Tips to Ensure a Smooth User Acceptance Testing Process: Part 1

September 1, 2021


Written by Drew Simmons


Whenever working on a project, it is critical to ensure that more time is spent on planning than in the execution.  That philosophy is particularly vital to the completion of a User Acceptance Testing (UAT) process.  Planning and preparation are essential to make sure that your system is tested effectively.  The goal of UAT is to try and break your system and test your processes.  However, you do not want to experience a breakdown of the testing process itself.  This blog post is designed to give you some critical points to consider as you develop the user acceptance testing strategy for your newly acquired Human Capital Management (HCM) system.  This is the first part of a two-part series about how to plan and execute your user acceptance testing process successfully.

The first thing to do is to coordinate with your implementation partner to determine what testing looks like.  Here are some steps for your consideration:

1. UAT Test Scripts
Contrary to popular belief, the responsibility of creating valid UAT test scripts generally falls on the client unless otherwise stated in your contract. If you are unclear about who is responsible for creating the test scripts or not specified in your sales contract, make sure you discuss this with your partners. This discussion should outline any requirements for assistance that you will need for testing.  Addressing this as early as possible is essential, as preparing for UAT takes time.  I cannot tell you how many times I have engaged in conversations with clients about UAT testing and scripts a few weeks before we are set to begin, and clients are surprised to know they will need to create their own scripts.  This can lead to a very uncomfortable and awkward discussion if it does not take place until a few weeks before testing is set to begin, not to mention leads to the client team working extra hours to build their test scripts at the last minute.  Therefore, it is best for everyone involved to discuss this at the beginning of the project.Once you have clearly defined who is responsible for creating the test scripts, the next step is creating the test scripts. The best time to create them is after you and the implementation partner agree on what your processes will look like in the new system. As soon as you sign off on process requirements, you should begin to create your scripts.  If the implementation partner is creating them, you may want to check in periodically between process/design signoff and the beginning of testing to get an idea of the progress of the content. Avoid surprises by ensuring that the consultant understands your process and is focused on testing every aspect of your system configuration.

2. Create a UAT Issues Log
You will need to create an organized way to track items that need to be reviewed and validated during the testing process. The best way to do this is to keep a UAT issues log.  A UAT issues log can even be as simple as a simple spreadsheet on Excel that tracks an item number, status indicator, description of this issue, and resolution date.  At a bare minimum, these items are sufficient for tracking. You can enhance your testing process by tracking case numbers. Case numbers are helpful if you or the consultant needs to open support cases that require advanced troubleshooting by the HCM software vendor.Are you familiar with the term “less is more”?  Many of us have used this term in various aspects of our professional lives, whether it is writing emails or leaving voicemails for colleagues.  However, applying a less is more philosophy to UAT will create a terrible user acceptance testing process.  When documenting issues on your UAT issues log, provide the most detailed description of your problems as you possibly can.  Consider what you were doing when the issue occurred, the test ID and user role of the ID you were using, and the expected behavior.  Also, remember, screenshots are your friend! Take screenshots of error messages to supplement documentation.

3. Verify Security Settings of Roles to be Tested
To avoid surprises during the testing process, confirm the security settings of all roles involved in the testing process. You can use your signed design document as a basis to confirm the security roles that should be reflected in your system.

4. Identify Participants for each Role
Be strategic in whom you select to test your system. As HR practitioners, we can affectionately reflect upon the “cheerleaders” and “nay-sayers” within our respective organizations.  It would be best if you used a mixture of these role types in the UAT process.  The cheerleaders will maintain a positive attitude to help others get across the finish line.  Your cheerleaders will also typically assist others who are having trouble with the system as they struggle to find items specified by the test scripts. Cheerleaders will instill hope in the nay-sayers in the room, who may complain and grumble their way through the process.  I know you may be cringing at the thought of including the nay-sayers in your organization.  However, nay-sayers will provide a great deal of value to your testing process.  They will find everything wrong with the system, ask why things don’t work, and tell you what would be ideal for them because they are so busy, and they will go on and on and on.  That is EXACTLY what you want!

This is your opportunity to turn negative feedback into items for resolution on the issues log, gather suggestions on improving configurations, or identifying training collateral that may be missing.  You want to make sure you include nay-sayers, but make sure you sprinkle the nay-sayers among the cheerleaders. Do not put all of the people in each of these groups together. Instead, mix up the role types, so they are working together on testing your processes.

5. Plan Testing Logistics
During the testing period, you want to schedule two sets of daily calls. The first call should take place in the morning to include all testing participants.  In these sessions, you provide sufficient time to test the system according to your test scripts.  Please provide these participants with a conference room space with laptops available. If possible, set up this physical space in conference style versus classroom style because it facilitates a much more collaborative environment. You’ll want to have three people facilitating the testing process. One person should take on a facilitator role, guiding the overall testing process. A second team member should be walking around the room and helping your testers find system functions required by the test scripts. A third team member should be documenting issues.  Do not execute a completely independent testing process where participants are on their own to complete the testing process.  Suppose you expect your participant to go away with the test scripts and test independently by a given deadline. In that case, you can almost guarantee that no testing will be done.  The guided testing process also assists in gleaning valuable and meaningful data from which you can resolve issues.

Schedule your second daily call in the afternoon with your implementation consultant.  During this meeting, your project team should meet with the consultant to outline UAT status, discuss the items documented on the issues log, and request assistance on specific issue log items where help is needed.  If you take this approach, you will not need your consultant to participate in the morning testing sessions.  This methodology leads to a very organized testing process and fewer hours consumed by your consultant, helping to save money on the project’s budget.

6. Verify the System Process with Consultant Before Testing
To minimize unexpected and surprising system behavior, schedule a meeting with your consultant a few days before UAT is set to begin. The purpose of this meeting is to review all expected behavior to ensure that the system is working as expected.  Use the test scripts to guide the process and determine if any updates are needed before distribution to the testing participants.  This process is what is known as system testing or unit testing.  Most people like surprises for their birthdays or holidays, but no one like surprises during user acceptance testing.  Unit testing is the best way to avoid surprises during UAT.

This is the first of a two-part series. In the second part of this blog series, we will explore how user acceptance testing should be executed.


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Drew Simmons

Drew Simmons joined HRchitect in 2018 and brings over 25 years of experience in the field of Human Capital Management, including 5 years of experience with UKG Pro, to the HRchitect team. In his role as Director, UKG Pro Implementation Services, Drew leads a team of highly-skilled consultants to ensure high-quality delivery of Implementation, Optimization, Integration, Reporting, and Ongoing Support consulting services to HRchitect’s clients utilizing the UKG Pro Suite. Drew holds six UKG certifications and is also Certified in iCIMS Talent Cloud.

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