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Performing user acceptance tests without client/vendor perspectives; what are the risks?

What are the risks involved in entering into the User Acceptance Test (UAT) phase without a set of UAT test cases from client's perspective as well as from the vendor's perspective.

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Let's have a brainstorming session and think of risks and events that could take place during UAT without having input from the client and vendor. For the sake of saving some words, I'll use the term client to mean client and vendor. Here are some ideas that come to mind:
  • The client could refuse to attend or participate in UAT as planned because UAT test cases have not been prepared.
  • The client could refuse to accept the product at the end of the testing cycle and prevent the product from shipping.
  • The client attends UAT and argues throughout the session about the goals and objectives of the session as well as raises additional feature requests for features they claim should have been part of the release.
  • UAT proceeds but a missed understanding of the anticipated use of the product means business process testing is not executed before shipping and one or more key product "failures" is found in production.

Now let's tackle each of these and see what might be preventable. Each of these addresses the risks listed above in the same order.

  • UAT test cases are drafted by the test team without the desired input from the client. The test cases reach back to the original objectives of the product and are written with the best intentions of addressing the client's perspective. Just because the client doesn't share their insights for testing doesn't mean they haven't shared their insights for the product.
  • A client can always refuse a product unless under a contractual agreement. But chances are, the client does not know how to go about testing and doesn't believe their input would be needed for final testing. By providing evidence and assurance that the product has been tested, the client may likely accept the product release even if they were not as involved as you would prefer.
  • If the client arrives at UAT, the agenda for the day may need to be re-written once the client's frustrations become vocal. The lead tester begins to interview the client and learns about the business process frustrations the client has. The tester begins to see the outline of test cases by understanding the client better. The tester or the UAT lead pulls the agenda back on line by designing the remainder of the day based on the client's concerns.
  • UAT sessions – even when clients and vendors participate there is still a good chance that the client has not communicated all of their needs or that all of their needs have not been understood. Often clients don't know how to articulate what they need and look to their vendors to offer suggestions or guidance. Just because a client didn't participate to the extent needed, doesn't mean the client is not going to be satisfied.

This was first published in July 2010

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