Running a successful beta test is no small feat. You’re often wrangling testers, building surveys, analyzing data, dealing with stakeholders who needed to have results yesterday, and more, all at the same time. As a beta manager, you wear many different “hats”. One minute, you’re a psychologist, analyzing a tester’s mindset and how it affects their feedback, and the next you’re a researcher, carefully compiling data sets to draw insightful conclusions. These hats all play a vital role in a beta manager’s success, so it’s important to understand what each hat is, so you can balance everything that’s on your plate.
As a beta manager, you’ll need to understand your testers’ state of mind. Often, testers are volunteers who are interested in getting the first peek at a product and most of the time (but not always) they have an inherent interest in new and emerging tech products. Along with these traits, there are usually other demographic and technical attributes that groups of testers share. Each of these characteristics come with its own perspective that you, as a beta manager, must understand if you’re going to successfully manage testers and guide them into giving the best feedback.
By understanding the psychology behind beta testing, you can manage testers in a way that will make them most valuable to your beta test. You can encourage the right kind of mindset, the right approach to testing, and ultimately make them feel like an integral part of the product’s development and success (which they are!)
Every tester has an energy pool; a finite amount of effort they’re willing to put into testing your product and providing you with feedback. As a beta manager, it’s critical to understand and acknowledge this fact while also cheering on your testers for providing you with feedback.
Keeping testers engaged in testing your product means: providing them with frequent updates on your progress; thanking and encouraging testers after each bug is reported, feature is suggested, or topic is discussed; and providing testers with a steady stream of interesting activities related to your product. All of this will keep your testers motivated to keep their head in the game and continue providing you with great feedback.
Part of compiling the results throughout a beta test involves synthesizing the multitude of feedback input into actionable insights for the product owner. Most of the time, raw tester feedback can be overwhelming and frustrating for a product owner to receive. The product owner has limited visibility into a tester’s situation and, thus, a single piece of feedback (or a handful of pieces of feedback) can be misinterpreted and an inaccurate conclusion could be drawn.
The ability to analyze multiple channels of tester feedback (bugs, survey responses, discussions, etc.), dig into the data to find explanations or important trends, and then paint a cohesive picture of the state and reception of the product is critical to your success as a beta manager.
One of the most important roles as a beta manager is the interpreter; in other words, being a representative of the voice of the customer (or tester). Taking varying inputs (circumstantial feedback like bug reports and suggestions, in addition to experiential feedback like surveys and interviews) and compiling them into easily understood insight for the product owner is a key skill that beta managers must possess.
It’s easy to regurgitate what testers say, but often, product owners may misunderstand the tester’s intention or assume that an individual piece of feedback is representative of a larger group (when it’s frequently not). This can cause product owners to focus on the wrong areas of their product or make changes that will be a detriment to their success. It’s your duty, as the beta manager, to understand what testers mean and communicate that to the product owner.
A lot of the feedback collected during beta testing is negative. Even a great product is going to have some issues, and testers will often gravitate to those problems first. A beta test might also reveal significant bugs in the product or an area of the product that needs a redesign. In these cases, a beta manager must work to present the information to the product owner in a tactful way. Often, product owners don’t like to hear bad news about their product, so the beta manager becomes the “shoulder to cry on” as the product development team processes the feedback.
Making sure that you’re providing actionable results and recommendations will likely assuage much of the negativity that might stem from these uncomfortable conversations with the product owner. It plots a course for the product owner to follow to improve their product and ensure its chances of success in the marketplace. In the meantime, you can just remind them that it’s better to discover the problem now, rather than when the product has been launched to the world.
By understanding the various hats you wear as a beta manager, you’ll be better equipped to juggle your responsibilities to different stakeholders, while keeping your own sanity. Being a successful beta manager isn’t easy, but if you learn to balance the different needs of everyone involved, you can make a significant impact on your product and your company’s success.