QA Innovation – Using the senseshaping concept to discover customer needs

Amy E Reichert

Posted On: December 9, 2022

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Read time7 Min Read

QA Innovation - Using the senseshaping concept to discover customer needsQA testers have a unique role and responsibility to serve the customer. Serving the customer in software testing means protecting customers from application defects, failures, and perceived failures from missing or misunderstood requirements. Testing for known requirements based on documentation or discussion is the core of the testing profession. One unique way QA testers can both differentiate themselves and be innovative occurs when senseshaping is used to improve the application user experience.

Testers that test above and beyond the documented customer requirements understand that 90% of the time there are missing or misunderstood and thus incorrectly coded customer requirements in every project. Typically, the testing team blames the product group, the product group blames the developers or testers. Blame is unnecessary. What needs to be the focus is using senseshaping within the entire development, design, product, and test teams to better understand, define, and code an application for improved user experience.

The QA tester role typically has little or no control over where or how the requirements are obtained. However, QA testers can control requirements or user acceptance criteria analysis and review. The control comes from providing a thorough review and using senseshaping to detect missing or misunderstood customer requirements.

Key Takeaways:

  • What is senseshaping?
  • What is sensemaking and how does it relate to senseshaping?
  • How does senseshaping impact application design?
  • What can QA testers do to use senseshaping to benefit application user experience?
  • Learn how to recognize missing requirements using senseshaping techniques.
  • Discover how QA testers can use senseshaping to uncover hidden defects.

This blog provides information on how QA testers provide innovation and improve user experience using senseshaping to detect missing or misunderstood requirements as part of a software development team.

What is Senseshaping?

Senseshaping is a process of interpreting customer needs and communicating them effectively to a diverse team. Senseshaping is used by Product management and design personnel to drive application feature design. Product managers and designers gather feature ideas and requirements by observing customer actions and holding dynamic requirement discussions.

The purpose of senseshaping is to create innovative application features with an accurate understanding of customer needs. Senseshaping uses the human concept of sensemaking to help team members interpret and respond to cues, events, or customer actions. Senseshaping and sensemaking enable the development team to create the application features in the manner the customer needs and expects even if exact intentions are unclear.

What is Sensemaking and how does it relate to Senseshaping?

Sensemaking is the process humans use to recognize, interpret and assign meaning to actions. Sensemaking answers two questions: What’s going on and what do we do about it? Using sensemaking skills enables software development teams to improve product user experience by developing and designing based on customer needs, directly specified or indicated through actions or cues.

Sensemaking informs or formulates senseshaping. Essentially, senseshaping is a result of sensemaking. As humans, we start out making sense of actions, cues, and situations around or happening to us. As a result, we automatically begin to practice senseshaping or use our experiences and interpretations to answer what’s going on and formulate an approach to manage it.

Sensemaking can be difficult because it gets compromised by the desire to normalize situations or apply preconceived notions. When cues and actions are not considered uniquely but normalized or covered over then we likely respond in incorrect or conflicting ways. Often people communicate with others and then act together to form a response. Or team members disengage or come up with a new response that addresses the issue or situation. The question then becomes, does the solution still fulfill the customer’s need or requirement?

How does Senseshaping impact Application Design?

Senseshaping takes the feedback gained from sensemaking and in the case of product development, creates a design or function that best satisfies the user or customer. Using continuous feedback loops between software development team members enables a natural communication of user needs. The back and forth communication and understanding of the requirements is the goal of the senseshaping process.

Senseshaping process steps include:

  • Use sensemaking to gather information and context from diverse sources.
  • Communicate with other sources not previously used to assimilate different views.
  • Combine the sensemaking information acquired to merge both views and develop a unique perspective
  • Communicate a common perspective or approach that most credibly meets the need or solves the problem

Essentially, the software development team uses senseshaping to create an application feature or product that solves the customer’s need. By listening to customers and other team members the group creates an application that’s innovative for the customer. If a product manager or designer works alone or only with team members with the same senseshaping experiences, then they lose touch with the customer. Likewise, if developers or testing team members spend more time innovating new items outside the senseshaping norm, they waste time and lose touch with the application’s intent for the customer.

The best application design comes from a shared set of experiences. By using a wider array of sensemaking results, teams better understand customer needs. Instead of focusing on providing the latest and greatest technology for its own sake, the team comes to a better understanding of ways to solve problems and provide the functionality the customer needs.

How can QA testers use Senseshaping to benefit the Customer Experience?

QA testers and testing teams can use senseshaping data or results to analyze if the customer needs are met. Are there functions customers want but haven’t expressed? Are there cues the customer is not engaged with the application? Are customers dreading a new release? All questions are answered by analyzing the senseshaping information gathered from development team meetings and discussions.

Finding missing requirements during the requirements or user story analysis saves time for the development team and the customer. Missing requirements are missed cues or misunderstood requests that become defects after a code release. How can a QA tester determine if a cue has been missed or understood? Ask questions, if not of customers, then of developers, designers, and product managers.

Determine if any team member has a different understanding of the customer’s need. Another option is to mindmap or create a prototype of the functionality. Analyze the result for gaps, or where a function is implemented but fails to deliver on the customer’s implied need. As a QA tester ask yourself if a feature truly solves the customer’s need or request.

Next, analyze if the feature or application is normalized. Is the team developing what works for the customer or what has been accepted in the past? In other words, is the team using their senseshaping information to create something innovative that responds to customer cues and actions, or is the design the same old status quo approach? The tendency to return what once worked or a standard design is easier, but it may not meet the customer’s needs or expectations. QA testers can use senseshaping techniques and team data to ensure application features or solutions truly meet the customer’s needs.

Conclusion

Senseshaping enables software development teams to create customer-focused applications that improve user experience. By using senseshaping to collect, analyze, and discuss, from various perspectives, development teams create applications that meet customer expectations. Meeting customer expectations improves user experience and creates a strong, loyal customer base.

Understanding that everyone makes sense of actions, cues, and life situations differently enables teams to use senseshaping to create an accurate understanding of customer requirements. An accurate understanding of customer needs ensures accurate functionality and design with the customer at the center. The tendency to normalize situations or make them fit a specific mold creates applications that fail customers and creates large defect or technical debt loads.

Use senseshaping with the software development team to enable a better understanding of customer requirements across the product, design, development, and testing team. QA testers can leverage senseshaping to analyze requirements or user stories and discover missing requirements and hidden defects before the release. QA testers can use senseshaping to ensure a higher quality application that meets customer needs and improves the customer experience.

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Amy E Reichert

Amy E Reichert is a Freelance writer for a variety of topics focused mainly on QA testing, Agile, and technology trends. Amy has 23 years of professional experience as a QA Engineer/Analyst within the ERP, healthcare, and business management sectors. Many years of developing test process, leading diverse and inclusive teams as well as testing on mobile and web applications.

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