The crucial role of UAT when implementing SaaS applications

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UAT when implementing SaaS

At Walpole Partnership, we are fully committed to the concept of robust User Acceptance Testing (UAT) when delivering solutions. In this post, we’ll delve into the pivotal role of UAT, why it is often underestimated and explore how executing a robust UAT cycle can help increase adoption.

What is UAT?

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is a crucial phase of any solution implementation. Traditionally it occurs immediately following build and prior to final go-live preparations however during agile projects, it can occur in parallel with the build. The purpose of UAT is to validate system functionality, usability and performance against user-defined acceptance criteria.

During UAT, recorded incidents are tracked and worked to resolution to fine tune the solution and any associated data. Both defect management and change management (to control scope) are prevalent during UAT.

Why is UAT important?

UAT serves as the test for the readiness of a solution to meet the needs of its intended business users. Testers prepare and run scripts to validate whether the application aligns with user expectations, previously defined requirements and solution designs. In the context of cloud applications, where the user experience is paramount, system responsiveness is a must-have and scalability is crucial, UAT is entirely fundamental to achieve this.

What does good look like in UAT?

Several characteristics define a “good” UAT:

  1. Clear objectives, scope and preparation: a well-defined UAT plan / scope will outline the specific objectives, test scenarios and acceptance criteria to be targeted during the UAT phase. Test scripts should be authored following solution walkthroughs, at which time data should also be prepared to refresh the underlying tables in readiness for UAT. We always recommend that real-world scenarios supported by realistic sample test data are planned to compare the new vs old user experience and to reassure users that the expected outcome is achieved.
  2. Active user involvement: end-users must actively participate in UAT, providing valuable feedback and insights based on their first-hand experience with the application. This also gains buy-in to the new solution and any changes to the existing process(es).
  3. Transparent communication: open and effective collaboration, typically between business representatives, business analysts, project managers and developers, facilitates the identification and resolution of issues throughout the UAT cycle. This can be further enhanced by having some on-site support from the project team during the UAT phase.
  4. Thorough documentation and reporting: UAT findings, including defects, changes and feedback are fully documented and reported. This ensures visibility and accountability across the entire project team and helps to ensure ‘scope-creep’ is avoided.
  5. Iterative improvement process: it is rare if not impossible for a cloud solution to enter UAT in a ‘perfect’ state. There will always be defects and changes identified during UAT. Success of UAT relies on a continuous feedback loop to drive iterative updates and assess improvements to the solution based on user priorities. Importantly however, it must have a defined conclusion to avoid drift to planned timelines and potentially, never-ending iterations.

Key UAT challenges?

One of the common pitfalls during solution implementations is the underestimation of UAT requirements and a lack of accountability. Businesses often allocate inadequate time, resources and attention to this phase, assuming that the build and unit testing phases will have already addressed all potential issues. Overlooking, under-resourcing or rushing through UAT can lead to costly consequences resulting from project overrun. Lack of involvement from key subject matter experts can also lead to user dissatisfaction, lack of adoption and failure to realise benefits outlined in the business case.

Can UAT drive solution adoption?

In many projects, developing and releasing the new solution technically is the easy bit! The bigger challenge is managing the change associated and supporting the affected stakeholders to adopt and use the solution. Whilst implementing a new solution effectively resets some knowledge across the business and IT functions, it is also a great opportunity for those involved to become ‘champions’ and ‘key-users’ due to the learnings and familiarisation of the solution gained during UAT. A well-managed UAT phase can be instrumental in overcoming adoption challenges:

  1. User involvement and ownership: involving a key group of users in the UAT process promotes a sense of involvement and ownership. When users actively participate in testing and providing feedback, they are shaping the solution and feel invested in its success. This sense of ownership translates into increased willingness to adopt the solution once it is deployed.
  2. Validation of user needs and expectations: UAT serves as a validation mechanism to ensure that the solution aligns with user needs and expectations. By capturing feedback directly from end-users, the UAT process helps to identify any gaps between those expectations and what the solution delivers. Addressing some or all of those discrepancies during UAT ensures that the solution meets user expectations, which increases the likelihood of user acceptance and adoption.
  3. Training and familiarisation: UAT proves an opportunity for end-users to familiarise themselves with the solution, its features, benefits and even its limitations before it is rolled out. Through the UAT process, users gain first-hand experience with the solution, enabling them to become more proficient and comfortable using and maintaining it. This can be enhanced by the in-person support of the project team during UAT.
  4. Building user confidence: a successful outcome of UAT instils confidence in end-users regarding the reliability, stability and effectiveness of their new solution. This confidence is essential for driving adoption, as users are more likely to use a solution that they have either tested themselves or if they can speak directly to people on their team who have.
  5. User advocacy and support: users who have been involved in the UAT process often become the biggest advocates of an application, promoting benefits, and making them more likely to encourage others to embrace it. This support amongst peers can significantly improve the overall adoption rate and promote a positive attitude towards the new solution.

In conclusion

A successful UAT phase is best led by the customer team and validates the functionality of the new solution. It has clearly defined objectives and scope, engages the appropriate group of users and is managed in an open and transparent manner. Defect management is accurately documented and offers reassurance that the implementation team will listen and incorporate updates and changes. Ideally the same developers who completed the build (or are working on in it, the case of an agile approach) will be retained to work on defects during UAT – this continuity of resource ensures knowledge and understanding are retained, which avoids potential rework.

Moreover, the UAT phase also drives adoption by involving users in the process, validating their needs and expectations, building confidence, facilitating training and familiarisation and fostering user advocacy and support. By prioritising UAT as a critical phase of the implementation process, avoiding underestimation of its requirements and adhering to the principles of a robust UAT phase, organisations moving to Cloud platform-based solutions can maximise the likelihood of successful adoption and realise the full benefits of their investment.

If you would like to hear more about how Walpole Partnership can support you with your UAT process, then please contact us.

This post was written by Walpole Partnership’s Senior Managing Consultant, Daniel Cunningham.

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