Contributing back to the community by extending your testing bounds

In a couple of my recent blogs, I had talked about exploratory testing, making it interesting and effective on your ongoing projects

In this blog post, I would like to extend this idea to companies taking a social responsibility in contributing back to the community that they belong to. As part of its day to day operations, every company uses a plethora of software and hardware ranging all the way from servers, desktop machines, server management software, Operating systems, and productivity software, to just name the bare minimum. Obviously, all these products have been tested to meet a certain quality bar before their release. What I want to discuss in this blog is how can you as an end user of these range of products help the software/hardware vendor improve quality, even after product release, when there is no mandate on you to do so and what is the impact you create by doing such a thing?

Does this activity qualify under exploratory testing? Crowd sourcing? May be; but let’s shift our attention to the “how is this done”, “what is the impact this creates”?

Potential ways of contributing:

1.Participate in beta programs run by ISVs, IHVs

2.Discuss with your team on what is helpful, what is painful to use, when a new software, hardware is deployed in your company

3.Active participation in technical groups and forums that discuss the product’s features. E.g. Linux forums, Windows forums, MAC forums

4.If the company whose product you are using is small enough, see if you can directly reach out to them with your feedback; or even if it a very large company, see if you have some channels through which you can route feedback to the right teams

Impact you create through such contributions:

1.An opportunity for your team to think out of the box and be motivated on the job rather than just having them follow project related instructions provided to them

2.Power users of the product which help you take full advantage of the product’s feature set to improve your daily productivity

3.A more open community promoting quality and taking interest in the products you use on a day to day basis. Very often, such user feedback form the foundation of a subsequent service pack or a patch for the product

4.A status of a technology thought leader for yourself and good will of the product vendor which can sometimes even result in partnerships, new business opportunities with them

Where to draw the line?

Having talked about how to be a socially responsible technology consumer, it goes without saying this does not come for free. It does require cycles from your team to do all of this. Given their tight project deadlines, where do you draw a line of balance for these voluntary and nice-to-do tasks?

1.In the interest of time and overhead involved, you need not be very detailed in your initial communications with product vendors. Show them a few teasers and if they show interest in your feedback, you can selectively be more detailed to such companies alone

2.See if you have people on bench that can be utilized for these tasks. If resource utilization in your company is very high, you may have to compromise on these activities a little

3.Look at your past history with the company on how they have responded to your feedback and whether the product’s subsequent versions incorporated feedback you provided

As some of you may know, I am quite new to the QA InfoTech family. It is just about 3 months since I joined this company. During my ramp up cycles in this company, I was very pleasantly surprised to see some of the initiatives being taken at QAInfoTech along the lines described above, despite being a small company. I have outlined a few of them below:

1.Beta users of a system management software being released by a global premier ISV

2.Proactive efforts in testing Win 7 localized builds and working with Microsoft in sharing the feedback withdetailed repro steps

3.Proactive testing of a Commercial Test Automation Software, which helped us bag a testing opportunity with them

If there are any other similar initiatives taken up by your company, from which we can all learn to make us more socially connected and help improve end product experience, I look forward to hearing from you. As always, I would love to hear any thoughts and feedback you may have on the above content. Thanks for taking the time to read!

About the Author

QA InfoTech

QA InfoTech

Established in 2003, with less than five testing experts, QA InfoTech has grown leaps and bounds with three QA Centers of Excellence globally; two of which are located in the hub of IT activity in India, Noida, and the other, our affiliate QA InfoTech Inc Michigan USA. In 2010 and 2011, QA InfoTech has been ranked in the top 100 places to work for in India.

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