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User acceptance testing is vital because, ultimately, the quality of any software is determined by the user. This is why it is important to develop realistic and useful test cases. These cases should be based on both careful interviews with users of the system and monitoring of the environment in which the application will be used.
While all test case scenarios describe system inputs and desired results, scenarios should always reflect the actual live environment in which the software will operate. This means testing as many realistic scenarios as possible before the software goes live.
UAT is quite different from software testing, in that software testing is concerned with the function of the application while user acceptance testing is concerned with the application’s performance under field conditions. UAT must support not only regular day-to-day business requirements, but must also account for the out of the ordinary as well. This is a major challenge as it isn't always possible to imagine and account for everything that could go wrong. Still, it's important to try.
UAT is the final step in the software development cycle. It's the last chance to make sure the software is as suitable as possible, before the application goes online.
Exceptions to the normal business pattern must be taken into account and so it's a good idea to have a business analyst on the UAT team. He or she can anticipate problems and unusual situations that need to be tested for. A good analyst can also ensure that the application under test doesn't drive the business out of compliance with regulations, if unusual circumstances arise.
The integration of business software with business activity often means that employees have already learned to cope with the unusual by adapting the legacy system at some point in the past. Those unusual scenarios must be integrated into the new system to keep information or actions from getting lost in the transition.
Testing the maximum number of possible scenarios lowers overall risk when the application goes live. It reduces the time needed to integrate the application and, most importantly, reduces the possibility of customer dissatisfaction.
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