The Language of Progress (2 of 3)

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Last week, we discussed a few basic project management terms. Click the button below if you missed that one.

This week, we’ll take a look at basic testing and feedback, which are also essential elements of running a smooth project.

The mechanisms for this differ somewhat depending on whether you offer products or services. The principles, however, are the same.

Successful testing is often associated with the completion of a milestone. Once the test is successful, the milestone is considered accomplished and the project can move forward.

One caveat as we dive in – different industries use different terminology. Don’t get stuck on this. The big idea for today is to understand the concepts, then to apply or modify them as needed to best serve your individual situation.

The foundation, as always, is clarity. Whatever process you choose, make sure the definitions are clear and that they’re communicated through your entire organization.

Here we go:

Prototype – A prototype is an early model of a product or service built to test a concept or process. Some companies actually refer to it as a “proof of concept.” This is a very common practice for startup companies seeking investment to fuel and sustain a company’s growth. Investors like it when they see something is actually feasible.

Prototypes are tangible representations of your product created to better understand and learn about its design and functionality. A key outcome of prototyping is to gain user feedback as early as possible to help guide design decisions and to avoid costly corrections downstream.

For services, the equivalent is to reveal your ideas through focus groups or other curated gatherings of potential new or existing customers.

Pilot Test – Once a concept has been proven, it is common to pilot test it. A pilot test is a small-scale preliminary test or experiment conducted before implementing it on a larger scale. This test is used to identify potential problems, assess production feasibility, and improve the design for a larger-scale implementation.

A pilot test, for example, could involve trying out a new process with a small team before rolling it out to the whole organization.

Alpha Test – An alpha test is typically a hybrid internal/external testing process. Usually it involves a small number of staff and a very select group of external users, often some of your best customers. The purpose is to find and fix bugs, test functionality, and ensure the product or service meets the design or user experience specifications.

Alpha test participants are often chosen on their ability to invest the time necessary to thoroughly test a product and provide significant feedback. It is common to offer some type of incentive for their participation.

Beta Test – Beta testing is the release of your product or service to a limited group of external users. These users can help identify any remaining bugs, usability issues, or other problems. Beta testing is typically the last round of testing before a product is fully launched, and it’s intended to ensure the product is ready for general use.

One final thought:

Don’t Rush – I’ve managed hundreds of projects over the years, and rarely does excessive speed serve you or your customers well.

I get it, there is a lot of pressure to meet budgets and deadlines. The typical response when this happens, however, is to sprint to the finish. This significantly increases the likelihood of mistakes, team burnout, and unhappy customers.

Focus on doing it right the first time so you don’t have to do it over.

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