Decades of Leadership in the Software Testing Industry

AscentialTest has been forming in the minds of our founders for several years. After building QA Partner/SilkTest at Segue Software in the 90s, they got the opportunity to use their product extensively in the field. As consultants implementing test automation with various tools for more than 10 years, they’ve formed a thorough assessment of the state of the field. What they found surprised them: automated tests were too expensive to build.

Furthermore, the requirement for programming skills to move beyond the superficial tests that can be recorded left out too many members of the team. They also discovered that a large portion of test development time is spent ‘writing code’ to workaround object recognition deficiencies. Some users estimate that time to approach 80%. Clearly this explains why the decision to adopt automation is not always straightforward. With a fresh understanding of the challenges and our heads full of ideas, we’re energized and excited to bring about the next paradigm shift in test automation.

Brian has been working in the field of test automation for more than 30 years. Brian began as a QA Engineer using the testing tools available in the early 1980’s. He joined Segue Software in its infancy and served as the EVP of R&D during that company’s golden years. Brian formed Star Quality, a consulting firm specializing in test automation in the late 90s. After 12 years of experience in the trenches, he’s excited to be building the next generation testing tool that will increase the productivity and and effectiveness of test and development teams.

Dave is a pioneer in the field of automated testing. Dave developed ATF, one of the first automation tools, more than 20 yeas ago. He was a founder and Chief Architect of Segue Software, Inc., the original creators of QA Partner/SilkTest. Dave believes that no testing tool can be easy to use without a solid foundation. That’s why he is committed to providing AscentialTest’s universal agent with the most powerful object recognition engine in the industry.

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Why We Moved to a 6 Month Free Trial

Free trials are perhaps the most important part of a customer-focused, product-led strategy. In our view, a long-dated free trial is the best way to allow prospective customers the opportunity to experience the value of Zeenyx AscentialTest.

There are two important takeaways from this short article (other than our free trial announcement):

  • The average duration of a free trial period among the leading automated software testing products (14-30 days) is unrealistic and designed for sales acceleration rather than educating potential customers
  • It should take a potential customer at least 3 months and as long as 6 months to establish the value and fit (aka time-to-value) of an automated software testing platform.

 

Zeenyx (AscentialTest) is a product-led company and we rely on the free trial concept to win new customers

At Zeenyx, we win most of our customers via their direct experience with our product. We don’t rely on sales people to cold call potential customers, rather we give the potential customer all the information they could possibly need to make a sound decision about buying our product: clear pricing, competitive comparisons, detailed feature descriptions, how-to videos, a strong user community, etc. In terms of our staff, we have developers, a few dedicated customer experience people, a small executive-led team for sales & support plus distribution partners. In sum, we let our product and satisfied users (we have almost no customer churn) do the talking, which is why we have such a strong product reputation (see Gartner reviews). These days, the marketing cognoscenti would call our strategy a product-led strategy, or “PLG” (product-led growth), versus a sales-led strategy. Who knew!

What should be the goal of a free trial?

Simply put, a well-structured free trial should allow potential customers enough time and product functionality (not a deprecated version) to experience the true value of the product – the “aha” moment. This time period is generally called the time-to-value. While most SaaS companies do not offer a free trial period (84% do not, according to Swipe Files research), the leading automated software testing companies generally do, and we are no exception. Automated testing software is a complex product, and allowing the potential customer to directly experience the value of an automated testing platform is now table stakes.

Why are free trial periods so short in SaaS, and automated software testing in particular?

While there are many articles on how to structure a free SaaS trial, the rule of thumb for a free trial length for SaaS companies generally is 14 days. Why? Well, we kept stumbling onto this video from Tom Tunguz, a partner at Redpoint Ventures (here), and it may explain that number. Some of the things you will hear in this video include “time kills deals’, “all of the momentum is at the beginning of the trial period”, and “close rates on free trials don’t change much as they get shorter, so you might as well make them shorter.”

One observation mentioned in this presentation is that free trial users don’t use the product consistently during the trial period, so Tom concludes that you should shorten the period up and speed up the sales cycle (remember, to VCs, time kills deals).  To this we say – of course they don’t use it every day! So what, they have jobs to do! We also disagree with the conclusion that the consistency in close rates argues for shorter trial periods. We feel the right question to ask is – can longer trial periods encourage more sign ups and more product engagement? Yet, given the attitude of investor-backed, sales-driven SaaS companies as it relates to free trials, one should not be surprised at the very short free trial periods in our sector (automated software testing).

Free trial periods of the leading automated software companies (and their owners/investors):

  • Zeenyx AscentialTest (Privately Owned): now 180 days
  • Smartbear (Francisco Partners and Vista): 14 days
  • Tricentis (Insightful Ventures): 14 Days
  • Eggplant (Keysight): 30 Days
  • Ranorex (Idera) – Unknown Trial Period

 

In conclusion, in a sales-driven company, free trials aren’t necessarily structured to allow for a complete appreciation of product value. Rather, they are meant to speed the sales process, to create sales momentum, to create FOMO, and to push potential customers through a regimented sales funnel. Of note, sales people don’t like free trials, since they take away from demo requests and they take the buying process out of the hands of salespeople and put the process of value appreciation in the hands of the prospective customer.

How we arrived at our 6 month free trial period at Zeenyx

In the last few months, as our team did a deep dive to understand the value of our product relative to our competitors (see our chart), one thing became clear – we have a stronger and more economical offering than our competitors. More importantly, we know that if we can get more potential customers to experience, engage with, and see the true value of our platform, we will almost certainly win more business and create more satisfied customers.

How long should it take for a potential customer to see the value of our product? While the ‘ease of usage’ features of AscentialTest will be immediately apparent, the ultimate objective for our customers is an easy-to-create test that’s bug-free, runs fast, is easy to maintain for changes in the UI and creates its own test framework. Whatever amount of time it takes to experience all of that, we felt the need to add even more time to the free trial period to accommodate for the natural timeline for testing new products. Put another way, not every free trial user will use the product daily until the entire testing process or POC is completed, and product value is appreciated.

At Zeenyx, we understand the importance of getting potential customers to experience the value of a testing platform in automated software testing. As software testing consultants and as developers of some of the first advanced testing software programs in the 90s, we have done literally thousands of tests and POCs for our own software and for clients. In our experience, reaching time-to-value for an automated software testing trial could take anywhere from 30-90 days.

Given that QA and testing people have other projects and jobs to be done (other than try out our software), we determined that a free trial in the automated testing sector should be an absolute minimum of 90 days and likely closer to 6 months. In the end, we went with 6 months. Time will tell if potential customers agree.

How our free trial works – getting started

It’s very simple – fill out our free trial form (here) and download a Host ID generator. The download package includes full instructions.  If you want to engage with our team and conduct a POC with our help, just let us know.

 

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What We Are Up To Next

TFS/Azure Integration

Check our new Azure extension for executing AscentialTest command lines in the Azure Marketplace.

We look forward to offering additional integration with Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server and Azure through defect tracking and version control soon.

Omnis Studio

Automated testing support for OMNIS Studio is coming soon. All OMNIS elements will be supported including complex grids, list boxes, tables and tree views.

Custom Objects

Add automated testing support easily for your custom application elements by responding to simple test API messages with json strings. This feature will open up the possibility of testing any GUI element and  will be offered free of charge.

Test Debugger

Set breakpoints in your automated tests, view global and local variables and execute statements to make it easier to debug tests running on any of our supported platforms.

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