For the second year in a row, Applause analyzed testing data from B2B software companies to identify the most common flaws in digital experiences. The data includes mobile and desktop apps running on thousands of devices and almost endless combinations of networks, browsers and integrations.
Like many other industries, B2B software companies work to develop a stable release pipeline with a repeatable process for end-to-end testing. The blog post Improving Digital Quality in 2023: Where to Focus examines overarching quality concerns and trends; in this post, we’ll focus on some B2B software-specific concerns.
Consider some of the challenges dev teams face with B2B software testing. End users of B2B applications demand high levels of availability and stability. To meet those demands, testing teams are under pressure to quickly and thoroughly test their B2B software apps to support an ever-wider variety of end user devices and international markets, without sacrificing quality and speed of delivery. In our annual review of testing data, we found some interesting trends that suggest this pressure is increasing.
Serving the hybrid workforce
While some organizations have ordered employees back into offices, many others have embraced a hybrid model – Gartner estimates that 39% of global knowledge workers will work hybrid by the end of 2023. This shift has created a need to test across a broader slate of devices, networks and operating systems to ensure workers outside the office can maintain productivity. A sales rep submitting an expense report in an airport, a project manager entering updates while waiting for a child to finish soccer practice, and a staff member joining a training session from their dining room table all expect to be able to complete their work with no technology troubles.
Beyond the need for broader device coverage to support BYOD and more remote work, B2B software organizations must help corporate IT teams maintain confidence that their users are following appropriate security protocols. Single sign-on and multi-factor authentication have become a higher priority for many IT teams, and app developers must ensure these experiences work seamlessly, lest users struggle to access the tools they need to do their jobs. Security is only part of the equation; B2B software makers must also help IT teams maintain confidence in deployments as they support hybrid and remote workers and help desks don’t always have the same level of access to workers’ devices to troubleshoot problems.
Creating consistent quality for all audiences
Many business applications serve two distinct groups: end users and the administrators who configure enterprise settings, permissions and processes. The two often have very different needs and come at an application with varied expectations and perspectives, yet apps must work easily and intuitively for both populations. Testing must not only ensure that the software effectively serves its intended purpose; testers must also validate that admins can easily add and remove users, change roles, and update shared settings. Assessing and improving the UX for all audiences is essential.
Case study: How a content management platform ensures a great experience for content creators and their subscribers
When the developers of a content management system (CMS) wanted to improve quality without sacrificing speed, they turned to Applause to ensure they could quickly release new features without risk. Applause provides weekly regression testing, ensuring coverage across the devices and payment instruments where the company’s customers (the content creators) and their customers’ customers (subscribers) are. Applause testers also conduct exploratory testing for new products and features, uncovering issues that can impact both creators and subscribers. For example, in one case, testers discovered that when creators uploaded videos over a certain length, subscribers couldn’t access them – but there was nothing on the creator side to indicate a problem. Thanks to feedback from the Applause testers, the CMS company was able to fix the issue before it reached customers and impacted productivity, or worse, revenue from subscribers.
Improving accessibility and inclusivity
As employers look to reduce risk and improve diversity, inclusivity and equity, many procurement teams have adopted more stringent accessibility requirements to demonstrate that their organizations are serious about these initiatives. While B2B software providers serving government agencies have always had to meet certain requirements, digital accessibility is becoming a higher priority for other organizations as well. To maintain a competitive advantage and support customers in achieving their strategic priorities, B2B software companies must ensure their products meet accessibility standards.
With a WCAG update and the European Accessibility Act on the horizon, prioritizing the user experience for people with disabilities (PWD) is a must for B2B software creators. Much like GDPR, the European Accessibility Act applies to businesses that serve clients in European countries, so suppliers to global enterprises must keep accessibility in mind.
Leading organizations are going beyond WCAG conformance and legal compliance to focus on empathy-based inclusive design, which emphasizes usability and UX for PWD from the earliest stages of product design and development. Understanding how users with various disabilities experience an application and complete tasks with adaptive technologies changes the way designers approach product development. Ensuring that screen readers, keyboard navigation and other crucial tools for PWD work properly is essential for financial organizations to stay competitive.
