Sunday, 15 June 2014

Test The Theory

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK
or LinkedIn here

I was doing some work this week coming up with a pretty detailed upgrade testing plan for one of the housing associations I work with. It occurred to me that it's even harder to build the initial UAT when taking software for the first time. That process can be even harder if some ground work has not been done up front on the business case and PID (Process Initiation Document).

Early in July I am doing a set course for Rod Laird designed to help people understand how to choose the right application software, avoid some of the real 'gotchas' and generally remove a lot of the stress and uncertainty of the whole process. It's something that I think might help reduce the amount of investment wasted on the wrong software/failed implementations, also bring more in on time and to budget. More on that and a booking form at

One of the big gotchas is around knowing what you are purchasing in the first place. Unlike Excel or a washing machine, which is well understood, proven, with few bugs and problems, and in use at countless places, housing application software may only be in use in a few dozen places, or not actually anywhere at all. Did you read that last bit right? Yes you did.

I have known large and sensible RSL's purchase software solutions just on the strength of a great sales pitch, a PDF or some mock up screens. Often the sale is done via a department team, e.g. From the asset management (not IT) budget, with the first that IT know of it, far down the line when it's not progressing.

Know your software that's there to be purchased. Selecting software that's not been written yet or is still a prototype, is not a problem if you know and understand that from the start. It obviously represents a risk and in my mind higher risk should equal lower prices. IE If my organisation was to be the guinea pig to test and get a new piece of software working, for a commercial company, I would like to see some significant recompense.

So how do you establish if you are the testing guinea pigs, or just another customer? Start by asking and obtaining a list of all existing live and installing users, for the proposed application. This clearly separates the facts from the sales rhetoric. If a list was not forthcoming, possibly this application is not already out anywhere after all.

Then establish who is using this software in a similar situation to you. If you are medium to large, to reduce risk it would be desirable to see other RSLs using the application in that space. If you are specialist, e.g. very C&S not general needs, is it relevant that the software is already working in that area? How well will it integrate into your other core applications? Is that proven elsewhere. Obtain clear facts, user names, contact details.

Pursue these points carefully, to establish the risk that will be involved with your project. Ensure expectations are set internally. If you have spoken with, or visited many organisations that have already implemented and working with this application, your testing should be reasonable and expectations should be that our project timetable might be achievable. Previous installs and lessons learnt, should allow a reliable one to be drawn up. If you haven't, you might be involved in effectively helping to build an application from scratch, with all the trials and tribulations that that brings. Ensure you have the facts before signing the contract.

"Let the buyer beware" caveat emptor as the Romans once said. Know in advance if you will be testing a software product, not a prototype. If you can use that course, book it fast, places are limited -
You can link with me on LinkedIn here - It would be great to connect !

Related post: Are you making good application software choices?

Audioweb - Test The Theory.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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