User Acceptance Test for an eTMF: Five Good Practices

April 10, 2014

  • eTMF Best Practices

In February, I was given the opportunity to travel to Europe to assist one of our Wingspan eTMF clients with User Acceptance Testing, the phase of software testing in which the intended users are given the opportunity to test the product to ensure it can successfully perform the required tasks. Though the point of my trip was to help teach our client how to navigate the eTMF through User Acceptance, I found in the end I too learned valuable lessons. Below some are some helpful hints I learned through my experience with User Acceptance Testing.

1. Get Organized

Because User Acceptance Testing is such a critical assessment for software, intense preparation is often needed prior to review. Prior to the testing sessions, the whole team must have a clear understanding of user stories and business processes and needs. It is important that the software and its associated scripts are able to cover all identified business need and target real-world use; referencing the User Requirement Specification may be helpful in ensuring that each requirement listed can be traced to a User Acceptance Test script.

Including other relevant and ad hoc software tests can be useful as well in helping to find, log, and fix potential bugs in the software prior to formal User Acceptance Testing. This dry-running of the draft versions of the scripts can help identify any software issues, script issues, or any particular problem areas when there is still time to address these issues without affecting the critical path.

2. Prepare for the 4 Ws – Who, What, When, and Why?

A tactic I found extremely helpful when working with the UAT team is to review the scripts a night or two before testing and evaluate what processes, steps, and roles need to be included. Then, compose a list of the order of how the scripts should be executed, and which days to allocate to which scripts (when).
If the software or project that is being tested has various users with varying functions and security rights, write down who should run each script (meaning the user or users who should run the script; the script should already identify the system role that should be used in running the script.) Keep in mind the users’ day-to-day interactions with the product and which roles will be used to execute the scripts. This will not only help allocate the scripts in such a way as to expedite the testing process, but also illustrates to the team members why they need to understand certain aspects of the system.

3. Ensure the Test is Digestible

When UAT scripts are created, it’s important to keep them as short and cohesive as possible. If processes to be tested are length, either break up the script or create understandable sub-sections within the script so testers don’t lose track of what system process they should be focusing on.
Some of the users performing testing may have had limited or no interaction with the software outside of pre-UAT training, and therefore can easily become overwhelmed, hesitant, or frustrated with the testing process. They will be more successful if scripts are written with short, easily understood steps. When it comes to User Acceptance Testing script process steps, less is truly more.

As an additional way to help keep a test case simple and user-friendly, I’ve often found it helpful to include notes in test script steps that could be unclear. For example, a note could be useful in helping familiarize clients with a new product’s User Interface. For example, “Note: This button can be found in the top left of the screen”.
Notes could also assist users in better understanding their business processes and roles. For example, “Note: If xx is not required, skip down to step 4”. Or, “Note: This will not occur for x,y,z users”.

These notes may not seem to add much to the script’s desired effect or process, but they can greatly improve a user’s experience with running the software and diminish frustration when piloting a product.

4. Harness The Power of Fresh Eyes
As a script writer or reviewer who is very familiar with the eTMF system, it is easy to become jaded and forget what it is like to be experiencing the system for the first time. Finding a colleague who can lend a hand reviewing scripts can help better understand what UAT testers will be seeing, doing, and understanding when performing the steps in the script. An idea or process that may be engrained for you may require extra steps or explanations for a new user.
Having a fresh set of eyes dry-running the script can also be beneficial by surfacing errors that could have otherwise gone unnoticed prior to formal execution.

5. Stay Calm

As with any other type of project document, test plans and scripts can have errors, and finding them during the actual UAT process could cause some anxiety. It’s important to stay calm and collected – the team members responsible for testing will take their cues from your reactions. As easy as it is to become overwhelmed by an error, it’s imperative to take a few breaths, document it, and discuss how a script error or system bug can be remediated.
It’s always a good idea to ask for extra input from your team. For example, if it’s a software bug, have an engineer explain why the issue is occurring, or how it could be fixed. Establish the priority of the issue based on a risk-based approach: Does the issue actually compromise the usability or compliance aspects of the system, introduce the need for a work-around, or is it simply cosmetic? Make sure that system experts are available to weigh in on issues, correct misunderstandings or suggest work-arounds.

User Acceptance Testing should not be a stressful time in the software development life cycle. Instead, it should be an exciting time in which the entire team confirms the successful implementation of the eTMF they have worked so hard on! By being prepared, staying organized, and focusing on the business user’s needs, expectations, and emotions, User Acceptance Testing trepidation will become a thing of the past for both the entire team. Our team used this approach to complete UAT successfully in less than a week, and they are now using their eTMF in production.