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How do testers influence acceptance criteria?

What's the tester's role in establishing user stories and acceptance criteria? Expert Amy Reichart discusses how much influence a tester should have.

A tester's role is to influence, experiment with, and define user stories and acceptance criteria. As an influencer, a tester needs to establish a strong working relationship with the team's product owner or whoever represents the customer. The tester defends the needs of the customer and fosters understanding among team members about what is being developed and how it must perform to be accepted.

To influence a product's outcome, a tester experiments with the product owner's thoughts and ideas and provides feedback. The tester knows the technical side (development) and the customer side (end user) better than any other team member. Being in the middle is the perfect place to influence and define user stories and acceptance criteria.

User stories explain what a new feature does for the end user and include the basic workflow from the viewpoint of a user, as specifically as possible. Often, user stories are like the old-school business requirements -- too high-level to be useful to the development team. It is frequently left to developers to fill in the details as they see fit. To avoid this situation, the product owner and tester should work together to develop a strong user story that includes enough depth and details for developers to know precisely what to code.

There's always room for change based on how early coding goes, but it's beneficial to the team to have specific detail in the user workflow. It is possible for a tester to influence user story creation to keep it simple and still valuable to development. Otherwise, the story may be pushed aside and the code written to the acceptance criteria, which may not match the intended end user workflow.

Testers influence the acceptance criteria by providing detailed reviews and experimenting with the results. In this way, testers provide the product owner critical information on the breadth and depth of the acceptance criteria. Testers need to experiment to verify that the acceptance criteria are testable. Testers also need to ensure that the acceptance criteria are specific and represent both positive and negative scenarios. The tester needs to influence the acceptance criteria's depth of detail to keep customers from finding defects without having to dig deep into the functionality.

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Learn about the differences between user acceptance testing and acceptance testing

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