible to manage. You’ll also find that if you don’t define the scope of your project, it tends to balloon pretty quickly. It becomes difficult to decide what is necessary to the success of your test and what can be safely ignored.
3. UAT Design
Once you understand the scope of your UAT test, you can move on to designing it. You’ll also be using the information you gathered in the first step to design your test.
As time goes on and you have use cases to reference, this step will become much easier.
4. UAT Execution
With your UAT testing process clearly defined, you can now execute it and decide if you should move ahead with production or not.
In order to successfully execute your UAT test, you must appreciate what’s required to manage it.
How to Manage the UAT Testing Process
Even understanding the requisite frameworks involved in successful UAT testing isn’t enough to ensure the desired results, though.
Instead, you need to manage the project on an ongoing basis, as well. This is yet another factor with specific requirements, too.
1. Decide Necessary User Roles
Before you can execute your UAT test, you need to form the team that will be responsible for managing it. Among other members, this will include both the UAT owner and the sponsor of the project (e.g. the business owner).
The UAT owner is responsible for managing the entire project and will make all final decisions. They are also usually the ones who communicate with the project sponsor, updating them on the status of the project and speaking with them when their input is needed in order to move forward.
For their part, the project sponsor is responsible for the UAT test’s requirements and providing the UAT owner with the guidance they need to test for them. The project sponsor is also consulted about changes reported and defects found. They play an integral role in all decisions about change controls and are responsible for all change control items that receive approval, managing them through the necessary channels whenever it’s necessary to secure additional funding.
Other roles will depend upon the unique needs of the UAT test, but some degree of support from the development team is almost always necessary.
2. Prepare Formal and Informal Scripts
In the interest of standardizing as much of this process as possible – and, therefore, preempt any potential flaws – create formal scripts for your test’s business users. These should be for testing migrated data and functionality.
Ideally, you should be able to reuse many of the ones your quality assurance team already has on hand.
At the very least, you should use any use cases you have to create your test scripts.
Aside from the obvious benefit of preparing formal scripts, this step will also give you a great training tool for your business users. It will show them exactly how to use your system following deployment.
Informal scripts are a good tool to have on hand, as well. These are a very helpful way to identify potential defects regarding the intuitiveness of your system. They may also give you ideas about testing things you hadn’t formally scripted.
For example, your script might tell the user to log in and start the training course. This instruction assumes they’ll understand how to do that – thanks to how intuitive your system is – but you might find that this isn’t the case and further improvements need to be made.
3. Choose Between In-Person and Self-Paced Testing
One of the big challenges that will face your UAT test is the location of your team members. You may require multiple shifts in order to carry out your tests.
Most software development companies these days have offices around the world, which means it’s not as easy as just booking a room and getting started.
Instead, self-paced testing may be the better choice. If you have a large enough presence at one location, you can take the first approach with the majority of your workers and allow for a more flexible schedule for your other team members.
If you have the option to choose one or the other, here are some further considerations:
- In-Person Testing: There are a number of benefits to using in-person testing for your UAT tests. Obviously, it’s far more convenient. It also gives you a defined timeframe, which makes it much easier to manage. In-person tests tend to keep this timeframe much smaller, too, as it’s a lot less work to keep everyone on task when they’re all under the same roof at the same time.
Documentation is usually more immediate in in-person testing environments and this documentation can quickly be shared with everyone, so there is less risk of miscommunication.
At the same time, in-person testing does have some drawbacks. It will probably mean taking team members away from their dedicated tasks for significant amounts of time. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that these tests are planned down to the last detail beforehand or there could be a lot of valuable time wasted.
- Self-Paced Testing: While self-paced UAT testing should still be done only after plenty of planning has been conducted, the fact that it can occur at any point throughout the day will make it much easier on your team members’ schedules.
For some companies, self-paced testing is their only option. However, if you have the choice, just know that self-paced testing includes keeping tabs on the testers, defining milestones for the team, controlling the scope of the project, ensuring that the right test cases are used throughout the process, and enabling team members to test scenarios that may fall outside of the project’s defined scope.
This is why self-paced testing tends to work best for smaller teams.
4. Create a List of Master Data
Give your business users a list of master data they can utilize during your UAT testing. This could include anything from login information to the data your system requires in order to function.
