We’ve talked about exploratory testing in the past… how it involves little planning, a bit of scientific thinking, and it’s fun. But who actually does exploratory testing?

Chances are, if you’re a part of a software team, you’ve already done exploratory testing yourself. Maybe you’re a product manager trying out a new build, or a marketing person testing out a new feature for a blog. Or, maybe you’re on the support team trying to figure out how something works.

If you find yourself in any of these situations, you’re likely not following any test scripts… you’re doing exploratory testing.

Exploratory testing and support

Exploratory testing is valuable not only for testing, but also for learning about the product and it’s features. Support teams are often left to “explore” the application and figure out how things work, because, lets face it, in order to support a product, you need to know how to use it.

Ideally, you learn how to use new features before you get questions about them. This is where exploratory testing comes into play with support teams.

Bringing Support Into The Mix

It’s important to keep your support team in the loop on new features, fixes, etc. It’s equally important for your support team to make sure they’re kept in the loop on these things.

Set up some sort of feature handoff from QA/development to support. Depending on your development process, this might mean support pairing with someone to learn about the product. Or maybe it means new features/issues in your product management tool are tagged with “needs documentation” so that the support team (or whoever is writing your product documentation) knows something requires new or updated documentation.

Whatever it is, support teams need to know what’s changing in the product. If you’re on a product team and this isn’t happening already, you should work to implement a change.

Advantages Of Bring Support Into The Mix

Looping in support on new features doesn’t just help the support team learn about new things, they can also save the day by finding things that may have slipped through the crack and didn’t get caught by development, testing etc. Support is at the front lines and therefore they know and understand the customers.

When support is aware of changes and understands them, they aren’t caught off guard or forced to escalate things/delay responses when questions on those changes come in. This closes the loop between product development and the customers.

Why Support Should Do Exploratory Testing

The best way for a support person to learn and understand the product is to use it. Exploratory testing can be used to help answer the questions “how does this work?” and “what happens if I do this?”. When support can answer these questions, they are better suited to be answering questions from customers who encounter these areas of the product.

It can be cost effective and efficient for support to do some quick exploratory testing on new features and changes in the product. It’s not really necessary for them to follow test scripts when learning about the new product or testing things out. In fact, support people might approach testing differently than a QA team, so giving them the slack to truly “explore” the product can be to your advantage.

Conclusion

Exploratory testing helps support teams understand how things in the product work. It can also provide a final opportunity to find major usability flaws or bugs in the system. This type of testing is a low cost solution for finding bugs and truly “exploring” the functionality of software.