A commonly overlooked aspect of solutions implementation is client acceptance testing. Delays are not uncommon during this phase and when not stewarded well can lead to customer frustrations and possible scope deviations. This post will focus on how you can address customer acceptance testing up front and take proactive measures to ensure an efficient and effective testing period for your customers.
Test Plans Up Front – Focus on the Important
Test plans are vital to a successful acceptance testing phase. Testers need to understand how the system functions not only from a point-and-click perspective but also how the system meets the requirements of the business. Executing business processes using the solution needs to be top of mind for testers and the best way to ensure that all aspects are covered is to develop a set of test plans. Test plans are an inventory of tests that testers will use to try out the solution. Practical business scenarios are developed that mirror the business requirements defined in the project and those scenarios are executed using the new solution, with test results captured and shared with the team. By having test plans in place it allows for a predictable amount of effort on the part of the business testers but it also gives the business a comforting sense that all aspects of requirements have been addressed through the testing prior to signing off on the new solution. Without developing test plans, acceptance testing can drag on for weeks longer than anticipated and without having a global list of all that has been tested, the business enters into a place of not understanding what the solution has really been tested against which can lead to further unforeseen (but preventable) issues upon go live.
Turning users loose on a new system can sound fun but can quickly lead to chaos and ultimate dissatisfaction with a perfectly built solution. It is very important that before any formal acceptance testing begins, that adequate training is provided to the users responsible for testing out the system. Understanding the mechanics of the solution is vital to being able to successfully execute proper tests against the system and without proper training, it can lead to users becoming frustrated and causing un-needed project issues. Practical, hands-on training is almost always more effective than hands-off demonstration-style training however any training is better than none.
Regular Feedback and Touchpoints
It’s critically important that you as the project manager stay on top of the testing efforts of the customer and ensure that the platforms are in place to make it easy to receive feedback on testing progress. Having a place for testers to quickly and easily log found issues is one step to ensuring that your project team stays connected with the testers. A lot of organizations have a formal issue-tracking system that can be opened up to customers performing testing but in the absence of any formal issue tracking system, even a shared spreadsheet (OneDrive or Dropbox are great options) can be quite effective. Having regular touchpoint meetings with your customer representative (perhaps the project manager or lead tester) is also important to gather more informal feedback (time being committed to testing, feelings of the user base over the system) and allow you and your project team to respond accordingly.
Acceptance testing is a crucial phase of any implementation project as it’s the first real time that users get their hands on the finished product. Minimizing the importance and needed attention of this phase is a common pitfall for both new and experienced project managers. Following these three tips will help set your customer and your project team up for success during your acceptance testing period.
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