No man is an island. Even if you’re running a beta test on your own, chances are that other departments (such as development, quality assurance, marketing, or sales) are involved in some way. How you engage with other teams during and after your beta can be a great way to illustrate the value of beta within your organization. It can also be completely overwhelming. These tips can help you incorporate other teams to run better beta tests.
1. Proactively Share with Others
We recommend finding time to share beta feedback with teams that might not be involved in the day-to-day efforts of your test. For example, you can pass along feedback about documentation to your technical writers. You might also share product feedback and testimonials with your marketing department. Reaching out like this helps bolster your organization’s opinion of beta testing, gives other departments an opportunity to elicit valuable feedback, and may even help your career trajectory.
2. Engage with Your Quality Teams
“Make friends with your internal quality department. They will know the product very well and will be able to tell you issues that they frequently encounter, which you can in turn tell the testers. They can also tell you what’s been fixed in a release.” —Amanda Dawson, TiVo
3. Become a Jack of All Trades
“Being a beta program manager requires some well-rounded skills. You have to be good with customer-facing engagement, proficient at marketing techniques, competent at managing a project, and able to handle the details of following up with all customer issues/concerns while compiling a detailed final report that can be ready for delivery very shortly after the program ends. If you feel that you are weak in any of these areas, compensate in your beta plan by requesting assistance from the necessary group (marketing, sales, etc.) to fill in the gaps.” —James McKey, Symantec
4. Don’t be a Fire Hose
Beta tests generate a wide variety of feedback, covering every aspect of your product. While product managers are often interested in the big picture, most of your colleagues only have the bandwidth for what’s relevant to them. Providing too much information will limit their engagement and perception of the value of your beta. Do your best to ensure that the feedback you’re distributing is valuable to those receiving it. This often means bugs for QA, survey results for marketing, feature requests for product planning, etc.
5. Promote Thyself
“Market yourself internally. The job of a beta program manager is often misunderstood and underestimated. Document what you had to do along the way and consider presenting the entire process for recording as a video presentation. At the very least this will give confidence to your team that someone else could jump in and can carry on with a rough guideline, aware of the potential pitfalls, if you were to suddenly be abducted by aliens and not returned for at least six months.” —James McKey, Symantec