I can tell you that User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is where many ITSM Projects tends to fall apart.
I have been providing ITSM Best Practices, Latest Solutions, Development, Consulting, Architecture, and Design since 1996, that’s 27+ years, 100+ ITSM implementations, worldwide, in the UK, Europe, Australia, Singapore, Canada, USA with products such as but not limited to Ivanti Neurons, Ivanti Service Manager, Saleslogix CRM, and HEAT ITSM. I also have ServiceNow, Remedy, and Sage CRM experience.
Disclaimer: Not endorsed by, affiliated with, or sponsored by Ivanti, ServiceNow, Remedy, or Infor. Any use of the software product names is descriptive of product experience/skillset with the above-mentioned ITSM and CRM products.
Today I will cover the most common UAT Pitfalls, recommendations, and best practices to put your ITSM Project back on track!
First and foremost you want to do a review of where the ITSM Implementation Project is at. The typical implementation milestones such as Scope of Work, Requirements Gathering, Solution Design, Prototype, and Business Requirements Sign-Off and/or Prototype Sign-Off have been met. That alone should give the customer confidence. And if it doesn’t, then now is a good time to re-iterate all the successes and milestones met.
Drawing from and relating to previous implementations at the same customer site also gives perspective, for example, if several UAT Test Teams have completed their UAT Test Scripts within 5 days and one team is struggling and taking weeks on in, then that is worth sharing to the struggling team and having other UAT Teams share their experiences and successes.
Try to use analogies wherever possible to explain and clarify where things are at. I like using the analogy of purchasing a car. The customer has requirements, such as family of 4, active life style, living in a 4 season climate, with a medium size budget. The UAT Test Scripts are the test drive. The family is the UAT Team. The consultant wears hats of the sales person and mechanic. Ultimately the family needs to go for a test drive , mom or dad are the ultimate decision makers and lead (UAT Lead) the family, perhaps with their oldest child (the UAT Lead), and all aspects of the requirements are discussed with the sales person and perhaps the mechanic (consultant). The sales person (Consultant) gives some advice on what route to take (sample UAT Test Scripts), and helpful advice as to how the car handles and what features the car has. Ultimately though the Customer needs to test drive the vehicle. Get in, familiarize yourself with the control, adjust the mirrors, seat, and so on. Not unlike familiarizing yourself with the new ITSM System and/or features. And then you take the vehicle for a spin, on the highway, on a city road, on rough terrain, in a parking lot to practice emergency braking, parallel parking, check the trunk, storage space, and all aspects of the day-to-day use of the vehicle (the UAT Test Scripts) and then comes back to the Salesperson with questions. It is very seldom that after carefully studying the market and available vehicles that the customer will come back saying the car is undriveable. So why is it that some User Acceptance Testing sessions go haywire? Keep Reading!
Not having UAT Test Scripts
This by far is the biggest issue that can de-rail ITSM Projects. Validation of Business Requirements is essential, as is a proper UAT Test Plan. UAT Test Scripts are a must have to achieve Implementation Success! Who owns the UAT Test Scripts? The customer. The consultant owns the System Test Scripts and Solution Design. Business Processes, Standard Operating Procedures, Business Requirements, and validation of business requirements (UAT) are owned by the customer. Hence that’s why the consultant does not own the test scripts. Simply put, if you are purchasing a car, you typically have a checklist of requirements that you came up with, not the sales person. You don’t walk unprepared into a car dealership and then sign-off after reading the pamphlet. Do your due diligence!
Not following UAT Test Scripts
Having UAT Test Scripts is a step in the right direction, however execution is key. UAT scripts must be followed to ensure you’re validating business requirements, and the UAT Lead must work closely with the UAT Test team to ensure team members understand what is expected and asking them why they aren’t following a proven process? When you walk into the car dealership, you don’t just start up the car and say ok I’ll take it. You go for a test drive.
Not following the UAT Support Structure
As with any process or procedure, it is important to understand the support structure. The UAT Team Members must know who to turn to when there are questions or issues. The UAT Lead is responsible for coordinating UAT Test Scripts with the Team and ensuring Team Members know what is expected. In the event of questions, the UAT Lead should channel that question to the correct individual, if the UAT lead is unable to answer. Note that T.ogether E.veryone A.chieves M.ore, so be sure to have regular UAT Team Meetings where the UAT Team Members can review their finding s and ask for support (Product relatedHow-To, Procedural, etc) amongst the TEAM and with the UAT Lead and getting direction from the Decision Maker.
When you purchase a car as a family, then everyone gets a chance to participate in the test-drive, unless of course the kids are toddlers, but even then you need to include them in the test-drive, and strap them into the baby-seat to see if it is up to your requirements. So when family members identify an issue, it goes to the parent. Ultimately it’s the parents that sign off, make and own the decision.
