With Apple set to release public betas of macOS 13 "Ventura" and iOS/iPadOS 16 in July, it's inevitable that some pro users will want to quickly get a taste of what's to come. The typical IT reaction is to try to prevent users from testing beta software, but that might not be the most beneficial way to deal with what's to come.
In fact, you can make those beta builds, and enthusiastic early adopters, work to your advantage.
Developer beta versions of the new operating systems were released Monday after the keynote address at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. The public betas that follow can be helpful to a manufacturer like Apple in terms of speeding up feedback and releasing bug fixes during the development process. They can also be exciting for users who want to try out new features in an upcoming OS before everyone else gets their hands on them. (The final version of all these operating systems will not be available until this fall).
But they pose obvious challenges for IT, especially if beta testers install preview software on their primary devices that they use for work. Bugs, issues with existing apps, and confusion about new or changed features are often part of the beta testing experience. Therefore, users who install unsupported software on commercial devices may be forced to incur employee calls and downtime if they are unable to access basic tools.
Remind beta testers that they are installing preview software
Keep in mind that since mobile operating systems have handed over much of the update process to users, you may not be able to stop everyone, especially if they fail to install on a device you own.
The best advice here is to inform users who want to sign up as beta testers that they should do so using a secondary device instead of the one they use for critical work and personal tasks.
It is essential to craft a nuanced message, one that truly describes the challenges they may face in a friendly and consultative manner, but does not alienate those who wish to be part of a beta program. Explain that yes, they will be able to use the new features before anyone else, but also that there may be challenges that could affect their ability to do their jobs if they install them on their primary device. And be sure to consider the potential impact on personal tasks for which you rely on this device.
Convert beta testers to your advantage
Like most early adopters, many of these beta testers are likely to be somewhat tech-savvy, though their knowledge may vary. As a result, most organizations will be in public beta sometime this summer. Ideally, it will be on a secondary device, although some people will probably install it on their primary device.
In fact, you can recruit these users as helpful allies.
One of the challenges in the current landscape is that IT departments are generally expected to be ready for new technologies to walk through the door on the day they are officially released. This means you have a limited window of opportunity to review them now, test key company and third-party applications with them, and build a knowledge base of issues your support teams may encounter.
All of this is a tall order to accomplish in a matter of months with existing staff and all of this requires beta testing. If you recruit beta users, they can do much of this testing for you. They can see which apps are having issues, which workflows need to be changed, and report any general support issues. This gives IT greater readiness, both in terms of updating applications and in terms of developing materials and resources for users.
The approach requires a little culture change for many organizations. IT staff should develop a close working relationship with these users and should actively seek their input, advice, and feedback.
On the other hand, it makes it easier to be prepared for new technologies and allows the IT department to be better prepared when these technologies are officially released. It also promotes a closer relationship between IT and workers who want to use the latest technologies. In the process, it can even help you manage any shadow IT operations going on in the organization, or at least help you identify them, because the people looking to try a beta are probably the same people who would actively install tools or services without bothering. reporting to the IT department.
Of course, that doesn't mean everyone should be able to test beta software, and you shouldn't just ignore the testers you've recruited. It also doesn't mean IT staff should ignore betas (ideally, they'll use developer betas instead of public betas).
But embracing Apple's upcoming public betas could give computing a head start on what's to come this fall, if it can develop a trusting working relationship between everyone involved.
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