Good, beta, best: Your digital transformation needs feedback.


For tech fans or gamers, there’s nothing like getting that hot, new product in your hands after counting down the days till you get to use this baby.

But pause for a second; unless you’re part of the lucky few who have been part of a focus group or beta testing, you have no idea how this thing is actually going to work. Is it actually going to improve on your current piece of tech, or in the case of games, capture you and take you on the journey that you’ve imagined?

The results may vary.

Talking strictly in terms of video games, there is a large amount of testing that takes place internally. It’s all done prior to the game being released out as a beta for a select group of end users who will test (cough*brag about the early access*cough) the game and the developer will collect data on their experience. Good game developers will also take this opportunity to use the data in shaping the finished product for the better. It’s the best chance they have to resolve any glaring issues that may not have been noticed during the internal testing phase.

A game development life cycle (GDLC) might look something like this, where testing and beta testing constantly occurs. Source: ICACSIS

A game development life cycle (GDLC) might look something like this, where testing and beta testing constantly occurs. Source: ICACSIS

A recent example of people completely screwing up this strategy is Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Reviewers and beta users didn't actually play the game up until ten days prior to launch. Mass Effect: Andromeda is a game that was in the works for five years. As anyone would expect, leaving ten days to receive and implement any feedback before the launch was a huge mistake. Reviewers and players tore the game to shreds.

Not allowing for comprehensive beta testing meant that Mass Effect: Andromeda gave their players a shoddy product. It’s a chance to get fresh sets of eyes on the project; the developers should entrust the final go-over to the people who will be using it most. Instead, Mass Effect: Andromeda completely broke their audience's trust before the game even reached the masses.

What has this got to do with digital transformation?

Think about the last tech implementation that you were a part of. How early did you get to see the solution? Was it in training a few weeks prior to launch? Or was it on the day it was launched?

There is a noticeable trend of projects trying to keep the final product away from end users; they avoid seeking feedback on how people would actually use the system being implemented. Or there are business persons on the project team who advise and provide guidance in shaping the solution, but in my experience, these people generally work at a middle management level and won’t be using the solution on a day to day basis.

There are a couple of reasons why this trend may occur. The main one is that the solution may not be in a position to ‘socialise’ and could potentially skew the perception of the end result in the eyes of the user. But let’s think about it: wouldn't it be so much better for the developers to get feedback sooner rather than later?

prototyping usability digital transformations

The other question to ask - What type of user experience testing occurs on these large tech implementations? We’ve all been stuck for months in SIT and UAT hell. But have you ever stopped to think whether any UX testing is being conducted, for even a week? And if so, are those conducting the testing even the right people to be doing it?

Missing out on these opportunities causes solutions to land on Day 1 and be, generally speaking, torn to shreds by users. Yes, there may be drops and enhancements that go ahead but that means the project team is constantly playing catch-up with bugs.

Making late changes because people are unhappy with their digital transformation experience, as opposed to before go-live, will get very expensive. In this case, it’s better to ask for permission, not forgiveness.

Without the input of users before a digital transformation occurs, the project team can’t predict people’s desires and requirements for every possible scenario. A connection between the project team and the people going through the transformation needs to be created; socialising the project in development and seeking feedback on the solution fosters this connection.

At the heart of it, a digital transformation is not so much about the system and more about the people.

On the go-live date, people need to deal and cope with not just the change of a new system but how the change affects their day to day work. Let’s at least try and give them a system that they feel like they have been involved with in shaping and that will ultimately make their life easier.