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Guest Posts

Winning Over Product Managers for Better Betas

Posted on
April 24, 2024

New processes are often a headache to implement—both for the team in charge of implementation and the teams following the new direction. For those in high-stress roles in a growing company, like Product Managers, these new processes can feel more like a migraine than a regular headache. 

There’s no doubt that Product Managers play a pivotal role in making a company successful. They’re in charge of shaping the product’s vision and are the guiding force in determining the next steps for development. They balance a hefty load of various tools and stakeholder relationships, yet they’re constantly asked to take on more. 

I’ve seen the struggles that PMs face firsthand. When I joined Collibra back in 2022, I was tasked with collaborating closely with Product Managers to revamp their incipient customer validation program. The leading company for Data Intelligence was growing rapidly which fueled the need for new teams such as the one that welcomed me: Product Operations. The team’s goal was to become a trusted partner to the Product organization, providing process and information in support of bringing a better experience and more value to Collibra customers more quickly. 

I won't sugarcoat it—implementing the new beta processes wasn't a bed of roses. Along the way, I faced resistance from overburdened Product Managers and their teams. But, I knew that in order to ensure the success of our beta tests and maximize their potential, I needed to convince the Product Managers that we were their allies.

So how did I win them over? What’s the secret to bridging the divide between Product and customer validation? The rest of this blog will lay out four key strategies I used to get our Product Managers to embrace beta testing and the value it brings to the development process.

Defining the process

Challenge: Many Product Managers feel lost when it comes to beta testing. They may be uncertain about the optimal schedule, how to target their ideal testers, whom to collaborate with at the company, or any number of things. The lack of clarity can stall the process and lead to missed customer validation opportunities.

Solution: The key is in the documentation. Create comprehensive, step-by-step guides that spell out the beta testing process. Establish a go-to resource that demystifies the process not just for product managers but for everyone in the organization. This "source of truth" ensures that every team member, regardless of their familiarity with beta testing, can understand and follow the process. 

In my case, I developed a six-video training series, in addition to the written documentation, exclusively tailored for Product Managers. This series, titled 'Getting Started with Beta Testing at Collibra,' serves as an effective resource to facilitate their onboarding.

Streamlining the process

Challenge: If Product Managers find beta testing cumbersome or confusing, it's a signal that the process needs refining. An overly complicated system can frustrate those involved, leading to lack of engagement.

Solution: One valuable lesson I learned from my manager is to never assume that your process is perfect. Don’t be afraid of reassessing its effectiveness periodically.

For this effort, direct feedback is invaluable! Sending a survey to Product Managers periodically asking them to pinpoint exactly what aspects of the process they found burdensome can be eye-opening. You could use this feedback to simplify and streamline the steps in your beta program.

One insight I got from this survey was that some Product Managers had trouble figuring out who was responsible for what during the beta test. This led to the creation of a more straightforward and shorter test template document, highlighting the project stakeholders and their roles at the top.

By actively involving Product Managers, you ensure the process is shaped to meet their needs and preferences, making it more likely they'll engage with betas fully. 

Enhancing tools proficiency

Challenge: A tool like Centercode is powerful for beta testing, but if product managers don't know how to use it effectively, they can't leverage its full potential. They need to get the hang of the portal and learn how to navigate the useful data it provides.

Solution: Develop comprehensive enablement materials for your beta platform tool and spend one on one time with the product managers going over your beta portal. Create demo videos, detailed resource pages, and real-world examples from successful beta programs. Ensure these materials are easily accessible and intuitively organized. 

By empowering Product Managers with the knowledge and confidence to use Centercode effectively, they can unlock its benefits, leading to more efficient and insightful beta testing.

Elevating the importance of beta testing

Challenge: Sometimes, beta testing isn't seen as a priority for Product Managers. This can result in inadequate or missing user testing projects and ultimately, a product that doesn't fully meet user needs or expectations.

Solution: Data is a powerful persuasion tool. Showcase the tangible benefits of beta testing through real examples and metrics. Highlight how beta testing has identified critical issues, generated valuable user feedback, and contributed to the refinement of their product. Share stories of how beta testing has directly influenced product improvements, marketing strategies, and customer satisfaction and make sure to include them in your company channels, internal newsletters, etc. 

By connecting beta testing to concrete outcomes, Product Managers are more likely to recognize its value and integrate it into their product development cycle.

Winning them over!

Talking (or typing) about this is easy, but making it a reality is certainly no small feat. My final recommendation is simple: stay consistent and gradually enhance the value of your process step by step. Be its primary advocate and promoter, and seek out Product Managers who recognize its value - make them your allies. 

Reflecting on my own experience, I can now attest that the dedication of Product Managers at Collibra who embraced the new beta process has paid off immensely. They have become staunch supporters of it and acknowledge the significant value it brings in facilitating the launch of better products. Their endorsement even led to our beta program being honored with an internal company award called "Impact Through Data," highlighting how our beta program directly impacts the success of our releases and feeds into our roadmap for the future.

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