There are few other industries where feedback is as critical to the survival of a company than tech. It is the difference between presenting users with an experience you think they will like, and an experience you know they will love. It is at the heart of every decision, and without it, you can’t increase customer retention and see tangible ROI.
To deliver a high-quality app or web page, you need a rigorous feedback process in place that helps you catch, and fix bugs with ease. By optimising your feedback loops, you can enable faster release, improved customer experience, increased customer retention and a higher quality product.
So, how can you improve your feedback loops and streamline your testing process?
What are feedback loops?
Feedback loops are, put simply, the process of giving and receiving feedback within your testing team. For example, a single feedback loop can begin with a trigger event – such as an engineer merging their code to a feature branch, which sets off a testing suite – and ends with results that the engineer can use to make a decision.
Four methods to improve your feedback loops
When interviewing Ashley Hunsberger, Director or Release at Blackboard, for our Amazon best-selling book, Leading Quality, we discovered how she streamlined her teams feedback loops. Her team broke down each part of their product release cycle and matched it with the appropriate method of testing, prioritizing the tests that would deliver the highest value to their engineers. As a result, her feedback loop time dramatically decreased, and her team saw a significant reduction in the number of critical bugs found.
Ashley is not alone. From our experience working with some of the best engineering teams in the world, like those at Blackboard, eBay, Depop and more we have seen that top companies use four main methods for improving their feedback loops. The results are often remarkable. Let’s take a look:
Prioritise Value over Speed
Improving your feedback loops doesn’t necessarily mean speeding them up. You can provide engineers with testing results at lightning-fast speed, but that won’t matter if you’re not delivering the information your team actually needs.
The value you can get from a feedback loop is more important than the speed. Make sure you are running valuable tests at the right time, rather than just focusing on trying to reduce the feedback turnaround time.
Run tests simultaneously to increase speed
Let’s say you have ten tests that you run one after another. To speed this process up, it makes sense to run all the tests at the same time.
To run tests in parallel, you need to ensure that the tests are as modular as possible. This will allow you to scale, running your automated tests faster on virtualised cloud environments like Sauce Labs.
Or, in cases where you want to accomplish the same scale in real-world environments for tests that you can’t automate, using crowdsourced testing providers is a great solution.
Learn through continuous improvement
Retrospective refers to taking the time to look back on a process to identify the root cause of an issue. It’s all about how teams can learn from the past and be more successful in the future.
While interviewing Abby Bangser, a senior testing engineer at the online printing service MOO, for Leading Quality, she told us.
‘I don’t just care about the bug. I want to know where and how that bug was found, what led to its introduction in the first place, and how we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.’
This is all about making sure the same mistakes don’t happen twice. By focusing your energy on what past mistakes may have lead to bugs, you can prevent issues happening again in the future.
For example, when retrospectively looking back on your app release process, you might realise that you did not sufficiently test a critical area of your app. Addressing that issue will help avoid those same bugs appearing in your app in the future.
Create a testing infrastructure that leverages the team
Infrastructure development is vital to delivering a quality product. The best testing teams put a lot of energy into creating an infrastructure that moves the organisation towards growth. They actively look for tools that will allow them to spend more time on high-value activities and less on low-impact tasks.
For example, invest in using third-party vendors or software that can streamline your testing process. By creating this testing infrastructure, your team will be able to focus on finding even more ways to deliver the highest possible quality product to your customers.
Supercharged feedback loops are crucial to your business
An optimised feedback process means that you can prevent bugs from finding their way into production, and quickly alleviate software issues that are impacting your users.
No matter how your testing team is organised, you can always break down your QA strategy and see where there is room for improvement. Set out where you believe needs to be changed and identify the feedback loops that may be needed, or could be made more efficient. Remember, follow these four steps to make sure your feedback loops are supercharged:
Prioritise value over speed
Run tests simultaneously to increase the scale
Learn through continuous improvement
Create an infrastructure that leverages the team
Written by Ronald Cummings-John, co-founder, Global App Testing and co-author of Leading Quality: How Great Leaders Deliver High Quality Software and Accelerate Growth