As an IT executive, IT manager, QA analyst or an IT consultant, do you get confused when you hear the word UAT? What is that? Who does that? Am I responsible? How is it different from functional or system testing? And why is it important?
If you take the “user” out of UAT, the meaning is in its own name – Acceptance Testing. It’s an effort to test a product (or a service) against a set of requirements and use the results to determine success before delivery.
In the software industry, one can easily debate how that definition makes it any different from QA testing. So here’s the key difference: “who” is doing the acceptance testing and from what “perspective.” QA testing is performed by specialists (testers, analysts) and the focus is to conform the system to a set of requirements detailing the system behavior.
In UAT, on the other hand, the user is the subject matter expert (SME) or business user testing the system to determine if it is fit for use. (There are also two differing views of quality (as explained in my blog post: What is Quality Anyway?)
In your functional testing and system testing, you would perform all your tests with an attitude to break it. In your UAT, the user would run through real-life examples (or a day-to-day scenario in his/her business). I call these “business scenarios” which is different from your regular test scenario. There could be some overlap, but business scenarios are very focused on how the actual user would use the product or service (to input data, output from other systems, etc.) .
The benefit of UAT is significant. First of all, you can find defects before the software is actually used. Secondly, it gives the users confidence and comfort before they actually start using it.
The downside is, of course, the time it requires from users and other stakeholders and the fact that UAT does require considerable planning and effort.
It also requires a commitment from the producer or the software vendors to encourage UAT and provide support to the users. In turn, they will see the benefit of an increased confidence level.
I was recently involved in leading a successful UAT, and I will share some tools and techniques in my next blog.