Since the outbreak of Covid-19, work from home has become the new normal. Working with a distributed system comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. While miscommunication and lethargy could be reasons for concern, there is also a steady increase in productivity and better working conditions without the commute. However, specific industry segments that relied on team efforts like quality testing find themselves amid new challenges.
Until recently, a software tester continually meets with the team of developers, BAs, and POs to understand the project and starts the testing by interacting with the product. There was a quick turnaround during times of issue since face-to-face meetings helped resolve these discrepancies at a much faster pace. With almost 100% of the workforce working remotely and from home, the issue resolution speed has dropped to 50% as new challenges and issues are rising. Depending on the industry catered to, the testing process and complexities vary. For instance, software testing for healthcare is more likely to be in demand than in the travel industry.
Challenges involved in distributed testing teams
While the concept of a distributed team for testing is not new, the current situation is unprecedented. Alternate testing options, including offshoring, outsourcing, and even crowdsourcing, have been present for twenty odd years. However, a few key challenges were unheard of as most often, these remote testing teams have been forced into the new normal suddenly, and teams had to adapt quickly with little or no room for error. In a time like now, Qapitol recorded these to be some of the prevalent issues such as
Workload distribution and management among team members
Ensuring that the work is distributed evenly is a challenge in a remote setup. Sometimes one employee could end up with more work while the other has relatively less work. As a result, there could be delays in delivery and affect employee morale.
Collaboration miscommunication during testing
For testers and developers, collaboration is vital. Any overlap could affect the testing phase. Lack of communication between team members and leads could affect the tasks, mainly testing criteria resulting in overlap of work.
Working towards the same goal while working remotely is a big challenge for new virtual teams. If the team does not have a proper test strategy, the work can be cumbersome and can result in poor testing conditions yielding undesirable results.
Time zone discrepancies
If the stakeholders and testing teams are in different time zones, time management becomes critical. Working round the clock might affect the output and cause room for misunderstandings.
There are times when members within a team are overshadowed by others who voice their opinion. These shadow participants could be significant contributors or underdogs whose work could affect the team. Ensuring an employee’s accountability is tricky in a virtual office and should not be taken lightly.
Unintended consequences of remote working
For testing teams that are used to being in office and working, this virtual office setup is unchartered territory. Some discrepancies arise due to not knowing the right protocol to operate in such an arrangement. Here are some of the common mistakes we have witnessed in virtual teams that can turn into problems in the long run.
Lack of work-life balance
Due to the work setup, there are times when there is no difference between work and personal life. This blurred line can start to affect the mental health of the employee.
Burnout due to overtime
Sometimes a testing task could become tedious and time-consuming. In a home office setup, employees do not have the pressure to leave office after work and could easily continue to work overtime. This repeated activity can result in burnout, which can affect the testing process.
Expecting employees to stay online all the time
Because of the absence of office work time, employees are tracked by their online status. For productivity, sometimes businesses can expect the employees to stay online irrespective of working hours’ commitment.
Unnecessary catchup meetings
Lack of physical contact can result in uncertainty. Compensating for the same with too many catchup meetings affects morale and wastes the time of all the employees. This can also come off as a lack of trust and affect work.
Creating false deadlines
Managers sometimes create false deadlines to improve team commitment and speed. While this is not uncommon, it is unethical to do so in a remote environment as teams must operate on trust and good faith, and creating these false rush can affect the relationship in the long run.
Critical elements of making remote teams work efficiently
As a testing company, working with remote testing teams involves three components – people, process, and purpose. Managers must understand the logic to crack each of these three focus components to run the team successfully.
Handling people is the first step in remote team management. Everyone has their working style, and it is imperative to be aware and respectful of this difference. As humans, we are driven by moods, and sometimes this can affect working style also. Managers and team members must be empathetic of one another and check in from time to time for personal and professional reasons.
When working with a remote testing team, define a process. Since it is not a typical day in the office, establishing a routine that has to be followed to make the virtual system work better for everyone. Setup virtual check-in call time and plan for the day. It is also necessary to keep the right channels of communication for discussion so that there are not several open lines. Stick to mail and cloud tracking sheet instead of instant messenger to keep things smooth and interruption-free.
We are driven by motivation and commitment to the company. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the objective of the organization at the heart of the work now. To work efficiently as a remote team, it is imperative to have access to leadership regarding company progress. Teams should also have a service-oriented approach that caters to the end customers. To achieve success, teams must work with a disciplined delivery process with good team engagement.
How to handle distributed testing teams
Managers are focused on delivery with a keen interest in retaining the productivity of the team. To make sure employees are working harmoniously and delivering results, here are a few tips that have worked for us here at Qapitol.
- Continuously communicate with the team without micromanagement
- Create regular standup meetings
- Clearly define task assignments to all team members
- Define achievable and clear expectations
- Set time boundaries for work-life balance
Testing teams working conditions after COVID 19
The current pandemic has dramatically changed the way businesses, and more specifically, testing teams, operate. At Qapitol, we have witnessed the testing team adapt and learn during these trying times. As a result of our learnings, we expect a tremendous improvement in the way teams function once life before lockdown resumes. We predict a few changes in the management and working style, including
- Improvement in productivity
- More emphasis on effective communication
- Removal of unnecessary meetings
- Effective policies and increase in empowerment
- Better visibility on employees’ skills
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