Facing the challenge of distributed testing teams

As governments around the world attempt to curb its spread, COVID-19 has, in a very short time, radically transformed the way we work, with most people now working from home. And no matter what you do for a living, making such a sharp and unexpected pivot brings a series of complications.

Software testers in particular face some unique challenges. Coordinating testing across all the different tools and people involved in the end-to-end quality process has never been straightforward. Today, as organisations deploy urgent updates almost instantly, testers need to find ways of testing even more efficiently as they adjust to the “new normal”.

Coordinating efforts

Meetings have moved online, with apps such as Zoom or Teams replacing the conference room. However, even when all team members are able to attend a meeting, it can be hard to keep track of who’s doing what and when.

Important details may be missed when the connection drops, for example, or when an attendee has to leave for a moment to take delivery of a package. A team member may have to take time off at late notice, requiring work assignments to be redistributed in order to meet deadlines, or an overnight change to a release’s scope or timeline may be missed among the increasing number of emails.

Many organisations will have used an Agile test management tool to keep track of any changes and ensure that everyone works from the same page. But whether working with manual or automated tests or a combination of both, a centralised “hub” is invaluable in coordinating testing efforts, housing test cases and steps in a single repository from where they can be accessed and reused.

Recording and sharing

Remote working, by its very definition, can pose a significant problem for testers. In the past, testers have become accustomed to a “works on my machine” response after reporting a defect. Now, though, there are new challenges to consider. Team members might be working on different systems and environments, and it’s no longer possible for a tester to stand by a doubting colleague’s desk and talk them through what they’re doing.

If both parties are online at the same time, they can screen share and discuss their actions, exploring the systems differences that might help pinpoint the root cause of the problem. But differences in time zones and work/life schedules mean this isn’t always possible. In these instances, it’s worth using a tool that can automatically record a tester’s actions, environment settings, and comments, allowing them to capture and share their test actions with their colleagues, wherever they might be located.

Maintaining communication

Working remotely can make test automation appear more daunting than usual. It takes time, effort, and – perhaps most importantly – collaboration to building out meaningful test automation, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that many teams feel the current wide distribution of testers will impact test automation rates.

It’s important for business users to easily communicate business-critical requirements to testers so that test cases can be created, automated and executed. But, without being in the same room, it’s much harder to relay this information. It could get lost in an email or Slack message, for example, or be put on hold until everyone is available to join a video conference. Then, once a test case is pieced together, another round of review is needed to make sure it actually covers the original requirements, and extra time is needed to automate it.

There are solutions and workarounds for situations like this. Business users can quickly and easily record critical business processes, for instance, saving them as shareable files which they can send to their testing teams via email or on a shared drive as test cases ready for automation. The tester can then build out comprehensive test automation for every business process that needs to be tested, over and over, across teams, as required.

Distributing test sets

One of the most intimidating obstacles teams face is how to keep their test automation initiatives up and running in this new environment. By providing them with the ability to remotely manage and execute automated test cases, a distributed execution tool allows testers to build, run and monitor tests, regardless of where they’re working.

What’s more, by distributing automated test sets across multiple virtual machines, local computers, and in the cloud, such a tool can also boost testing performance. Indeed, the ability to distribute test sets across multiple execution clients in complex and diverse system landscapes is a core function for any agile testing team. Not only does it help to increase operating speed, it allows for rapid feedback regarding the quality of the product under test.

The global pandemic has changed everything. As businesses adjust to this new reality, and pivot to remote work, their technology teams find themselves facing a new set of challenges. Delivering high-quality software and application updates depends on real-time communication and rapid testing across complex application architectures. But a remote and distributed testing team needn’t mean a drop in standards. With the right tools and processes in place, those teams can continue driving high-quality end-to-end test automation, all while working from home.

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