Every software undergoes different types of testing to turn into a high-quality, defect-free product that meets customer requirements. Among different types, pilot testing is one where a small group of real users validates the product or some of its components under real-time operating conditions.
Let us explore in detail about pilot testing in this article.
What is Pilot Testing?
Pilot testing is a software testing type that involves a group of real users to validate software or some components of the software. Its primary goal is to determine the project’s feasibility, time, cost, risk, and performance. It is carried out between user acceptance testing (UAT) and the deployment of software in the production stage.
The entire testing process takes place in real-time operating conditions. This means real users install the software on their system and run it continuously to detect errors. All the detected bugs are then reported to the development team to get them fixed. Developers fix those bugs and release a new version of the software. This way, pilot testing identifies all possible bugs in the software before moving it into the production stage.
Furthermore, pilot testing assists the development team in understanding how end users access the software’s features, how easy it is for them to use the software, and how it meets their expectations. It is ideal for projects with big budgets.
Objectives of Pilot Testing
Here are some primary objectives of pilot testing in software testing:
- Identify a project’s risk, cost, feasibility, performance, and many other aspects.
- Utilize time and resources in a better way.
- Understand end users’ responses toward the software under development.
- Analyze the correctness and functionality of the software.
We use different types of applications on our smartphones and laptops. Let us say we use Instagram as a social media platform, Zoom as a video conferencing platform, and YouTube as a video-sharing platform.
The respective parent companies of these applications constantly work on introducing new features and updating the new ones. Whenever they roll out any new feature, they first make it available to beta users (a small group of real users).
They use the feature constantly to identify all possible bugs and errors before making that feature live for everyone. This helps companies maintain their credibility and ensure maximum customer satisfaction.
Why is Pilot Testing Important?
Here are some reasons that state the importance of pilot testing:
- Evaluates the readiness of the software.
- Helps debug the software and make modifications to it till the last minute.
- Provides feedback from real users before making the software live.
- In case of any major errors or defects, developers get a second chance to fix them.
- Helps organizations decide whether to deploy the software or extend its deadline.
- Assists the development team in developing the software as per customer expectations.
How To Do Pilot Testing?
Before we move on to the detailed pilot testing process, we will discuss the prerequisites.
Prerequisites for Pilot Testing
- Appropriate Environment – Every type of software testing requires an appropriate testing environment to perform it correctly, and pilot testing is no exception to this. It requires an environment similar to one the real users would have.
In addition, there should be proper hardware and software, ensuring that the test environment accurately mimics the working conditions on the end users’ side.
- Experienced Testers – It is essential to have a group of expert testers that act as real software users. Hence, the testing team manager hires a group of appropriate skilled testing experts that act as the target audience. If the manager goes wrong in choosing the group of testers, it may impact the testing outcomes.
- Proper Planning – Proper planning is inevitable for every testing type and software development. Before you start pilot testing, ensure all the resources, equipment, tools, staff, etc., are in place. During testing, there should be no shortage of anything.
A Step-by-Step to Pilot Testing
Here are some standard steps involved in the pilot testing of every software application-
- Planning – The first step is creating a detailed plan for the test process. It is very important as all the activities involved in the plan are carried out in the further process.
- Preparation – After planning, there comes preparation. This step involves collecting every required resource, such as the testing team required to validate the software, test data, etc. Another major aspect is setting up the testing environment and preparing it for testing.
- Implementation – Now, it is time to deploy the software on the customer premises. A group of expert testers that acts as real users start using the software to uncover bugs and errors.
- Evaluation – After deployment and testing, the group of testers provides their feedback and reports any errors or bugs to the development team to get them fixed. However, if the software is error-free and meets all the specified requirements, it proceeds with the further step.
- Launch – Once the software evaluation completes and it functions as expected, it is ready to launch in the market.
Documentation plays a vital role throughout the testing process, including the planning stage. During planning, a document containing installation steps, test data, test scripts, and various scenarios should be shared with the entire development and testing team.
Further, during the testing process, it is essential to document detected issues and bugs, feedback from each tester, and test results.
Steps After the Evaluation of Pilot Testing
Once the pilot test is completed, the next step is to finalize the upcoming strategy of the project. These strategies should include the following approaches to make the end product the best of its previous versions.
- Stagger Future: The development team deploys a new release resource to the pilot team (a group of testers acting as real users).
- Rollback: This approach is used when the pilot testing shows that the earlier version of the product was better than the new one, and all the recent changes should be reversed.
- Suspension: This approach is used when testers can find a major flaw in the product that needs to be taken care of as a priority. As a result, the whole pilot testing is suspended till the major flaw is resolved.
- Patch and continue: Here, developers will create patches for the smaller issues to ensure that the pilot test can run without a problem.
- Deployment: This is the final approach where it is expected that the product is going to show the desired output or results. This approach also ensures that the product is good to go and needs to be ready for the production environment.
Advantages of Pilot Testing
Here are some of the remarkable advantages of pilot testing.
- It helps us know what real users think about the software and their expectations.
- It uncovers errors and bugs before moving the software into the production stage or releasing it in the market.
- The rollout of the software becomes more efficient, easy, and fast.
- Organizations can estimate the software’s success ratio.
- Feedback from real users helps maximize software quality.
Good Practices of Pilot Testing
Here are some best practices to perform pilot testing and ensure the delivery of error-free, high-quality software:
- First, developers and testers need to work together and perform pilot testing two or three days before the usability test.
- Make sure to start this testing type only after all clients, task groups, and developers are inclined to the same success criteria for the test.
- During the pilot test, users who are given the product should make a note of issues that they have found in the product, depict their problems, and also provide their proposals to get rid of them.
- Give clients and users a proper reason as to why you are performing a pilot test and what results you are looking for at the successful completion of the test.
Pilot Testing vs Alpha Testing
|Pilot Testing||Alpha Testing|
|A group of external, highly-skilled testers acts as real users and tests the software.||The testing team within an organization is responsible for carrying out alpha testing.|
|It takes place before pilot testing.||It takes place before beta testing.|
|Does not require long test cycles.||Requires multiple iterations and long testing cycles.|
|The testing environment is the same as the real-time environment.||The testing environment does not resemble the actual environment.|
|Feedback comes from real users.||Feedback comes from the employees of an organization.|
|It takes place before the product launch.||It takes place before forwarding the software to beta testing.|
Pilot Testing vs Beta Testing
|Pilot Testing||Beta Testing|
|Selected users perform this type of testing.||End users perform beta testing.|
|It is performed before the product launch.||It is performed after the product launch.|
|Pilot testing occurs between UAT and production.||Beta testing is a type of user acceptance testing that takes place on the client side.|
|It takes place in a real-world environment.||It takes in the development environment.|
Pilot testing plays a crucial role in understanding end users’ expectations about the software as some real users perform it. These users carry out testing in an environment that resembles the real one and provides valuable feedback.
This provides detailed insights into the software quality and bugs that can be discovered after releasing the software product in the market. Also, development teams get a second chance to fix issues and bugs and ensure software quality.