System and Software Beta and Usability Programs
This chapter deals with the design and implementation of beta testing, usability analysis, and readiness assessments. A key objective of these efforts is to establish the level of readiness of a system or software product, prior to official release. A development organization can follow a very good process faithfully and still field a system that doesn’t quite meet the user’s needs. When this results, it’s usually because of an inability of the user to adequately articulate the real requirements for the system. Even users who generally do a good job of articulating requirements will sometimes fall prey to IKIWISI (I’ll know it when I see it) because of the complexity or uniqueness of the new system. Beta testing and usability analysis are, in a way, the final proof of whether the process has worked properly.
The beta process consists of three main phases: (1) planning, (2) monitoring, and (3) data analysis. The analysis of beta testing data is the prime source that information management relies on to decide on the release of a product. Monitoring the post-introduction phase (after release) is also obviously very important. We discuss monitoring this phase with a focus on usability. This chapter also discusses basic elements of risk management as a methodology used to assess the readiness status of a system or software product. We begin the chapter with a section on the planning of a beta test.