The Importance and Challenges of User Acceptance Testing

Software and hardware testing are essential in implementing any technology that is developed or configured for your business. While there are many different types of testing, User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is unique in that it is the only time when business or end users are engaged as the primary owners. Other types of testing such as unit, system, security, integration, and scalability are primarily performed by IT team members who have a more technical perspective and do not have the same level of business knowledge as an end user.

Techopedia defines UAT as “the last phase of the software testing process. During UAT, actual software users test the software to make sure that it can handle required tasks in real-world scenarios, according to specification.”

It has been well established that UAT is an important, and some argue the most critical, part of testing. The primary reason to perform UAT is to ensure that you decrease risks that are inherent in the introduction of new software to your business. Therefore, common objectives of UAT is to verify that the software meets the business requirements and to confirm that it supports the day-to-day operations. This is usually the last chance to identify and fix software bugs prior to production release.

Successful UAT can be difficult in practice due to many challenges that project teams encounter. It is imperative to be aware of the challenges and have mitigation measures in-place. Some of the more frequent challenges and recommended mitigation strategies are listed in the table below.


Recommended Mitigation

USER AVAILABILITY: End users have established day-to-day operational responsibilities independent of UAT. This often results in resource constraints, especially if the UAT schedule changes.

  • Pre-plan and include the identification and prioritization of testing scenarios with your end user. Assign an analyst to document test cases based on your end users’ inputs. 
  • Obtain management support to help prioritize the flexibility of your end-users’ schedule.
  • Do NOT attempt to replace a business end user with a technical resource.

TEST ENVIRONMENT: There are multiple environments for different types of testing. UAT should have a dedicated environment. If software fixes are not done in a well-coordinated manner amongst all environments, it may result in  confusion, wasted effort, and potentially false test results.

  • Conduct robust system integration and end to end testing prior to UAT, in a separate distinct environment. This helps to ensure that major defects are identified and fixed before the code is deployed in the UAT environment and testing begins.
  • Maintain a controlled software release cycle throughout all testing, including UAT, to ensure that end users are testing on the most current version.

TEST DATA: Test data should be as close to production data as possible for meaningful UAT results. Test data setup is often overlooked until just prior to UAT and could cause delays.

  • Use a ‘snapshot’ of a production environment instance for UAT. Cleanse and de-identify, where necessary based on security policies, any confidential data prior to loading it into UAT.
  • As the test cases are being developed, obtain specific criteria for the test data from your end users. Create test records which meet this criteria or utilize a technical resource if necessary to query existing data in the UAT environment to determine if it already exists. Document all test data used.

Each end user should have their own dedicated test data so as not to impact others during UAT. If there are test scenarios that cross business functions, carefully coordinate test data usage between multiple users.

COMMUNICATION: Interactions between business end users and technical team members can be a challenge and can be compounded if technical testing is executed offshore by a third party team in different countries. Time zone and primary language differences are influencing factors in effective communication. A misunderstanding on a small incident may cause delays or require re-testing.

  • As part of planning and effective communications, use web based tools to log and prioritize defects and track them to resolution.
  • Arrange a brief, routine defect call during testing to facilitate questions and resolution of outstanding defects. Recap each call with documentation of identified issues.
  • Open bridge lines, with the participation of technical and business resources, are effective and provide almost instant identification of issues encountered.

SCOPE CREEP: This issue is two-fold;

1) There are occasions where an end user will log a defect when identifying a function useful to a business workflow but which is not included in the software requirements, and

2) An end user may identify an existing production issue that is not part of the software code deployment and log it as a defect. 

  • Include clear objectives and actions in the test plan when encountering issues related to scope creep. For example, new requirements should go through a change request process and production issues should be handed off to the production support team.
  • Maintain traceability with the test scenarios and requirements.


UAT is undoubtedly an important part of the overall world of software testing. Ninestone consultants have in-depth knowledge on best practices for testing on small, medium and large projects with unit, system integration, end to end, scalability, regression, and UAT. We can help you create an appropriate test plan and manage its execution for project success.

Tammy Chu, Senior Ninestone Consultant

September 2017