Some UAT Testers tend to work in silos, creating a list of all the problems the find whereas the best practice is to encourage collaboration, as per the above support structure, and emphasize solutions, not problems.
If your team insists of creating a separate list of problems in outdated tools such as Word, Excel, Notepad, or handwritten, then it’s time to re-emphasize the importance of collaboration and discussing the issues at the next UAT Team Meeting rather than letting the frustrating build up.
When the family members decide to raise problems at every turn of the test-drive, then it’s time to have a family meeting and address the concerns. Is it really a problem with the vehicle? Is there something else going on? Is there some confusion around an aspect of the vehicle?
No Internal Meetings
One of the best practices for UAT is to ensure you have regular standup UAT meetings, daily at first, until you have momentum and are able to move to weekly. These meetings are essential for collaboration and ensuring everyone is working together to find solutions, not problems. Not unlike family meetings, the parents need to be on the same page and the family deserves to know what’s going on and have some input on the decision and test drive results.
Any new software product or major feature has a learning curve. ITSM products are no different. Moving from Excel to a new ITSM product, even upgrading to a newer version, has a learning curve, as do major functionality enhancements. Without the support structure, collaboration, internal meetings, that that learning curve can be detrimental. It is important that any issues, no matter how big or small or channeled to the UAT Lead and/or Training Lead. If needed, the UAT/Training Lead should make a list of questions for the ITSM Consultant so that areas requiring assistance are addressed. Tip: This is where the a19 UAT Test Scripts Module comes in, by entering Comments for the consultant.
When you’re test-driving a vehicle, there is a leaning curve too, so what do you do, first you do a visual inspection around the car, then inside inspection, check the side mirrors, rear view mirror, familiarize yourself with the control, adjust the seat, and then get familiar with how the car handles. Just like with any new ITSM System or new ITSM features. It’s quite intuitive. Of course unless you’ve never driven a car or never even used a PC or Google. Then the learning curve will be harder and you need some basic training.
When implementing a new system, there often is new terminology or a change in terminology, be it technical or business related. You’ve made it this far, so any new terminology has without a doubt been covered in the many workshops, design sessions, prototype reviews, and at sign-off.
Any questions about terminology should be logged by the UAT Lead, reviewed with the Decision Maker, and if needed, reviewed with the ITSM Consultant. Often it’s just simple changes in terminology, like gas tank or fuel tank. Trunk or boot of the car. If you haven’t heard one term before well then you don’t raise that as a flag and stop driving the car and say it’s unusable. You just ask for clarification and keep on plugging away. It’s not the end of the world, but if you’re confused then raise your hand and talk to the UAT Lead.
Resistance to Change
Change is inevitable. The only constant is change. Yet it’s human instinct to resist change. Change needs to be enforced by the Decision Maker and supported by the UAT Lead. Sometimes the best answer is to re-emphasize “the new way of doing things” and gradually over the time, users will adapt. Like when you purchase an SUV because it fits all the business requirements but many family members really had their heart set on a Sports Car or family members were used to the old gas guzzling family car that had lots of good memories, was no longer economical and the family had outgrown.
Not following or understanding business process/procedure
The key to remember is that the Business drives Technology, and not the other way around. Focus needs to be on the business requirements and operating procedures. Be sure to seek guidance from the Decision Maker if any business operating procedures are unclear. When you’re test driving a car, then you test various aspects of your day-to-day use of the car. Highway driving, city driving, off-road, parking, etc. Everyone on the UAT Test Team (participants) should be well acquainted with their role. New drivers will need more help than others.
Not understanding the UAT Test Script
Some UAT Testers might find UAT Test Scripts hard to follow. Remember these scripts are built by the decision maker and/or UAT Lead, so be sure to raise any questions and make note of any improvements to the UAT Test Scripts. UAT Test Scripts aren’t written in stone and can be updated as needed. Some UAT Test Scripts need no explanation at all, while others may require explanation of a standard operating procedure, steps to take, and input date. If you take a car for a test drive and milli-vanilli decide to do emergency braking on the highway, well that’s going to shock and confuse everyone. So make sure you are clear on what and why you’re testing.
Not having UAT Test Data
While you may get away with using milli-vanilli data (arbitrary data), the best practice is to always use real data and examples from your existing system, whether that system is a sophisticated computer system, excel, or hand written artifacts. You will want to have real life data available that accurately reflects the type of input the tester will be using in day-to-day operations. Simple put, if you’re replacing your Helpdesk Ticket System, use ticket data. If you’re replacing sales order, use sample sales orders. Similar to regression testing, put your old system on the left hand side and the new system on the right hand side and then go through the motions in your old system and replicate in the new system. When you’re test-driving a car, your test data is your current way of doing things, plus some artifacts such as the oversized golf clubs or family bikes or skis that need you need to make sure fit.
