The Power of the Prerelease Community
Now that Acrobat X is out of the door, we thought we’d give you an inside look into what goes into shipping a product as monumental as Acrobat. As you’d imagine, we have a large team comprising of hundreds of developers, quality engineers, product managers, marketing managers, sales personnel and others who work tirelessly behind the scenes to accomplish the goal of delivering the best Acrobat release ever. However, without one immensely valued part of this team – our prerelease community – the release wouldn’t be close to what it is.
The prerelease community is involved in the Acrobat development process as early as possible. Acrobat X was no different, where we kicked off the program in March 2010, starting with a small set of power users to test the early builds and provide their feedback. As the development cycle progressed, we posted more beta builds and expanded the prerelease group substantially as we moved further along the cycle. We recruited and screened Acrobat beta participants through various channels – active participants from previous prerelease cycles, participants who applied via the Acrobat/Reader Interest Form, Adobe sales and marketing referrals and finally, referrals from existing prerelease testers. Prerelease participants were selected based on their credentials, interest areas and ability to contribute meaningfully to the feedback process.
At the close of the prerelease program, we had more than 3,000 participants who had signed up, close to 6,000 forum posts on the prerelease discussion forums and over 250 customer bugs that were fixed. We also conducted regular milestone surveys, and as Chris French mentions in his interview here, these surveys were instrumental in gauging our progress build over build, and taking corrective measures as necessary. Another significant feature of the Acrobat X prerelease was the deep-dive eSeminar series we held exclusively for the prerelease community. This was really a great opportunity for the prerelease community to familiarize themselves with the new features and for the Acrobat team to jumpstart the feedback-soliciting process.
For Adobe, the prerelease program has been an incredible opportunity to meet and understand its customer base first-hand, as well as have the product tested by real users in a real world environment. The feedback we received from our prerelease group was incredibly valuable and ultimately helped us build a better product. Whether it’s telling us about bugs that slip through our QE net, helping us prioritize which bugs to fix first by telling us what’s important to the user, discussing the completeness and ease of use of features we provide, or functionality users would like to see in future releases, each of the comments and suggestions was read carefully and considered.
Likewise for the prerelease participants, the program provided a platform to give feedback on the Acrobat feature set as it developed, to explore and evaluate all the new features and capabilities offered in Acrobat and Reader, to engage with other users in order to share ideas and best practices, to engage with the Acrobat team directly and understand why they developed the features they did and to learn how to use the new features earlier than others.
Douglas Hanna, a veteran beta tester for Acrobat, writes, “This prerelease is the first one I have ever given a perfect score on – in five rounds of Betas. One of the things I did notice, that was extremely helpful, was the high availability of Adobe staff in fielding questions during the program.”
Anna E. Kobylinska, Director of McKinley Denali In and an active Acrobat prerelease participant, noted, “Working together with the Adobe Prerelease team and the Acrobat X Prerelease is such a wonderful experience, because they do care and love what they do so much. It’s fun and so efficient to work with them.”
You can also read about some of the ‘First Impressions’ from prerelease testers in the article here.
The Acrobat prerelease community is truly a thriving group of passionate and diverse Acrobat users. We are forever thankful for their contributions to the development of Acrobat X. Wouldn’t *you* like to be part of it?
Ashu Mittal, Associate Program Manager, Acrobat Solutions