The above image shows just a small portion of our office Lego board, which the Centercode team uses to plan and stay on top of all the beta tests that we run throughout the year.
Managing a single beta test can be difficult, but if you’re running multiple beta tests at once, things can easily get out of hand. From extreme delays and limited testing windows to stakeholders that require constant updates and frustrated testers who leave very little feedback, you could end up in a situation where one or all of your beta tests fall off the wagon.
You may end up with not enough data to make sound decisions about your product, or you and your development team may miss key deadlines or product milestones, leading to delayed or failed product launches.
At Centercode, we’re constantly running dozens of beta tests at once, and there are a few challenges that every beta manager or company faces. But there are certain steps we take to ensure each test runs smoothly from day one. The following best practices help our team stay on top of each test while making sure they’re also prepared for any issues that could arise.
1. Have a Plan in Place
First, without a plan and schedule, everything will fall apart, especially when dealing with multiple beta tests. After all, delays are all but guaranteed in the product development world.
By having an established plan in place for you and your team, you’ll essentially have a roadmap or blueprint for how each test is supposed to run. This will help you to better anticipate or meet any delays or issues that could come up.
At Centercode, we plan each test by breaking it up into four individual stages — planning, prep, testing, and closure. By clearly defining each stage as part of your project’s schedule with its own entry and exit criteria, your team will be able to establish and determine their deadlines and requirements. You’ll also be able to better manage your resources for each stage and for each project, which is critical when juggling multiple tests.
Here are some more tips for planning your beta test.
2. Clearly Defined Roles and Responsibilities
Having clearly defined roles is one of the keys to Centercode’s success when managing multiple tests at once. Not everyone who works on a beta test is a Beta Manager. At Centercode, we have Test Managers, Tester Leads, Community Managers, and Program Managers.
We’ve found that it’s best to have multiple people specialized in different roles rather than having everyone working on everything at once. Since team members are aware of their own responsibilities on each project, you’ll avoid confusion over who’s working on what. This allows each team member to focus on their own priorities while also being able to better support each other, resulting in a smoother, more efficient project.
3. Effective Time and Workload Management
Not realizing how much work might go into running a single successful project, let alone multiple projects, is a huge failure point that many inexperienced test managers will face at one time or another. While having clearly defined roles and test stages help manage workload expectations and individual responsibilities on a project by project basis, general time management and workload balancing also serve a vital purpose.
Our tester leads suggest laying out the schedule for each of your beta tests, taking note of timelines and key times for things like when you’ll need to send out surveys. You can also help minimize workload by leveraging and repurposing documentation that is needed regularly, such as email drafts or great surveys.
You can dedicate chunks of time throughout the day to single projects or tasks so that you don’t get confused or leave things half finished. You can also make a to-do list before you finish up for the day, which will help you prioritize tasks and jump right in when you arrive the next day. It’s also a good idea to set aside time for following up on testers or for anything else that might come up unexpectedly.
4. Finding the Right Testers
Workload is also driven by the number of testers in your test since your team will need to support each tester and process all the feedback they provide. By finding targeted, high-quality testers, you’ll vastly reduce the work you need to put into an individual test since you won’t have to constantly remind them to participate or constantly re-educate them on how to be a good beta tester.
This can be vital to a successful beta test, allowing you and your team to focus on other aspects of juggling multiple beta tests instead of dealing with unresponsive testers. For more on how to find quality testers, check out our 10 tips for selecting great beta testers.
Running multiple tests at once is a daunting task. We’ve found success in designing scalable processes that are both repeatable and flexible enough to deal with delays and different types of beta tests. By leveraging these well-defined and templated processes, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel for each and every test.