Monday, October 24, 2005

What is User Acceptance Testing?



UAT goes under many names. As well as user acceptance testing, it is also known as Beta Testing (usually in the PC world) QA Testing, Application Testing, End User Testing or as it is known in the company where I work as Model Office Testing.


Developing software is a expensive business. It is expensive in ;

  • time, as the software must be analysed, specified, designed and written
  • people, as very few development projects are one man jobs
  • money, the people responsible for the analysis, specification and development of software do not come cheap (look at the current rates for contractors!)

If having expended all these peoples time and the company's money, if the resulting software is not completely suitable to the purpose required, then that time and money has not been fully utilised.

If the software is suitable to the purpose, but;

  • does not dovetail precisely with the business processes
  • makes processes more difficult to do than before
  • causes business processes to take longer than previously
  • makes additional processes necessary, with making other processes obsolete

then you may not will not see return on your investment in the software until much later, or may not even see a return on your investment.

Question : how do we ensure that we do not end up in this situation?

Answer : we test the software against objective criteria to ensure that we don't

Previously, most testing was left in the hands of the development teams, with the end users trusting those teams to deliver applications that were not only fully functional and stable, but also applications that would dovetail into business processes, and support those processes (maybe even make things a little bit easier)

However, the testing executed by developers is to ensure that the code they have created is stable and functional. They will test that;

  • they cover all the lines and logic paths through their code
  • all the screens flow backwards and forwards in the correct order
  • the software meets the functions specified (eg calculations are correct, reports have correct columns, screens have correct validation etc)

This testing might not be done through the application itself (often because it has not been completely built while they are testing), so they will only add a few records, maybe by editing the file/table and adding the records, rather than using the 'Record Entry Screen'.



As we will see later, this does not pose us a problem, because the UAT department will cover this testing. This system testing and unit testing by the developers is still very valid and useful. I would rather take delivery of an application where the development team say "We have done this, done that, hacked this file and added a few records, ran a few test cases through here - and everything seems OK", then take an application which has not gone through any system testing.

The application that has been tested by the developers will have had most of the obvious flaws identified and ironed out, and only the types of issues the testing was designed for should be identified. The second application will be completely unknown, and some of the time allocated for UAT will be spent identifying and fixing problems problems that could have been easily identified and rectified by the developers.

Also, because the developers are testing their own work, there is a tendency for them to skip areas because they 'know that there won't be a problem there'.

I have spoke to developers who have came to our company from places that do not do UAT, and they are both impressed with how we do things, but also like the idea of an independent third party testing their software.

These people are professional software developers, and they do not want to supply something that isn't exactly what's wanted, and they feel that the UA testing gives them a large comfort zone that any problems with their work will be identified and escalated back to them for correction.

As I said, these issues do not prove a problem to the user acceptance tester.

The four issues of the software delivered not matching the business process, making things more difficult etc are circumvented by the user acceptance tester.

While the developer tests against the system specification and technical documentation, the user acceptance tester test against the business requirements. The former tests the code, the latter the application. We will come to the test planning in a bit.

The issue of the developer testing their own work ceases to be an issue, as the UAT team will design a testing strategy that covers all areas of the business requirements, whether or not the developer feels there may be problems in a specific area.

The issue of additional processes being necessary should also not be a problem. As I said before, the UAT team tests the application against the business requirements, so all testing is done through the use of the proper system transactions.

The UAT team do not hack tables / file to create data, if a client record is needed for a test, then the UAT will create this client, by use of the formal client maintenance transaction, not by adding a record to the 'Client_Details' file.

This use of the formal application transaction transactions serves two purposes

  • it tests all the transactions that the business users shall run, giving complete 'business' coverage (as opposed to code coverage, or logic path coverage)
  • it will highlight any potential areas of adverse impacts on the business processes. If the contents of a form (eg an application form for a new life assurance policy) is used as the basis for creating a new life assurance policy record, then the use of the formal 'New Life Assurance Policy' transaction will determine whether the transaction works, and also whether the form holds the requisite information to create the policy records.

The 'New Life Assurance Policy' system may require the client to declare whether they smoke or not, however, if this question is not on the application form, then the business users will have to re-contact every new client, to determine whether or not they smoke!

We can see then, that it is the role of user acceptance testing to not only prove whether or not an application works, but also to prove how it will fit with business processes.

User Acceptance Testing Processes

OK, now we have determined what UAT is, now we need to look at HOW we achieve these objectives.

The user acceptance test life cycle follows the path shown below (obviously at a very high level);

  • analysis of business requirements We can't do anything concerning testing until we understand what the developments are supposed to achieve. This is quite an intangible step in the process, and consists mostly of thought processes, meeting etc. The end result, is a clear vision,in the testers mind, of what they are going to be expected to prove, and why it is necessary.
  • analysis of testing requirements. This is more tangible than the first stage, and consists of documenting the areas of the development that require testing, the methodologies you will need to use to test them, and the results to expect to be returned when you test them.
  • Execution of testing. Doing the business. This is what it all boils down to. Every development project will be different, and you will have had enough experience in this part of the cycle to not need any pointers from me!
  • Getting the testing signed off. There is no use going through all of these processes, raising problems to developments teams, having more work done by the development teams in fixing those problems, re-testing the changes and re-doing all your regression scripts, unless at the end of the day, you can the users to sign off the changes.


Shreyas said...

Excellent explanation Ahamad...Thanks a lot and keep up the good work....

Software Testing Help said...

Have you tried using Vienna - User Acceptance Testing from NMQA. It helps alot when conducting UAT.