Providing localized options
Another consideration for those serving global enterprises or companies that operate in multiple countries: while English may be called the language of global business, more than 80% of the world’s population does not speak it. Offering a localized UI can be a competitive differentiator, especially in fields where a small error can be extremely costly. Currency, date/number formats and units of measurement can be critical. In addition, localizing systems designed to serve the broadest possible groups of employees, such as HR, training and payroll systems, can speed adoption and reduce errors. Localized technical documentation and support options offer an additional competitive advantage.
Validating digital payment processes
If your organization accepts payments online for purchases or allows customers to auto-renew subscriptions with a credit card or digital wallet, you need a payment testing plan to protect against lost revenue. According to McKinsey & Company, as of 2022, 65% of B2B companies offered e-commerce, which drove approximately 18% of revenue. This number is likely to increase, as a Gartner study found that 83% of B2B buyers prefer ordering or paying via digital commerce. To ensure digital payments process properly, B2B organizations must test across a range of different payment instruments and scenarios, including promotional discounts, account credits and returns, and automatic renewals spread out over varying lengths of time.
Identifying where AI can add value to your applications – without introducing bias
According to IBM’s AI Global Adoption Index 2022, 35% of companies are using AI in their business and 44% of organizations are working to embed AI into current applications and processes. With 2023 being the year GenAI moves into the application layer, B2B software companies are quickly looking at how to incorporate this technology. The rise of software co-pilots and GenAI created content across functions such as B2B sales, service, and marketing applications has introduced new testing challenges. Large language models, while powerful, introduce new risks with hallucinations, bias and toxicity.
Determine where adding AI to your applications can create efficiency and add value for your customers, but be wary of bias. For example, a talent management application that recognizes characteristics of candidates that have been hired or promoted and identifies similar candidates must be thoroughly vetted to ensure it’s not penalizing minority candidates who may have been traditionally underrepresented. AI-driven rules engines that guide decisions or prompts that support workflow decisions to speed processing must all be carefully vetted. Factor thorough training and testing for the algorithms and outputs into your product plans to ensure your AI experiences deliver and don’t disappoint.
Consider these recommendations on how to improve digital quality
As B2B software buyers put vendors through increasingly complex procurement processes and end users hold software to B2C standards for feel and functionality, B2B software developers must meet high expectations. Innovations and enhanced experiences in retail, media and other industries are raising the bar for everyone; B2B software makers included. Thorough testing is a crucial component in building products and experiences that consistently capture renewals. Some ways that B2B software organizations can ensure they pass the test:
Double-check your device coverage matrix with hybrid workers in mind. If your app only works well on a company-issued laptop, you may be causing problems for users who increasingly want to work on their own devices, in mobile or nontraditional work settings.
Conduct exploratory testing from different perspectives: consider how end users, administrators, and your customers’ customers experience your products and test new features accordingly.
Localize content and validate that it’s accurate – poor and missing translations can create problems, and both are common localization errors. May sure workflows and layouts align to expectations as well.
Validate payments to keep revenue flowing. As digital payments grow in popularity for B2B buyers, make sure you accept the payment instruments your customers use and that transactions flow smoothly.
Beware of bias in AI: feed your algorithms plenty of diverse, high-quality data to reduce risk.
Index and data references
Use this blog and related report to benchmark your organization’s capabilities and processes and identify areas where you can improve. With that understanding, map out a plan to improve – no matter what your current state.
For a complete view of the industry’s state of digital quality data, read the 2023 State of Digital Quality in B2B Software report. It contains details on the following key areas:
Bug type definitions
Bug breakdown charts
Charts illustrating browser and OS combinations (desktop) and device and OS combination (mobile & tablets) and more
The global State of Digital Quality 2023 summary report offers a holistic view of quality across all industries, including digital quality frameworks which outline core capabilities and typical processes for organizations at different stages on the journey to excellence. Read the full report for steps you can take to improve your overall digital quality.