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Your project is getting close to the end. The programmers have unit tested the code, and then the entire team have participated in a series of interfaces and system tests. Now you only have one major test to go: user acceptance testing. Ultimately, the customer owns and must live with the business application you are developing. Acceptance testing allows customers to ensure that the system meets their business requirements.

In fact, depending on how your other tests were performed, this final test may not always be necessary. If the customers and users have participated in system tests, such as requirement testing and usability testing, they may not need to perform a formal acceptance test. However, this additional test is probably required for the customer to give his final approval for the system.

The acceptance testing is the last opportunity for the customers to make sure that the system is what they had asked for. When this final test is complete, the team expects that the customer will formally approve the system or point out any problems that still need to be resolved. Therefore, unlike all the other tests performed so far, acceptance testing is the customers' responsibility. Of course, unless the customers are very savvy in testing techniques, they will still need the participation of the IT team.

The Acceptance Test Plan

The prior tests were all conducted under the direction of the project team, so it was easier to determine what everyone needed to do and what the test would look like. Since the customer is responsible for the acceptance test, you'll need to develop a more formal and documented testing process than you used in previous tests. This will keep the team from being uncertain about what's happening. The Acceptance Test Plan can be a separate document, or you can include the information in the general Test Plan you created during the design phase. Either way, you should define the following information :

Customer Responsibilities

Describe the activities the customer is responsible for and what others are responsible for. On some projects like, E-commerce Website Design Development, Customized competency software, Client server application, Web hosting services, System Integration Management , Mobile Software, etc. the customer is responsible for all aspects of the test, including creating test scenarios, performing the tests, and validating the results. On other projects, the entire teams may assist in the various activities.

Acceptance Criteria

Before you begin the acceptance test, the team should know what criteria will be used to decide whether the system is acceptable or not. Does the system have to be perfect? You better hope not. But the acceptance criteria should define how the decision will be made. The customer may accept a system with certain minor types of errors remaining. But there may be other levels of errors that will render the system unacceptable. Part of the acceptance criteria may be to revalidate some of the other system tests. For instance, the customer may want to thoroughly test security, response times, functionality, etc. even if some of these tests were done as a part of system testing.

Acceptance Test Work plan

Here, you define the activities associated with the acceptance test, when they will begin and end, who is responsible and so on. In other words, you define the work plan for the test. Defining all this up front will help people understand what is expected of them, and they'll be aware of the time frame and know when things are due. You should move all this information to the main project work plan.

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