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As anyone who knows me will testify, my job involves all kinds of work to help organisations find, select, implement and get the best from the right solutions. Spookily enough, over the past two months, I have been involved in helping two very different clients, progress with UAT (User Acceptance Testing).
I am sure many readers of the blog have been through this essential project phase, some perhaps also together with me.
I am no stranger to thorough testing and can compare & contrast over the years, the various organisations and software houses I have worked in and with, from the late 80’s to present days. I can spot good quality control in development teams, as well as sloppy and also barely existent.
Representing software houses on site, I have had the experience of confirming a user is right to criticise our programmer spelling of ‘Correspondence’. That one was particularly galling when I knew English was not that users first language. In my UAT over this last month I found error messages, where the software houses name wasn’t even spelled correctly.
I know at this point, more than one software development director, will be emailing all his programmers, to check that one. At least get your own name right. Lexus, Mercedes, Jaguar or even Kia, wouldn’t dare get their names misspelled on your vehicle boot, now would they?
Both of the customers I am working with, are thankfully using a home developed UAT. Expecting your software supplier to provide a set of UAT tests is a bit of a mugs game. How can it cover everything your organisation needs and the most important things for your teams? Exactly, it couldn’t, so don’t kid yourself it could. It’s the clients responsibility to check if everything will work. If you sign it off as ok and it wasn’t, you will either have to live with its foibles (perhaps) forever, or cause yourself grief after go-live.
As soon as you ‘sign off UAT’, you most likely need to make a milestone payment and in many cases, to fix what issues are left, will take months on a helpdesk, cost you to fix or never ever be fixed. The key to managing UAT issues, is the prioritised issues or RAID log. Decide which issues are red line ones. IE the ones that you absolutely wont go live without. Don’t be afraid to insist development fixes are delivered for testing, rather than wait until after go-live. If I had £50 for every fix I have been promised coming, ‘In the next sprint’ or ‘just around the corner’, and was disappointed, I could perhaps treat myself to that sexy ‘Specialized Turbo Kenevo Comp 2021 Electric Mountain Bike’, by now.
So what might pressure you to cut corners on your UAT?
Well you might be pressured to hit a particular date. Ask yourself, would anyone in your organisation thank you for going live with a system missing key working functions. Maybe better to clearly and concisely justify why you aren’t ready and move your target date to be something more realistic?
Your supplier might be mad keen to see your milestone payment, after UAT signed off. If they had configured it right in the first place, you may not be under that pressure.
Your suppliers' on-site consultants might try to convince you some of your ‘issues’ are ‘design features’. This is an interesting one, as it assumes that you haven’t really seen any other examples of ‘software’ at work or anywhere else in general life. This is something that programmers could fob people off with in the 80’s and 90’s, telling them black was white, but increasingly its not washing in 2020. If some programmer has cut corners and will make you and your users lives worse or less efficient, get it called out. Developers are meant to be automating what we do, to make us more, NOT less efficient. Don’t get fooled by supplier consultant staff telling you, that because they made the software work once and you made it fail 5 times, you are somehow the problem.
One niche aspect I have encountered is where UAT is being done on a test system and failing badly, suggested supplier solution is just use the live database to go live on and the failing UAT issues may go away. In what world would this make logical sense? If your supplier cannot get your system fit to fly through UAT on a test database, they wont be capable of doing on a live one.
Finally, reports (if you can get suppliers to supply them, as apparently they are as rare in some solutions as rocking horse sh1t), are always a great area to test. How often do the filter criteria make little sense or carry scant relevance to the team hoping to use it for insightful analysis, or the supplier report developers, have no grasp at all of what the purpose/content of the report may be? Poor original specification or communication while prototyping/writing/installing the reports, often sets the scene for later UAT friction. Then just watch, for some supplier accountant gatekeeper, to state that ‘we supplied the standard report’ and additional filters to make it useful to you, might well be ‘Change Control’, even if you are trying to get apparent no-brainers, such as dates in European rather than 09/11 type format.
UAT is a necessary evil and for a strong long relationship with a supplier, it should be executed well by customer and supplier. Fail to get it right and those memories of unfixed issues, being pushed to go-live pre-maturely, will linger for the rest of the (often rocky) relationship. If you and your supplier tackle UAT and its issues responsibly, you might be on your way to a long and fruitful journey.
Related Post: How often does a primary software supplier, struggle to control third party project suppliers?
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The Longcut - A Tried And Tested Method.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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