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How to test mobile business applications before implementation

When adopting mobile business applications, what are some ways to effectively test the software before rolling it out to the entire company?

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I wouldn't say that this is much different than testing any kind of software, with one exception: the device factor. In this and any other software, a pilot rolled out to a smaller subset is most often effective. The pilot should carry all the way through to a "go live" status. But in selecting the group, there will be some trade-offs. Remember that no matter how broad or narrow the focus of the software is, you want the entire system to be tested.

If we're talking about something like the scope of ERP, selecting one department isn't effective. While it might be tempting to use a very small group, that won't thoroughly test an end-to-end business process. Instead, you might go with a single division, operating location or business unit, but make sure it is either one that has its act together or gets its act together before the pilot begins. Otherwise you won't be able to distinguish problems caused by the software and problems caused by poor processes.

It's important to make sure the business unit is representative of others, or you won't be able to standardize effectively. But, the typical mobile business app is usually not the same scope as something like ERP, and therefore the test can be more selective.

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If you have standardized on a single mobile device, then the philosophy is similar to apps with a larger scope: Make sure your pilot group is representative of your target users. Don't have just the whiz kid millennial test it and expect to successfully put it in the hands of baby boomers. And, of course, run it through the full gamut of what it is expected to do.

If your philosophy is BYOD (bring your own device), then you also have to factor in the sheer variety of devices. Either include them all -- which can be a nightmare for IT -- or roll out the app by device type.

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This was first published in August 2013

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