What to Expect When Switching to a Fully Remote QA and Dev Setup

The wheel of time is spinning ever faster. And as if this wasn’t enough, the coronavirus crisis is forcing even the most hesitant laggard to quickly change and adopt new technologies and working practices.

Now, I expect if you’re reading this, you’re most likely an early adopter and innovator. So, I won’t write about simply working from home. Rather, this blog focuses on what this coronavirus disruption means for Product, Engineering and QA teams, and provides you with advice on how to make the best of this situation.

How does working remotely impact product teams?

The product team ‘owns’ the connection to the outside world and the different stakeholders. This team should closely monitor how coronavirus itself and the crisis caused by the pandemic could impact their customers’ needs. Depending on the organization, the product needs might require tweaks — or even a larger overhaul — to confront this crisis.

The product team needs to assess and react to several questions and new uncertainties, such as:

  • How have our customers’ short-term needs changed?
  • What immediate changes need to be applied to our organization?
  • What long-term changes in the needs of our customer base can we anticipate?
  • What does all this mean for our product vision and strategy?

As the impact of coronavirus will have short- and long-term implications for some organizations, product teams will need to be responsive as priorities could change quickly. Things can shift rapidly, and internal decision-makers will be busy with operational matters and often harder to reach.

This will lead to a cascading effect for other teams involved in product development:

  • Product strategy could change quickly, which means that teams will need to touch different areas of the code that they might not have expected to
  • The product team’s input could be less clear than in usual circumstances, as some product teams might struggle to get the user stories and acceptance criteria they usually rely on

The Product team should closely monitor how the coronavirus crisis could impact their customers’ needs.

Here’s how the other teams will feel the effects of the changes on product teams, starting with the developers.

How does working remotely impact developers?

The business impact of coronavirus on developers is likely not as strong as on other departments. Why? Well, for one, many developers already regularly work from home.

There is an intense fight for developer talent — there are more than 200,000 open positions in the US alone. This intense talent competition already led many companies to offer developers the opportunity to work from home.

In fact, according to a Stack Overflow Developer Survey, developers’ happiness positively correlates with their level of remote work opportunities. In other words, the more often a developer is allowed to work from home, the more likely he/she will stay with the company and be more productive.

Many developers were already working from home regularly prior to 2020, and many have a good remote work setup in place. Therefore, developers should be able to work efficiently and at high velocity.

However, if the product team was affected at the organization (see above), the developers should prepare to feel the after-effects:

  • While the velocity won’t slow down, the product team’s input — or guidelines — might be less clear
  • As a result, the output might not be exactly what the product team intended, and is likely to have more bugs
  • As priorities may change quickly, the developers’ workloads are more likely to change quickly

A side note: One interesting thing we see in the Testing Services teams at Applause is that our customers’ development teams actually seem to have become more productive since they shifted to an entirely remote setup. The developers might face less interference at their workplaces and can therefore focus better.

How does working remotely impact the QA Team?

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

- Seventh principle, Agile Manifesto

The Agile bible expresses it: There shall be no compromise when it comes to quality. But as can be seen above, there are already some external challenges that are likely being handed over to QA teams today.

One may think that the QA team could continue operating as normal. Unfortunately, they are generally more affected by this switch than the developers, for two main reasons.

First, most companies work with shared device labs, which the testers can use. This practice heavily depends on people coming to the office and therefore cannot be maintained when the team splits up to work from home.

Second, a crucial part of the day-to-day work is the communication with both the product managers and the developers to understand requirements and help debugging later on. The asynchronicity adds a layer of complexity.

To sum it up, in addition to the above points, the QA team is likely to face the following challenges:

  • There are less devices available
  • The asynchronicity makes the communication more difficult

While these represent significant challenges to QA teams being productive and efficient while working remotely, there are some best practices that can help, which our veteran Test Team Leads — who have been managing remote testing teams for over a decade — list in this blog post.

The second part of this series addresses how the three teams involved in the SDLC can combat the challenges of building software during coronavirus.


Use Remote QA Testing to Drive Digital Quality

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Constantin Büker
Senior Director, Testing Services EU at Applause
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