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User Acceptance Testing – Making sure ERA is on the right track

Contributed by Randy Bickford

If you’ve been closely following the ERA blog, you’ve likely seen references to User Acceptance Testing (UAT). As we’ve noted, UAT is the final, critical step in software development. This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of end-users getting their first chance to directly interact with and provide feedback on the new system they will eventually be using every day. The goal of this phase is to ensure that the system performs as intended.

The ERA project team arrived at this point after performing multiple revisions to the system during the latter half of 2018, working their way down from major system changes to more-nuanced, task-oriented changes (e.g. question sequencing, text formatting).

Throughout January 2019, all members of the Animal Care and Use Module Team were invited to participate in UAT sessions. During the sessions, team members were divided into different audience groups and given the opportunity to use the new system to perform tasks related to their respective job duties. Members of the IACUC office, for example, tested tasks such as the coordination of submissions, transfer to designated reviewers, and creation of meeting agendas, among others. Meanwhile, voting members of the Committee tested functions such as receiving the protocols for review, making and returning comments, reviewing committee agendas, and recording votes.

One notable aspect of these sessions is that the functions the Animal Care and Use Module will perform are currently performed using a paper form process. The transition to a digital process provided a unique opportunity for staff to rethink existing processes and procedures. Some aspects of a paper form process simply cannot be replicated in a digital interface. For example, whereas a paper form can offer an open-ended response for all items, the new system must be more linear in order to guide a user through a given task.

But this can also enable users to make their existing processes more efficient. As ERA project team Technical Analyst Angie Fullington notes, it is only during the UAT phase that these kinds of innovations can occur. “Sometimes,” she notes, “you can’t see an opportunity to streamline a process until you directly experience the system itself.”

ERA Training Manager Lynley Wentzel observed this phenomenon firsthand during the January sessions. UAT participants performed their everyday tasks using the new system, asking questions and making suggestions to the project team so that needed adjustments or improvements could be made. The users responded positively to the new dashboard. But more importantly, they participated in the process with the project team.

“The users found ways to improve the system to make it better for the community,” Wentzel says. “And as a result they are on the right track.”   

Additional UAT sessions are scheduled for February and into March so that both the system and the training materials can be further refined in preparation for the go-live date for the Animal Care and Use Module.

In the meantime, watch this space (and your inbox) to learn about upcoming training opportunities, which will be offered in both online and in-person formats. We will share more news about the ongoing progress as soon as we have more information. Visit the ERA website and read our past blog entries to learn more.