If you’re struggling to create this list, consider your business data diagrams. Obviously, the scripts we covered earlier will be very helpful for this step, as well. As you go through them, think about what a user would need in order to execute each one.
For example, if you’re conducting UAT testing on a training tool, provide your users with sample training courses that they can actually take during the test.
Depending on the scope of the testing you’re doing, you may also want to organize this data with spreadsheets or in some other format broken down by test case. This will make it easier for your testers to quickly find the information they need for each script.
5. Create a “User Manual”
Similarly, be sure to provide each tester with a user manual for the actual application but also for the testing itself. Among other things, this manual will tell users where they can find the master data, where to go to access the system, what to document during testing, and any other instructions they need in order to conduct a successful test.
Spell out for them how to document a defect in whatever system you decide to use. We’ll give you some examples of documentation criteria you can use momentarily, but whatever you decide on, make sure your testers understand it.
Design this user manual with the intent of limiting just how much work you have to do to manage this project successfully. Revise it regularly, as well, to address questions you received during the last test.
6. Determine Your Timeframes
As we’ll cover in a bit more detail shortly, time is going to be another major challenge to the success of your UAT tests. So you’ll want to address its role in these tests right away.
Your testing could take a couple days, a couple weeks, or even a month. It will depend on what your project requires. When managing your first UAT test, you’ll probably find that your initial estimate is a bit off. It will take practice before you’re accurately able to predict how much time your testing will require.
Here are some factors to consider:
- Environment Standards: These are generally a product of the project plan you use to define your test. Again, if you accurately defined the scope and requirements of your project, you should have no problem managing these standards – like the amount of time required. It’s also a good idea to regularly check in on the progress of the test to ensure adjustments are necessary.
- Scope of Work: In some instances, UAT testing is going to take longer than usual, which is why it’s so important that you take enough time to define the scope of your project each and every time. You may reach the point where you are continuously reaching your new UAT testing goals, but then have a project where there is more UI testing involved than usual. Give these kinds of changes the attention they deserve and you won’t have to worry about the infamous ramifications of scope creep.
- Availability of Team: When your team members are available is clearly important to consider before trying to manage your UAT test, but it shouldn’t be a defining element. Just do as much as you can to ensure that you’re not planning a test during a particularly busy time for your members. Consider the hybrid approach we covered earlier where you might need to allow for some self-paced work.
- Venue Availability: Don’t take your venue for granted. If you need a certain amount of office space for two weeks to conduct your tests, make sure you’ll have it. You don’t want to suffer an unnecessary delay simply because your venue is unavailable right in the middle of your test.
7. Decide on Your Standard for Documentation
Documentation is absolutely vital to usability testing. It’s the project manager’s responsibility to ensure it is carried out but also to create an agreed-upon plan beforehand regarding how documentation will occur.
This is something we will delve into in greater detail in the next section.
8. Define the Change Control Process
Changes may come up while carrying out your test. At which point, you’ll benefit greatly from having a standard change control process in place.
For example, you may run into items that fall out of scope but have to be addressed. If you have a high-quality change control process you can leverage, your team will be able to quickly assess what this item’s impact will be to your:
Ultimately, this will greatly reduce the impact of any item on your UAT test.
How to Document the UAT Testing Process
As we touched on in the last section, detailed documentation of your UAT testing process is important. It will not only improve the outcome of your current test but all those going forward, as well. The better you document your tests, the easier it will be to revise your strategies in the future.
Testing Strategies and Plans
The documentation for your testing strategy and overall plan should include:
- Any out-of-scope situations worth testing
- Expectations for the test
- General agreements about the standards for passing/failing
- How to carry out the test
- Owners and participants
- Scope of the work
- Venue used
Include any relevant test or use cases that were successful in the past, too, not just in terms of the outcome but also regarding how well it was organized, structured, and managed.
The use cases should make it much easier to understand how users will interact with the tool and define the requirements for building the new application.
Document your test cases so that they can be tracked and even commented on throughout the course of your UAT test.
Testing Case Outcomes
Obviously, it’s still important that you track the outcomes of your projects, as well. You can do this a number of ways, but you want to make it as easy as possible to enter all the information relevant to your process and sort by this information whenever you like.
That’s why many people simply use an Excel sheet for this requirement.
