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Leader Insights

5 Beta Program Tips to Live By from Industry Superstars

May 7, 2020

The only certainty in these unpredictable times is that your customers know what they want — and they’re eager to talk about it. That’s what makes securing customer feedback more crucial than ever. But with your team — and your customers — scattered to the winds and hunkered down for the long haul, it can be difficult to keep the ball rolling smoothly in the right direction.

If you’re someone who’s been charged with managing a beta testing program, these five industry superstars know what you’re going through. What’s more, they’re here to help. Here are the five top tips for managing a beta program, taken from their sessions at Delta ’20: The Virtual CVConference.

Tip #1: Never Underestimate the Power of Cold Beer

5 Beta Program Tips to Live By from Industry Superstars

Alex Larsen, Trimble Transportation

The benefits of Customer Validation are many, but teams still struggle when it comes to securing interdepartmental buy-in. Trimble Transportation’s Alex Larsen knows that the way to his coworkers’ hearts is through their stomachs.

“We show up at a different department or division with about an hour left in the workday, and we bring a bunch of beer and snacks,” said Alex. “Then we do a brief presentation on what our team is, who we are as people, what our process looks like, how we currently interact, and we share ideas about how we can better collaborate moving forward.

In these sessions, my team has learned a lot. We’ve learned what people don’t know about us. We’ve learned what people are doing that we could easily start doing for them or areas where we can start contributing value. We’ve learned which processes they’re doing manually that we could automate. That’s really helped us forge connections to new people across our organization.”

Watch “Curating a CV-Centric Company Culture” On-Demand

Tip #2: Use Data and Best Practices as Leverage

5 Beta Program Tips to Live By from Industry Superstars

Joy Trillet, GE Lighting

Joy Trillet built the beta and usability program at GE Lighting from the ground up. While she lists several challenges she’s encountered (and conquered) throughout this massive undertaking, one of the biggest is getting the time her team needs for beta testing worked into the product development schedule.

“A major challenge every company struggles with is trying to put a stake in the current product development lifecycle and implement beta in there,” said Joy. “In companies like [GE Lighting] where you’ve got hardware and software products, there’s already so much going on. With so much that needs to be lined up, it’s extremely difficult to add one more thing.

“Those kinds of challenges are ongoing, but being able to come to my team with a definitive time period (rooted in data and best practices) really helps. I can say, ‘Here’s my timeline. It includes the average time recruitment takes, how long beta and alpha take. We need to look at the whole schedule and implement it.’ And we know it’s going to work because it’s backed by data.”

Watch “Wrangling CV in a Modern Enterprise” On-Demand

Tip #3: Seek Out Active (and Proactive) Users

5 Beta Program Tips to Live By from Industry Superstars

Jenna Deutsch, Bose

Three out of four professionals say they have issues maintaining tester engagement during their CV project. A big contributing factor to high engagement begins even before the test itself — identifying and recruiting enthusiastic testers is essential to encouraging a strong and steady flow of feedback. How can you tell when someone will be an engaged tester during your beta project? Jenna Deutsch from Bose advises looking at their community activity.

“We have a ton of testers [in our community] who’ve filled out a profile and never done anything again. During recruitment, it’s useful for us to go in and see when was the last time they logged in. Are they active and proactive, or are they just waiting for the next recruitment to come along?”

Watch “Cranking Up the Volume of Customer Validation” On-Demand

Tip #4: Balance Simplicity with Detail

5 Beta Program Tips to Live By from Industry Superstars

Chris Rader, Centercode

Can there really be too much of a good thing? When it comes to building surveys, Centercode’s Chris Rader says, “Yup.” Like recruitment, your tools (in this case, your surveys) have a profound impact on how willing your testers are to continuously provide quality feedback. Chris points out the risks of asking your testers for too much during a survey.

“Limit the number of questions that you’re asking, especially if they’re irrelevant to your project. You don’t want to ask for too much information. For example, if you have a survey that’s 20 or 30 questions that you need to ask, you have to ask yourself: ‘What is the likelihood of a tester completing that? Are they willing to go through these hoops to give me feedback?’ They may decide it’s not worth the effort. There’s a balance between the simplicity and the information you need to get.”

Tip #5: Love What You Do

5 Beta Program Tips to Live By from Industry Superstars

Chris Mitchell, Autodesk

If you’re running a beta project or managing a beta program, you know how much work goes into it. The key to doing truly incredible work? Chris Mitchell from Autodesk says it starts with a passion for what you do. He candidly jokes that the Centercode and Betabound stickers on the front of his snowboard are his “favorite engagement model” because they remind him of the importance of what he does for a living.

“Anybody who’s going to engage with this sort of level of activity has got to be passionate about it,” says Chris. “It’s got to be more than a task, more than a job. You’ve got to be passionate about engaging with your customers and your products and passionate about proving those products. It’s part of being an owner of a feedback community — you’re in a position to incite that passion.”

Watch “The Best Customer Engagement Tool You Never Knew You Had” On-Demand

More from Inside the CV Industry

With Customer Validation becoming more and more crucial in the time of remote work, there’s never been a better time to be a CV professional. Hear more insights from inside today’s top programs in these on-demand sessions from Delta ’20: the Virtual Customer Validation Conference.

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