It’s been decades since product developers first started using beta testing. Early tech companies first discovered back then what is common knowledge nowadays: If you get targeted users to provide product feedback, you can turn that data into insights and action items for Product and Engineering. It’s a highly effective strategy for product success — that’s why it’s been around for so long.
But in today’s world of very rapid product iteration and release cycles, having processes alone can’t cut the mustard anymore. There’s just too much work to be done in too little time. Just like QA uses automation to keep up with rapid development, companies have realized that customer testing needs some assistance (i.e., tools that cut down manual labor) if they’re going to increase the speed of delivering insights and reduce friction for test managers.
The evidence of this need was made clear in the data from our most recent industry survey. Here’s a breakdown of the industry data for 2021, including where test managers are encountering friction between their processes and their tools and how top-tier tech companies are combining the two to deliver more impactful and timely results.
Let’s Talk Processes
If you’re in charge of managing alpha, beta, UAT, field, or other pre-release testing projects, you know there are a lot of moving pieces. This year’s data reinforces a trend we’ve seen the last two years and counting: that one of the biggest contributors to consistently successful management is having defined processes. Let’s take a look.
Defined processes are standardized across projects so it’s easier to measure success and make improvements to test management tasks. By contrast, reactive processes are ad-hoc and inconsistent. This makes it difficult to compare results and iterate on practices.
Professionals who are actively focused on process improvement rate their satisfaction with their program more than ½ a star higher on average. The data also shows that a smaller percentage of these professionals report challenges in critical test management areas like maintaining tester participation and collecting feedback.
Let’s Talk Tools
The general equation suggests that defined processes = pathway to improvement = test success. So where do tools come in? Data shows that using multiple tools makes test management unwieldy.
Testing professionals using more than two tools reported more difficulty organizing data across multiple systems, proving the return-on-investment of testing efforts, and allocating the right amount of time for test management overall. It’s clear that decentralized productivity tools are exacerbating existing obstacles to effective test management.
In 2020, the percentage of customer testing programs using three or more tools to collect feedback jumped to 59% — up 13% from last year.
Why the Rise in Tool Usage?
It’s two-fold. There’s the general cost of investing in specialized tools, which is why many customer testing programs stick with generic productivity tools. And of course, disruption caused by the pandemic led to tighter budget constraints, limited resources, and layoffs.
Where Processes and Tools Collide
Here’s where it gets really sticky. Data shows that the majority of test managers are leaning on multiple decentralized tools regardless of their test process style. Looking at the distribution, the pie charts are virtually identical. Even test managers who are using defined processes are running into challenges managing multiple tools.
All of this data together suggests that while defined customer testing practices do make it easier to address certain challenges, centralized tools are essential for significantly increasing the efficiency of beta test management.
Delta Testing: Combining Tools and Processes
How are high-performing programs optimizing their testing processes without staggering under the enormous burden of manual labor? They’re adopting Delta Testing, an evolution of beta testing that is both process-driven and automated.
Think about the endless barrage of activity involved with your customer tests: you chase after testers to keep them engaged, clean up submissions and clarify details when they do come in, route feedback to the right internal teams, and close the feedback loop when feature fixes and updates are delivered. And you’re doing most of these steps all at once, making it very difficult to stay focused and be truly efficient.
Unlike generic productivity tools, Delta Testing tools like the Centercode Platform use a blend of best practices and machine learning to automate time-consuming test management tasks like feedback organization, survey reminders, and issue triage. The end result is delivery of your product issues on a silver platter — prioritized by their impact on product success and ready for you to hand off to your engineering team.
Think it might be time for your beta tests to evolve? See more data on the impact of Delta Testing in The Case for Beta Testing to Evolve.