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How to better manage your offshore software testing team

Managing a local software testing team is one thing, but when testers are remote, it's challenging. Expert Gerie Owen unpacks her top tips to make the process smoother.

How do I get my offshore software testing team to give me an accurate picture of what's going on? It seems like everything is fine, and then, all of a sudden, it's clear that they are behind schedule. Help!

Transparency and getting accurate statuses sometimes can be difficult when you are working with distributed and especially offshore software testing teams. Of course, there are the obvious challenges, such as disparate time zones, language barriers and technical difficulties with communication and collaboration channels. Despite these challenges, our offshore software testing teams work hard and want to be successful, so why is it that we, as team leads, find it hard to get a clear picture of what's going on?

I think it starts with expectations. We may think our expectations are clear, but since offshore software testing teams aren't always willing to ask questions, especially in meetings or stand-ups, we don't know that for sure. It helps to document expectations and minutes of meetings in an email and invite questions. I make sure to let all the team members know that I'm available on Skype or whatever collaboration tool we are using so that they feel comfortable contacting me individually with questions.

Of course, expectations may be clear, but the offshore software testing team may be hesitant to raise issues. I like to ask specifically what issues they have or risks they think they might encounter. This gives us an opportunity to brainstorm and collaboratively come up with solutions.

However, the biggest issue with transparency I've seen is that you don't get the right answers unless you ask the right questions. For example, if you ask for a percent complete, you'll get a number, but if you ask for planned vs. actual, you'll get a much better idea of the status. You should also look at test failure trends, defect trends and test coverage. As long as everything is updated in your test management tool, you should be able to get a good feel for how the testing is progressing.

As long as your offshore software testing team knows you want them to succeed and you provide clear expectations on both what you want done and how you want it reported, you should be able to get the information you need.

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