Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Working Smarter: Don't Forget User Acceptance Testing

When you set up new systems or procedures, don't forget to carry out at least some user acceptance testing (UAT) to ensure your new system or procedure is "goof proof".

As rocket testing engineer Murphy said, "If anything can go wrong, it will." This has also been read as, "If there is more than one way to do something, someone will do it the wrong way." That's why designers make components that will only fit one way or work one way so they cannot be used incorrectly. For example, the TAG Heuer diving watch has a rotating bezel which, if accidently rotated, errs to a lower dive time thus divers can't inadvertently exceed safe diving times because of incorrect orientation of the bezel. This is an example of goof proof.

UAT is essential if you want your system or procedure to work properly. Recently I had to place an order for a computer system to be removed from one room to another by using an online ordering system. It was a daunting experience. Although the computer being moved is a Lenovo computer, I was expected to select the Hewlett Packard Menu, so I got it wrong. Why would you select HP for a Lenovo system? It's anyone's guess.

The message for all of us who design systems or write procedures is, always get your new system or procedure tested by those who will use it. Get people off the street if you must; offer them a few dollars, a free lunch or something, but get it tested. Prior testing prevents poor performance and ultimately can save a lot of wasted time trying to sort out problems that could have been designed out at the design or writing stage.

Do you have any examples of dysfunctional systems or procedures that are more mystifying than clarifying? I bet you do.


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