With Apple releasing the public betas of macOS 13 “Ventura” and iOS/iPadOS 16 sometime in July, it’s inevitable that some business users will want an early glimpse of what’s to come. The typical IT response is to try to discourage users from trying beta software, but that may not be the most economical way to deal with what’s to come.
IT executives can even make these betas — and eager early adopters — work to their advantage.
Developer betas of the new operating systems were: released after Apple’s Global Developer Conference (WWDC) root note† The public betas that will follow could 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 the new features of an upcoming operating system before everyone gets their hands on them. (The final release for all of these operating systems won’t be until this fall.)
But they pose a clear challenge to IT, especially when beta testers install pre-release software on their primary devices that they use for work. Bugs, issues with existing apps, and confusion about new or changed functionality are often part of the beta testing experience. Thus, users installing unsupported software on work devices can lead to support calls and employee downtime if they do not have access to core tools.
Remind beta testers to install pre-release software
Keep in mind that since mobile operating systems have shifted much of the upgrade process to users, it’s likely that IT executives won’t be able to stop everyone, especially if they’re installing on a device they own.
The best advice here is to advise users wishing to sign up as beta testers that they should do so with a secondary device rather than one they rely on for critical work and personal tasks.
It’s essential to formulate a nuanced message, one that describes the challenges they may face in a friendly, advisory manner, but doesn’t alienate those who want to be part of a beta program.
Explain that, yes, they will use new features for someone else – but also that there may be challenges that can affect their ability to do their job if they install on their primary device. And pay attention to the potential impact on personal tasks for which they rely on that device.
Making beta testers an advantage
Like most early adopters, many of these beta testers will likely be somewhat tech savvy, though their dexterity may vary. As a result, most organizations will encounter the public beta this summer. Ideally, it will be on a secondary device, although some people will probably still install it on their primary device.
Users can actually recruit these users as helpful allies.
One of the challenges in the current landscape is that IT departments are widely expected to be ready for new technologies arriving the day they are officially released. That means users have a limited opportunity to research them now, test business and important third-party apps with them, and build a knowledge base of issues that support teams may encounter.
It’s all quite a task to pull off with existing staff in a matter of months, and it all requires testing the betas. When IT managers recruit beta users, they can do a lot of those tests for them. They can see which apps are having issues, which workflows need to be changed, and report on common support issues. That gives IT greater ability to prepare, both in terms of updating apps and developing support and user-centric resources.
For many organizations this approach requires a cultural change. IT staff should develop a close working relationship with these users and actively seek their input, advice and feedback.
On the other hand, it makes preparing for new technologies easier and allows IT to be better prepared when those technologies are officially released. It also fosters a closer relationship between IT and employees who want to use the latest technology. In the process, it can even help users deal with shadow IT operations happening across the organization — or at least help identify them — since the people who want to try a beta are likely the same people who would be actively installing tools or services. without bothering to inform IT.
Of course, this doesn’t mean everyone should try beta software — and IT executives shouldn’t just ignore their recruited testers. It also doesn’t mean IT staff should ignore the betas themselves (ideally, they’ll use the developer betas instead of the public ones).
But embracing Apple’s upcoming public betas could give IT a head start on what’s to come this fall — if they can develop a trusted working relationship between everyone involved.
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