Ask A Good Product Manager

Your product management questions answered

How much do you share with beta program participants?

Posted on May 28, 2008 · 1 Comment

Question: How much information do you share during a beta test?

I believe that customer would be more inclined to join a field beta if they knew as much as possible about the beta program. Therefore I would like to provide them with a road map / time line of the beta deliverables much like a project plan. Does that make sense? If it does, does anybody have generic sample project plan or time line showing milestones that they can share? Given that this is my first venture into this, I know I don’t have a complete picture of the milestones.

Answer from Brian Lawley of The 280 Group: There is an overall beta time line available at www.280group.com/beta.pdf (PDF) – it is part of our beta program toolkit.

In my opinion, it is critical that you communicate expectations to them in the invitation to join the beta program, the beta program agreement and ongoing as the program is running. You need to let them know what (and when) you expect of them and what the rewards/incentives are for participating.

I also have a chapter on beta programs in my book Expert Product Management (available from Amazon or also as an ebook) that might help.

1 other answer so far ↓

  • Derek Britton // May 28, 2008 at 7:17 am

    I would support Brian’s view here about the simple steps involved – ask yourself WHY you are running the Beta program and that way you will uncover the criteria for its success, which can then be set as measurable objectives. Really this is conceptually all you need to start with, because who you involve, for how long, doing what is determined (largely) by your objectives.

    I can vouch for Brian’s ‘Expert Product Management’ book being an excellent guide to running a Beta program. I would also expect that most organizations of a certain size would (should) have best-practice method written down, or at least some examples of programs already run.

    My personal experience is that customers will respond well to honesty and transparency, so yes as much timeline, scope, task information is key; but you might need to also sell the upside for them (i.e. there is a give as well as an ask, and you need to be clear up front what that is in order to entice them).

What do you think?