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Why is User Acceptance Testing so Important?

Process optimization and system configuration & customisations are an integral part of any implementation. And all of these are put to the test during the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) phase of a project. This is when the client project team run through their day-to-day business scenarios in the new system.

In my experience though, after finishing development for a client and conducting an initial Pilot of the final solution, the client’s focus invariably turns to Go-Live day rather than UAT. They generally assumed that everything will work okay.

Many a times this is not the case. User Acceptance Testing can potentially highlight flaws in the initial workshop phase, where a specific piece of functionality may have been entirely forgotten. UAT can also save time and frustration in the Go-live phase. If there are potential issues, and they haven’t been addressed in UAT, they will inevitably come up after Go-live. Unfortunately, the cost of fixing issues and cleaning up is much higher after Go-live. As an example, you can take those costs that the client has now associated with the ‘Testing’ bucket, move them into ‘Go-Live Support’ then double or even triple that figure.

Many clients make a decision to bring their high-level staff members into the initial workshops where the bulk of the solution is designed. But having only one tier involved in the overall design of a new system has huge potential to cause problems – these are not the people who actually use the system every day. We always advise our clients to involve their ‘Power Users’ in the workshops. That is, the people in charge of the day-to-day processes of the business. This tends to cover all bases and ensures no fundamental processes are missed.

Additionally, we also recommend that UAT check lists and scripts are created and signed off to manage the process more effectively. In cases where this doesn’t happen, the scenario that normally plays out when Go-Live day comes around is this – there will be someone who says, “…but I thought the system was supposed to do…”. Frustrations run rampant as issues occur and users’ expectations are not met. As consultants, we generally respond with, “Oh, I’ll change that for you.”, and proceed to work an eighty-plus hour week fixing issues that should have been identified during the testing phase! User Acceptance Testing will not only ensure project requirements have been met, but also keep the project budget from blowing out of control come Go-Live day – not to mention everyone’s sanity.

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