Focusing on nice-to-haves versus MUST-HAVES
The key intention of UAT is to validate business requirements (must-have-requirements), not to minimize the number of clicks, or nit-pick UI Design. There is always room for UI Improvement (nice-to-have requests) and that time is after UAT is complete and business requirements have been signed off. This tends to be where some UAT Testers get stuck, focusing on the window dressing instead of the architecture and foundation. When you purchase a car, the accessories are just that. Sure the super expensive surround sound is nice, but is it needed? Are the fuzzy dice, bumper stickers, upgraded paint job, and fancy wheel covers really imperative when conducting road test?
Keep in mind that the UAT Test Scripts are not training guides to the system, but rather steps to validate the business requirements by the owning team. It is up to the owners of the scripts, to maintain the scripts and word the steps in a way that is meaningful to their users.
Software has come a long way and the old ways of creating extensive training materials with step by step instructions and days of classroom training are in the past. Web applications nowadays are intuitive and require very little training. Albeit there is always a learning curve for any new application.
If more detailed training materials are needed, over and above the training videos provided by the ITSM Consultant, and workshop recordings of all ITSM Project Sessions to date, then a best practice is to have the customer’s training lead or knowledge manager to work with the ITSM Admin to clarify and if needed, work with the ITSM consultant to tailor customer specific training videos.
However, that shouldn’t stop UAT testing. As always keep moving forward and test what you can, collaborate with your team, and ask for help from the UAT Lead, who can always get help with ITSM specific functionality question from the ITSM Admin.
More often then not, it’s just a matter of getting used to the new way of doing things, reading between the lines, and trust that the most important interface, the chair to keyboard interface, will figure it out.
It’s not unlike getting used to a new card that you’re test driving, it will handle differently then what you’re used to, the gas tank may be called fuel tank and placed on the opposite side of what you’re used to, but doesn’t stop you from the road test. You continue as needed and trust that you will figure out the changes. Owner manuals are time consuming to read, hardly every read, and just collect dust in the glove compartment. A few questions, some help from others, from the experienced drivers, and voila you are mastering the road test in no time.
Waiting until the final hour to ask for help
Some implementations tend to go very smooth while others tend to stagnate with the UAT Team either not testing, focusing on nice-to-haves versus validating must-have requirements, and any combination of the above pitfalls, and then ultimately raising a red flag out of the blue with a long list of issues, that could have been easily addressed as per the above recommendations and best practices.
You don’t wait until the day of the paper signing to mention that rattling noise or performance issue during the test-drive, you mention it right here and then. But it can happen, and if it does, then you go for another test drive and move forward!
Although technically not a pitfall the UAT Team might stop testing all together or raise flags when gaps are identified. Ironically Gap Analysis is the intention of UAT, to validate the Business Requirements and identify any show stoppers (gaps). When a gap is identified, it should be raised to the UAT Lead to verify, and if confirmed, reviewed with the decision maker, to prioritize. Showstopper versus implement-later versus nice-to-have. For example, that ski-rack that you need, and isn’t available. Is that a show stopper? If it’s the middle of summer and you can wait until December? Not having 4 wheel drive for country roads in winter conditions for a work truck could be a major gap. And you know what we do with gaps right, we address them, and fill them. Such as ask for the 4 wheel drive model. However make sure you adequately prioritize gaps and just focus on needs, not wants.
In summary, the best practice for your ITSM system is to ensure that UAT Support Structure is followed, UAT Test Scripts are actively used and maintained, real test data is used from your existing system, and the team looks for solutions, not problems collaborates regularly, and focuses on must-have versus nice to haves, and moving forward with the new way of doing things, realizing there is a learning curve, and the decision makers have signed-off after many workshops, prototypes, and discussions to move ahead and need you to validate that the day-to-day requirements have been met.
It’s not unlike test-driving a new car you want to purchase. You take it for a spin and take it through the motions of your day-to-day activities. Parking, driving on the highway, check the storage space, handling, ask your significant others opinion, collaborate on your findings, and then focus on must-haves. The nice-to-haves like the fuzzy dice on the rear-view mirror aren’t important. Those you can get to later, after you did some emergency braking, speed tests, and the likes and find the new car is up to snuff. Sure, you need to get used to how it drives, there is a learning curve to any new car. And if the ski rack you want isn’t available now, in mid-summer, well no biggie, not the end of the world. Also rest assured that the decision makers have done their research, kicked the tires, and had many discussions with the dealership to make sure it’s the right fit. And of course the dealership is committed to address any reasonable concerns or issues.