User Acceptance Testing or User Exception Testing?
I recently joined a conference call concerning User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and at the start of the meeting it was accidentally called User Exception Testing. Although the meeting participant quickly corrected herself and it wasn’t noticed by the testers, it made a profound impact on me. Over the course of the many UATs I have completed with clients, the feedback and criticism feel more like the testers are looking for exceptions, and thus often expect an earth shattering, ground breaking or exceptional solution, rather than something that simply works as designed.
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As you may know, UATs are part of the Waterfall project management approach and allow for the solution to be rigorously tested based on specific directions, or scripts, by a subset of end users. This is a well-known part of any software development or IT implementation project with tools and solutions built specifically for the activity. The testing efforts can be laborious, tedious, and monotonous, but they are a great gauge for how well the solution will fit with current processes and technologies. Testers need to be ready for reviewing the solution dispassionately and with a keen eye for small details that can be larger bugs downstream.
Managing the High Expectations of Testers That Need to be Met or Surpassed
That said, I don’t believe end users always approach UAT the way it was intended. Testers want to be wowed and they want the solution to make their lives instantly better. They often have very high expectations and feedback often consists of critical comments when the solution doesn’t exceed those expectations.
So, what do you do? As a project team member, approaching this phase as “User Exceptional Testing” may be a better tactic than attempting to force a more mechanistic process. This is your chance to sell the solution that your team has slavishly created, and a potential way for your testers to feed off of your excitement. As such, spend a little time at the start of your UAT explaining how this solution will benefit the end user and what changes you have made that may impact their lives (positively or negatively). Once you have given them the proper vantage point with which to view your solution, it will be easier for them to give feedback to help improve that solution rather than focusing on areas where they were expecting exceptionalism.