The importance of real world customer scenarios for user acceptance testing

Whether we’re talking major software implementation in a billion dollar company or adding a small application to a new startup, the need to develop real world scenarios when performing User Acceptance Testing (UAT) remains the same. There are certain guidelines that should be followed. For example, it’s never a good idea to perform UAT in the identical surroundings employed by previous testing teams. At the very least, this will create unreal scenarios. It is important for UAT to duplicate the production environment as closely as possible.
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User Acceptance Testing should be planned strategically, with carefully identified real world customer journeys and scenarios and open communication lines with users and stakeholders to make sure nothing is left out. Test objectives should then be prioritized with critical operations coming 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 the UAT environment even though functional testing is not completed. UAT goals can’t be achieved in such a situation.

Although UAT typically happens at the end of the testing cycle, testers should bare in mind the Front Line Principle. That is, those people on the front lines, those who will actually use the software, are a great source of information during the development phase. This is especially true during early documentation, when the temptation to simply accept management directives, as if they were edicts from on high, is the strongest.

Unfortunately, such communication can be difficult as the lines of communication between those involved in development and those involved in deployment are at their weakest during the initial stages.

System testing and UAT should not overlap, there should be time for both. If release deadlines exert too much pressure, it’s possible for software to be shifted to UAT before functional testing is complete.

In summary, setting and following a few guidelines, clearly defining the important user journeys and customer flows, clear expectations and roles of responsibility can make User Acceptance Testing a successful part of the development cycle. 

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