In helping you get focused, get on track, and get back to profitable growth this blog is part 8 of a 12 part series providing more detail supporting the Business Change Flow presented on my web site, Center for Managing Change.

The previous blog in this series talked about 5 Steps For A Successful Project Scope of Work. Now, let’s turn our attention to 5 Tips For Creating A High-Quality User Acceptance Test.

The expectations in the scope of work need to be appropriate for the situation. This is where the User’s Acceptance Test (UAT) comes into play. This literally defines the inputs, actions, and outputs an end-user will experience when the system is running effectively.

In the rush to get things done the development of the UAT can be left for last and often may not be defined until after the change management project is well under way.

Taking the time to clearly lay out the UAT returns great dividends in terms of getting things done right the first time. Here are some tips that can help you and your team get it right the first time:

  1. Survey Clients And End-Users. Get the information from the those who need your product or service to work seamlessly and in a sustained manner. It may take more than one conversation to get all the critical information you need. Much can go unsaid performing a task where some aspect of the work is non-verbal and primarily a right-brain or spinal activity.
    It can help to work up the flow you perceived from the interview(s) and get back with the team members and do a run-through of your understanding to make sure everything is included.
    Also, make sure the actual end-user is included in the discussion over and above the end-user’s boss, their purchasing department, and any other business function within the client firm that wants to have input on your product or service but actually isn’t an end user.
  2. Survey Sales, Operations, and Customer Service. This activity can make for a very interesting conversation. It would be reasonable to expect they would have differing views since Customer Service wants products to be as reliable as possible while Sales wants products with the desired feature set the customer wants…a feature set that may currently be difficult to provide but easy to sell. Meanwhile, Operations just wants to produce, to get things done.
    You can see that each of these groups can have an overlapping but slightly different agenda, differences that can potentially set up the customer/end-user for disappointment.
  3. It Takes A Team. You can probably see the pattern here, i.e., making sure you get to know the end-user and their needs but also interviewing the stakeholders who influence the end users or have interactions with them.
  4. Drive For The Details. It is impossible to emphasize this too much. I teach an advanced Risk Management course. One part requires working with FMEA, Failure Mode Effect Analysis. Students have to do an apparently simple exercise. The class is divided in half and one set of students creates written instructions for making a paper airplane and the other half of the class tries to make the airplane using only the instructions provided by the first group. There is no improvisation, only a direct following of the written instructions. The two groups cannot talk.
    The results are always very telling. The first pass of the written instructions  usually fall far short of what is needed. It takes several iterations before success occurs.
    Details, details, details…that’s where success lies with the UAT.
  5. Prototyping. In line with item 4 above it is well worth your while to bring in some end-users and include them on a team that makes mock-ups of the desired product or process.
    You can do a table exercise where the team walks through the process of using your methodology or product. This will not only help get the UAT correct it will build bonds among those involved, bonds that will prove to be critical when the inevitable problem arises. It will also help in creating a realistic design specification and project plan and associated Technical Accept Test.

Keep in mind that the greater the change the more important are the boots-on-the-ground activities such as the UAT because they serve as a concrete representation of the end goal, product, process, or deliverable.

A high-quality User Acceptance Test is based on solid Business Requirements. To learn more read the next blog in this series, Bridge From Business Needs to Profitable Action With Business Requirements.

Also, for more information regarding change management and how you can get your arms around it download my free e-book, Mindset – 5 Simple Ways To Look At Complex Problems.