Here are some examples of the data you can provide:
- Acceptance Criteria
- Business Impact (e.g. high, medium, and low)
- Business Requirement
- Date Executed
- Expected Outcomes
- Name of Tester
- Test Case Name
- Test Case Steps Defined
- Test Case Number
Documentation isn’t the sole responsibility of the project’s owner, either. Your testers should also record the results from their own tests. These should almost always be reviewed daily so that any issues can be identified early and addressed immediately.
The two major issues you’ll run into are new items and defects. In both cases, the application is either working as it’s supposed to or it isn’t. Sometimes, there’s a problem, but the application is actually functioning properly. In that case, the user should create a change control to address this new item.
Most quality assurance teams have standards in place for what must happen before moving from DIT environments to SIT environments and from those environments to UAT environments.
Therefore, the users should have requirements for what must occur before moving from UAT testing to production.
Classify your issues as low-, medium-, and high-impact test cases. Then, solve any that are medium or high before moving forward with production. Do not defer anything but the lowest-priority items or your UAT test will be faulty.
Major Challenges Facing UAT Testing
As you can see, UAT testing features a large number of moving parts, which makes it inherently challenging.
Of course, the exact challenges you face will largely depend on the nature of the software involved, your particular UAT test, and the change requirements you’re testing for.
However, the following are the most common challenges you’ll want to consider when designing your UAT test and throughout the actual testing process:
- Engaging business users (non-technical), knowing that most test management solutions are designed for professional testers, not business users
- Easing collaboration between users
- Reducing idle time between testers
- Improving visibility and control over the entire testing process
- Ensuring a high quality of test evidence without impacting user productivity
- The time and costs involved with flying testers to the same location
- The lack of time business users may have in order to test
The biggest challenge for most companies carrying out usability testing is simply the amount of time and effort involved. In fact, in a typical UAT cycle, test managers can easily spend up to 80% of the time collecting data and creating daily reports.
Furthermore, key users can spend as much as 50% of their time doing nothing but documenting test executions.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the solutions out there that are meant to assist with UAT testing only focus on its technical aspects. As a result, nothing is done to support the collaborative and tactical methods required for the management and execution of functional testing, which is a central part of the entire process.
A Use Case Example
While keeping the aforementioned challenges in mind before designing your UAT test should make the test much easier to manage or even avoid problems altogether, it can still be difficult to do, especially if you’re used to the common approach we just cited.
Therefore, let’s now take a look at a use case example that can be used to inform how you create your own acceptance tests.
The company in this example was a large global financial services company. Their project featured the following requirements:
- One Provider: Offering full-stack outsourcing
- One Process: Providing a global standard
- One Platform: Ensuring shared solutions
- One Year: Before seeing results
In order to reach their target, though, they would need to overcome the following challenges:
- 2 Regions
- 22 Company Codes
- 1,000 Test Cases
- 40 Testers
- 7 Locations
And these all had to be addressed within two weeks.
- Designed for SAP: SAP is far too large and unique to be fully addressed with a generic tool
- Designed for Business Processes: End-to-end process testing was essential to the success of this project
- Designed for Real-Time Testing: Defects had to be tackled immediately so that none were allowed to linger for more than a day without being reviewed
- Designed for Audit: Business users tend to lack sufficient documentation skills, whereas this is a major strength of auditors
- SaaS: The solution had to be instantly:
- Easy-to-Use: There wasn’t going to be any opportunity for undertaking extensive training and testing for the tool, so ease of use was a must
It’s worth noting that Panaya seems to offer the only tool on the market that is able to meet or even exceed each of these criteria.
Our solution for this client entailed the following:
- A UAT testing plan built around a combination of SAP modules and process areas.
- Planned test cases were reviewed every morning and reassigned based on progress and availability.
- Then, every evening, the team met to review progress and discuss any of the defects that were discovered
Carry Out Faster, More Effective UAT Testing with Panaya
UAT testing is one of the most important functions to the success of your software development company. If you fail to conduct these processes effectively, you will struggle to offer applications that live up to your customers’ expectations.
However, as you can see, UAT testing requires a lot of work and, even then, it can be difficult to produce the kinds of outcomes you’re after.
Our UAT testing solutions will accelerate your process with features that tackle potential problems that can otherwise cause your test to fail. You’ll enjoy more collaboration and greater efficiency without having to invest more time and effort to get those results.
If your company’s success requires the most effective UAT tests, contact us today and let’s discuss your unique needs.