Should you be paying more attention to the risks of bad UAT?

When you think of risk, what comes to mind first? If it’s the popular board game (or any one of its themed variants) then you get bonus nerd points, but in a professional capacity it’s likely that either security threats or business continuity came to mind first. In this blog, we’re focusing on business continuity – and, more importantly, a threat to it that you may not have been aware of before now.

User acceptance testing brings risks

It sounds counter-intuitive, right? Testing, after all, is supposed to reduce the risk of bad things happening. User acceptance testing, in particular, is supposed to ensure that the business can still function with the new software. Of course, there is always the risk that something slips through your testing net and makes it into production which then causes problems. And those problems, as several high-profile examples have shown in recent years, can bring the whole business to a grinding halt, costing millions in lost revenue, falling share prices, and even causing investor lawsuits.

Such an eventuality is always possible, but until now the chance of that happening was remote enough that the status quo presents an adequate level of risk for your business. But the risk of that scenario happening, and your business being unable to function due to an update, is growing.

As you move core applications to the cloud, you lose control over how and when you take software updates. For most organisations, that means the volume of updates they need to test – and the frequency with which they come around – is set to grow exponentially. This all puts pressure on your UAT processes, increasing the chances of your processes failing to stop bugs entering production and wreaking havoc with your business.

The problem? Poor processes

The reason that increased testing volume is putting UAT under such strain is that the processes most businesses use aren’t fit for purpose. Most businesses rely on very manual processes, where tests are administered over email, results are tracked in spreadsheets, feedback is given via email and screenshots, and so on. It takes up a lot of time for your IT team and for business users, and often feedback that comes in is difficult to understand or act on, causing further delays. Until now, these problems haven’t been enough of a headache to warrant attention, because updates were only happening every one, two, or six months (if at all). Now that updates may be coming monthly or even weekly, the following things are likely to start happening:

Messy processes mean certain tests aren’t administered

Difficult feedback systems mean that key issues aren’t highlighted properly or repaired ahead of releasing an update

Both of these issues increase the risk of bugs making it into production, or of software changing in ways that disrupt how your business runs – almost certainly beyond what you would deem an acceptable risk level.

The key to mitigating this added risk is finding a way to speed up UAT testing cycles while also improving the process so that nothing gets missed.

How to get the risk back down

The key to mitigating this added risk is finding a way to speed up UAT testing cycles while also improving the process so that nothing gets missed. The management of your UAT needs to come out of spreadsheets and inboxes, and into a fit-for-purpose system that keeps track of everything for you.

A software-based UAT testing solution would allow whoever is administrating the tests to create and assign tests to business users, and would gather their results in a way that makes them easy to triage and act upon. This would make it easy to spot tests that haven’t been administered, tests that haven’t been complete, or feedback that hasn’t been acted on. Even as the volume of tests you need to do goes up.

And, of course, that means you can press on with your cloudification and other plans, confident that no matter how many updates your team needs to test, the risk to your business continuity remains minimal. Perhaps even leaving you with more time to perfect your board game strategy (remember: whoever holds New Zealand wins!).

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