8 Common Hurdles When Remote Testing (And How to Overcome Them)
Moving from an on-location workspace to a remote team without sufficient planning can hinder workflow.
17:57 02 February 2022
Moving from an on-location workspace to a remote team without sufficient planning can hinder workflow. With so many businesses having little choice but to pivot to a remote work environment, QA engineers are having to find and fine-tune new ways of working.
Remote QA engineers that want to test the quality of software products face a unique set of challenges, and some common hurdles are becoming highly visible. However, with the right approach, those hurdles might be easier to overcome than you think.
1. Lack of Communication
One of the main challenges to remote working is how to communicate. It’s particularly noticeable when it comes to raising issues and discussing ways to resolve them.
The key to overcoming this hurdle is to use the communication tools that allow for more cohesive team task management. By using the right communication tools, testing teams can be more visible to each other, and issues aren’t left to grow and grow.
For example, it used to be that if you encountered a problem with code or a results table, it only took a few minutes of chatting with a colleague at the next desk to help resolve the issue. Now, team members have to get used to sending instant messages or learning how to screen share on different platforms.
Software testing often involves working in isolation, making it too easy to duplicate work that others are doing. With improved team task management tools and communication resources, it’s significantly easier to synchronize workflow, easing many of the problems caused by a lack of communication streamlining.
2. Adoption Issues
Even in industries that are already highly reliant on technology, the pivot to remote working has meant more reliance on multiple technologies. Unfortunately, introducing new tech into the working architecture of a business means opening the doors to adoption issues.
The solution? Ensure all new and existing technologies are tested before they are formally introduced to employees. From using cutting edge AI tools to introducing a cloud phone system, it needs to be tested in advance. Introducing a new technology that promises the world, only to find that it is too difficult for employees to use or is too glitchy, is all too common. Having a select group of individuals who can trial new solutions and feed back to IT is a great way of making sure you’ve picked the right options.
It’s also worth remembering that employees will need to take time out from their daily tasks to learn how to use new software or technology. Make sure to avoid implementing it at the end of a project cycle, or when there are tight deadlines coming up.
3: Slow Testing
It’s just as important for QA to test early when working remotely as it is when they are all physically in the same workspace. Slow, or delayed, testing is a common trap to fall into when all members of the team are working in different locations.
Using methods such as Static Application Security Testing (SAST) or Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) can make it easier to test software products early. This access to faster testing is vital, as it helps identify security issues and product bugs at an extremely early stage.
The result will be a more problem-free deployment, and that’s good news for teams that are actively managing the testing process. Conducting UX and UI tests when the team is in the same room is straightforward, even for the most white-box testing. For remote teams, it’s trickier, but the key to success is introducing testing as early as possible to prevent roadblocks later in the development process.
4: Weak Team Building
From conflict management practices to having clearly defined goals and targets, it's never been more important to boost team cohesion. The mistake that many organizations make is to develop only a surface-level understanding of what remote team building and team cohesion are. This can lead to team members becoming frustrated.
The result is that there are often online team-building exercises in place that are intended to replicate social events that suit physical workplaces. While it can be fun to have pizza nights or active lunch breaks on a group video call, in a worst-case scenario these types of team-building strategies can hinder productivity without bringing the benefits of a more cohesive team. Instead, organizations with remote teams need to:
- Deliver corporate communications that involve managers and business owners
- Publicly recognize good work
- Ensure task ownership is clearly defined
- Ensure all communication channels are two-way
- Define organizational goals
For testers, working with a team that is not cohesive can become a critical failure. By ensuring your remote testers are included within the wider scope of the organization, you set them on the path to improved engagement and satisfaction.
5: Lack of Formal Feedback
During the testing stage of a new (or updated) software product, QA managers will rely on feedback. This information can be gathered via emails, surveys, team meetings or online calls. With so many organizations managing a remote workforce for the first time, that feedback can often become lost in the noise of communication. There’s also the issue that not all feedback provides value.
Two-way communication is, of course, essential for cross-team collaborations. But it also plays a large part in improving products overall. Being able to categorize test failures and deliver that information to testing managers has never been more important. The result of improving feedback protocols is that recurring issues in any product can have more targeted tests carried out more quickly.
This can help to prevent and repair recurring issues that might delay a product launch.
6: Slow Manual Processes
Much of the testing process can easily become tedious. More importantly, those manual processes can lead to human errors. It’s worth, particularly with regression testing and other repetitive tasks, introducing automated testing. When code changes are made by the team developers, automation makes it easier to identify bugs quickly, and so resolve them.
More importantly, automated testing means that the testers themselves can work on other things while the testing is being carried out. Without the need to manually test every stage of the development process, productivity can quickly soar.
For remote teams, in particular, automated testing using RPA technology (Robotic Process Automation) introduces a next-level step in business automation that can free up team members from manual work processes. That leaves your QA department free to work on tasks that need their creativity and innovation - without missing out vital tests.
7: Inefficient Architectures
With so much reliance on so many disparate technologies, there is a real risk of internal roadblocks to productivity. Outdated and legacy business architectures can allow for mismanagement, dead-end information flows, and misaligned use of stored data.
For remote testing teams, those flaws can become critical. The solution isn't to break down the system entirely and rebuild it from scratch. Instead, the move to a more IoT-focused edge computing architecture delivers several advantages that other, more outdated architectures simply can’t measure against.
With the rollout of 5G technology networks continuing at a rapid pace, using a more edge-computing focus ensures that data storage and productivity are more easily managed. When combined with Platform as a Service (PaaS) providers, an edge architecture can dramatically outpace alternatives, depending on the organization. Some teams may find that a cloud-based or fog architecture is more suitable. By applying the right architecture, managers can ensure that workflow is easier for testers no matter how remote they may be.
8: Remote Micromanaging
Employees are, largely, benefiting from a more remote workplace. Simple benefits like the lack of commute time, more autonomy, and a better work-life balance are all extremely valued. The problem for employers is that they often find it difficult to work without having one eye on the team.
The key is to focus more on results and less on schedules. Remote workers will work as and when they need to, and often get their work done as their home commitments allow. What many managers overlook is that the work gets done, even if at unusual times of the day.
There are plenty of challenges with remote workforce management, but managing schedules shouldn’t be one of them. Using remote work tools such as a PBX phone system or video conferencing software will improve collaboration and project management. Furthemore, managers need to move away from the 9-5 mindset of the physical workplace. A more results-oriented workplace is of particular value in the QA environment.
As long as the testing is done and the work completed, timeframes become much less important. Deadlines still have to be met, but as long as those deadlines are established, it no longer matters if a tester is working from 6am until 3pm or through the night.
Start Remote Testing to Grow your Business
Remote work isn’t new, and for some organizations, it has slowly become the norm even without the current global threats. There are key challenges to tackle when ensuring that remote development and testing teams are working productively and efficiently. By ensuring you understand the most common hurdles, you can identify the solutions. And, with a confident and happy QA team, products will be tested and launched more seamlessly, even if every member of your team is working on a different continent.
Richard Conn - Senior Director, Demand Generation, 8x8
Richard Conn is the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8x8, a leading PBX solution and communication platform with best business voip service and integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. Richard is an analytical & results-driven digital marketing leader with a track record of achieving major ROI improvements in fast-paced, competitive B2B environments. Check out his LinkedIn.