Your Project Should Not be a Tragedy

April 8, 2015

Written by:  Julia Hatton

If all the world’s a stage, your implementation project may fall into tragedy if not properly rehearsed.  You’ve spent months selecting and perfecting the script.  Everyone has learned their lines.  Your blocking and technical direction have been finalized.  You’ve set the date, reserved the location, and advertised your premiere.  After all of that work, you wouldn’t dream of facing opening night without practicing the full performance first.  So get out your costumes and dim the house lights because it is time for dress rehearsal for the big show!

A critical phase in any implementation project, User Acceptance Testing (UAT) often does not get the attention it deserves.  A number of issues clients encounter during deployment, or “go live,” are things they did not test well.  To avoid becoming a tragedy, here are areas to consider for your dress rehearsal.

Run-throughs:  It is important to note that UAT should not be a time for rehashing design requirements nor should it be a time of discovering that the design is completely off track.  Those check-ins should have occurred previously during run-throughs, or unit testing, of various functions and by collecting feedback from end users along the way.

The Play:  Develop a thorough test plan based on your design specifications.   It should outline when testing will occur, how long it will last, and how many rounds of testing are needed.  The test plan should also define the resources needed as well as the process and methods for testing, logging results, and issue resolution.  Set expectations that results are logged daily to prevent an influx of issues in the final days without adequate time to address, resolve, and retest.  The test plan should also establish a process for delivering progress reports to stakeholders.  Regular updates will allow you to address challenges and manage risks in addition to creating accountability for the team.

Cast:  Identify the resources that will be available to you.  How many testers are needed?  How much of their time will be allotted for testing?  Are all user groups for the new system represented?  Consider mixing individuals who have been closely involved with those who have not.  Your goal is to create a balanced, reliable test team that can bring real-world experience and complete all tasks accordingly.

The Script:  A successful testing cycle is dependent upon well-written test scripts or test cases. Plan to have multiple testers execute each test case.  When writing them, break the test cases into logical chunks or areas of focus.  This may be by function, by user roles, or a combination.  For example, for a talent acquisition system, you may have test cases for recruiters, hiring managers, HR, etc.  Functional areas of testing may include requisition creation, approval, candidate management, and so on.

Blocking:  Depending on the flexibility of the product, create a variety of test scripts.  Some should include very detailed, step-by-step instructions.  Others may provide general instructions without requiring they be performed a specific way.  Instructing an actor to enter from the wing, take three steps downstage and six steps stage-left will undoubtedly identify issues with that specific path.  However, if you grant the actor freedom to try different paths to center-stage, you may discover an unseen warp in the floor that someone will trip over if left unaddressed.

The Location:  Depending on where your testers are located, having scheduled testing sessions together in a conference room may provide greater likelihood that testers are able to step away from their “normal” jobs by providing a dedicated time and place to focus on their testing.  This is an efficient approach which allows testers to ask questions and be instantly notified of known issues and other timely communication related to their efforts.

Curtain call:  When the rehearsals are done and the premiere was a success, be sure the cast and crew are given the recognition they deserve.  Everyone should have the opportunity to take a bow and bask in the limelight for a minute before being rushed to the next show.

Now get out there and break a leg!

Julia Hatton2

Julia has over 15 years of experience in Human Resources. As a Senior Consultant with HRchitect, her expertise includes process optimization and design, requirements analysis, testing and deployment, change management, training, and system administration. Julia’s integrity, passion, and commitment to excellence make her a bright star in the ever-evolving world of HCM technology.