Before reporting, consider the needs of your audience

BeforeNeedsofAudience2

This page looks at questions you can ask before reporting, specifically related to your audience and their needs. This addresses the broad question of WHO you communicate to and what they need from you. There is an associated blog post as part of the ‘Assisting with inquiries‘ series.

Below, I have briefly explained each of the questions in this branch of the mind-map and how you might answer those questions. Where possible, I have tried to provide some practical examples, based on my own experiences with reporting.


WHO?BeforeWho2

Who needs the information (who is your audience)?

Who are the people you will be providing information to? Here are some possible answers:

  • Other people working with you; testers, developers, analysts, architects and people with multi-faceted roles covering multiple activities
  • Managers and decision makers within your project or development activity
  • Leaders, heads of departments and other decision makers in the organisation
  • Product owners
  • Operations and support teams
  • Training staff
  • Marketing people
  • Customers and people who will use the product

There are undoubtedly others. Depending on the circumstances, the information uncovered during testing can be useful to many people. The audience may change over time so it helps to revisit this question later.

Who has specific requirements which might require a particular approach to presenting information?

Some of your audience will probably need information presented in different ways to others. A developer is more likely to need detailed information on a bug than the Head of Marketing. A manager may be required to present consolidated information to leaders in the business so may need information in a particular format which works for them.

Who needs information more or less frequently than others?

In much the same way that the approach to presenting information might vary from person to person, so might the frequency of reporting. In some circumstances, your co-workers and team members might appreciate an update on your work every day or every few hours. Updating a CEO this frequently may not be so welcome.

Who else do decision makers rely on and what information do those people need?

Sometimes the people who make decisions will have delegates and trusted advisors who help them interpret information and make the right decisions. What information do those people need? If you can’t get time with decision makers, perhaps you can talk to their delegates instead. In large organisations there may be a hierarchy with people at different levels needing different information. In these situations I have found it helpful to talk early on to the people involved, to understand their needs and share my thoughts on reporting with them to make sure I have it right. It takes a little time but avoids confusion and misunderstandings later which are likely to take up far more time.


WHAT?
BeforeWhat2

What dependencies are there on the information you provide?

Some of your audience may use the information you provide to help them with other things at specific times. For example, a product owner or manager may need to update others on what is happening and needs time to absorb or analyse what you are telling them.

What criteria will decision makers use to determine whether the product is ready?

By talking to decision makers (or their advisors) you should get an understanding of the factors that help them make decisions. This will help you to provide them with valuable information. Your conversations might also help you appreciate their priorities, which in turn may guide your testing to some extent.

What might happen which could prevent you from obtaining the information you need?

You may have dependencies which affect your ability to provide information. Perhaps you use tools to log information about observations. Those tools could fail at a time when you need the information they hold. Perhaps you are dependent on a person to interpret some data which is generated from your testing and that person may not be available.

What can you do to reduce the risk of failing to obtain the information you need?

You may be able to prevent the potential problems you identified in the previous question. Are there other ways to access the database containing the information you need? Could someone else be trained to interpret the data?


WHEN?

BeforeWhen2

When (how often) is information required?

This can of course vary from person to person within your audience but it is important that you get a feel for what is expected when. This will help you provide timely information. The dependencies that others have on the information will help you answer this question.

When will a decision be made about shipping?

It is likely that there will be some specific needs from your audience when it comes to a decision on shipping. You may need to provide some unanticipated information at short notice, or some information by a different means to that which you are used to, so it helps to know when this might happen.


HOW?

BeforeHow2

How will the information be used?

This question is broken down into three parts:

How might the information assist in identifying any new tasks and activities required?

Leads, managers and other people who make decisions about the tasks people carry out may well use the information you provide to help them make those decisions. It might be, for example that a development lead decides that a code review or refactoring is required based on findings.

How might the information assist in prioritising tasks and activities?

There may be some reassessment of priorities as a result of the information you find. For instance, if testing of a website uncovers a large number of Accessibility problems, greater priority may be given to further Accessibility testing.

How might the information assist in making a decision on shipping?

You may have at least partially answered this question if you have a good understanding of the criteria that individual decision makers use, but there may be further ways your information can help. It may be, for example, that in the course of pinpointing a serious bug, a possible workaround was found which might serve as an interim solution.

There are other many other ways your information might be used. A less obvious example might be in assisting those involved in training people how to use a product before it is shipped. They may need to understand whether any parts of the product are not yet operating as intended, and may be better avoided when delivering the training.


Quick links to the posts and pages in this series:

Assisting with inquiries – blog posts

The mindmap and questions

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