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Deal with remote software testing challenges

Is your software QA team new to remote work? Learn what technical, process and culture challenges you will encounter, and how to surpass them to ensure quality.

A growing portion of the global workforce is remote nowadays, and they must meet the same business commitments regardless of location. While working remotely has its perks, these arrangements have unique practical and cultural challenges too.

Distributed software testers and developers new to remote work might struggle with the myriad challenges that come with the location change. Some issues that pop up with remote software testing include how to collaborate virtually and get the resources needed.

QA professionals must be aware of the challenges of remote software testing, such as the lack of an in-person conversation and asynchronous work schedules across the team. They might even find connectivity issues separate them from test environments. Follow these suggestions to ease work and collaborate more effectively.

Meet the practical needs of remote QA work

A common cultural impediment to remote work is the loss of face-to-face collaboration. It's especially important for developers and testers to collaborate to ensure quality and build automated test suites. Some enterprises struggle to create a collaborative virtual environment, and those teams could lose productivity when they work from home.

To adjust to remote software testing work, start with the virtual desktops and communication tools at your organization. Some tools might be better suited for some tasks than others.

Skype from Microsoft and Zoom are great services for real-time video conferencing, particularly one-on-one conversations between team members or departments. Messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams can be better for conversations and collaboration among more people; these platforms enable distributed software testers and developers to catch up with conversations at their own convenience.

Work the network

Other issues are outside of the software teams' control with working from home. Some enterprises lack the capacity and bandwidth for many or all employees to do so. For example, when an entire workforce tries to access private networks remotely during the same hours, the company's systems might not handle the volume.

Bring up network capacity issues to the business if investments are needed to provide access to VPNs and test environments. Plan where to allocate access to support those working on the most critical parts of a software project. With limited bandwidth, tell developers, testers and other members of the team to log out of environments when they are not actually using them. Some organizations might institute an automatic session log-off when the user is inactive for a preselected period of time.

Some team members might need to be on site to work, as they can't use certain equipment virtually. If an organization has limited access to equipment or office space, create a schedule that delineates who will use which resources, and when.

Adapt workplace culture to suit remote work

Tools help teams collaborate virtually, but the organization must also implement a culture that supports remote teamwork. Culture changes take time -- time organizations sometimes don't have. Senior leadership and management must establish the remote working policy and lead by example.

Hold virtual team meetings where people flesh out workflows, address likely sources of confusion, and make sure everyone is on the same page. Document each team member's time zone and work hours -- and try to plan meetings during everyone's work hours. Review the project schedule to determine if any due dates are at risk. The remote software testing team, for instance, might need physical equipment for certain test cases, and must plan for how to get it.

Daily standups should still include the same elements: what you've done, what you're doing today and what blockers are in your way. Velocity might decline when developers and testers work remotely. It is important to recognize this, and then adjust the number of story points in each sprint as necessary.

In a remote working environment, it's all right to overcommunicate. You could add a daily standup at the end of the day -- just 15 minutes to keep in touch. If you have the option to video conference, do it. If your teammates see your face as you speak, you can convey more than just your voice would alone.

Finally, be understanding of your colleagues' individual situations. Many people have atypical schedules and needs. Some team members, for example, might need to home-school children or help elderly parents when their normal services are closed. Be prepared to wait a few hours for responses to emails. If a tester cannot meet a deadline that is on the critical path, another tester can help out -- or perhaps even a developer, in a pinch. If you have an erratic schedule, communicate those circumstances to your team. Keep everyone in the loop about availability, and coordinate among team members.

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