…..what do you mean?
Have you ever been working on a project and you weren’t totally sure of your customers’ requirements, or worse still, how they might use your product?
I have found that I have approached the software that I am testing differently, depending on my own perception as a potential user.
Working in the games industry, it was easy to identify who an end user might be, especially as I played a lot of games in my late teens and early twenties.
I read reviews, talked to others who shared an interest and formed my opinions on different products in the market.
I had a strong view on what I wanted and would actively seek that out.
Working in the smart energy sector, I understood as a user how I may use and benefit from the products I was testing.
However, I rarely read reviews or shared conversations with friends about the sector, about how as a user I may benefit from the product.
I didn’t have a strong view on what I wanted, I just wanted the benefits.
This meant that I was less connected with the product I was testing everyday.
In my current role, I was in danger of being disconnected with the end user once again.
How could I truly represent the customers’ needs in validation testing, if I did not understand how the customer would use our product?
After the initial induction, I was asked if I thought there were any additional training needs. Straight away I was compelled to ask to see how our customers use our products.
We are blessed to have hardware engineers who are end users for some of our products in the same office. But, there’s always that niggling feeling that something can, and likely will be missed.
Just last week, one of those training needs was met, in a real life environment. Myself and several other engineers (test and development) were taken out of the office for a day, we were in a real life workshop, of an end user, who uses our tools for automotive diagnostics. We were walked through how our tools interface with different vehicles, how they are really used to diagnose faults and we got to hear how a real user feels about the tool.
Simulations, debug tools and the like are all exceptionally valuable in development. But, without knowing the end user, what they use the products that we work on and how they feel about its use, how are we truly going to deliver the best product.
Yes, we have business analyst, product managers, customer support and sales teams available to answer queries and represent the end user. But, that can introduce company bias or even a situation with Chinese whispers.
I now know more about one of our tools, how it is used and I can apply that to my validation testing. This along with clear requirements, open cross-discipline communication and the access to (hopefully) honest customer feedback, can only take my targeted testing and my goal to be a customer advocate closer to those days when those lines between end user and tester were so much closer.