I joined the Zebrunner team in March 2022. By then, the pandemic had already taken its toll. Sanitizers at the exit of the elevator and protective masks with the company logo indicated this. Many empty work desks in the office spaces were one more consequence of the pandemic. The latter was due not so much to a lot of sick people, but to the fact that many employees worked remotely. And no, I eventually realized that this does not significantly harm the project or communication.
On my first day at work, I got access to corporate email, time tracking tool Harvest, issue tracking solution Jira, HR software PeopleForce, and to the main team communication tool, Slack messenger. Four weeks later, it so happened that I had to work remotely for a month. Miraculously, thanks to the competent combination of all the above solutions, I did not feel excluded from the processes and uninformed. But first things first. In this article, we will find out what communication processes in quality assurance teams include and how to set them up in a remote work environment.
People who work for IT companies are often introverted. However, Agile development approaches require well-established communication processes within the team and with all stakeholders. This includes communication at various levels both within the company and outside of it – with users.
This article focuses on the work of the QA team. So to begin with, it makes sense to consider with whom the team members have to communicate in addition to each other. This is necessary for the reason that QA engineers should understand what “language” to speak with each of the audiences. Anne Mette Hass in her book “Guide to Advanced Software Testing” notes that management says “money”, users say “functionality and quality”, and developers say “technology”. Thus, QA teams need to understand how to communicate with each of these audiences.
The first audience is project management. Usually, such communication is carried out by the QA lead. Let's take a look at what is the purpose of this communication from both sides.
The project manager informs the QA team about such aspects as expectations, requirements, resources, constraints, quality criteria, and changes in plans, and also discusses all of the above with the QA lead and with the whole team. For its part, the QA team informs project management about how testing is going on, and what the current quality level of product testing is. Communication is based on documents such as test strategy, test plans, test progress reports, and test content reports, and is accompanied by verbal communication both verbally and in writing.
The second key audience is developers. They inform test teams about especially difficult areas of the product, about what is being developed, what is being updated, which areas need to be given increased attention, and which areas were difficult in terms of development. The QA team, for its part, informs developers about the failures found, recurring problems, and common types of failures.
Finally, the third key audience is the users of the product. In Zebrunner workflow they report problems with the app or simply give feedback. Then this information is sent to a separate channel on Slack, where the QA team members can clarify all the details and discuss how to most effectively solve the issue. Sometimes the QA team prepares individual instructions for the users to solve their problems with the product.
More than 26 million Americans worked remotely for at least some time in 2019. Thus, the pandemic has only accelerated the trend toward remote work.
We at Zebrunner have not been left out of this trend. By now, we have already developed our own approaches to remote work.
I have already mentioned the main tools of team communication above. In addition to them, the QA team uses a range of solutions for bug tracking, CI/CD tools, test automation frameworks, and build & deploy tools.
Our QA team uses its own solution Zebrunner. Firstly, it covers all the QA needs. Secondly, its use allows us to look at the product from the end-user point of view and immediately detect all problems. In addition, Zebrunner integrates with tools from all the categories listed in the previous paragraph, including team communication tools as well as collects and analyzes all information, and provides a clear testing process.
Working in the office, the team is constantly in the information field of the project. It communicates with developers, and marketers, and is aware of everything that is at least indirectly related to the product. When it comes to remote work, all information is received from tasks, meetings, and communication in instant messengers. Each member of the QA team must be aware not only of his piece of work but also of how things are going on the project in general. Joint meetings and team messengers facilitate it.
Our QA team takes part in daily stand-up meetings, where each participant briefly talks about his/her tasks for the current day. This allows everyone to know common tasks. All-hands meetings give the team an idea of the current stage of development of the project and include a demo. Q&A sessions with the C-level keep the team up to date with the news of the head office, its short-term and long-term prospects, and plans.
Everything is simple and clear here, however, it is better to mention it again. The presence of a detailed set of tasks scheduled in terms of time and performers helps you to understand the load of the team for the next iterations. Planning also allows you to set priorities and goals, arrange the execution of tasks in such a way as to bring the release time closer, and ensure the highest quality of the product.
Our company strives to provide feedback from employees in a way that motivates them to openly share what they care about. Many are afraid to speak frankly because of previous experience. We all know that in some companies an initiative or just an opinion can become the cause of negative attitudes or even sanctions. To guarantee that the employee is sure that his opinion, as well as possible criticism, is valuable, it is better to collect feedback anonymously.
It is also recommended to gather feedback in several directions at once: feedback on the team work, feedback on project management interaction, feedback on interaction with other teams – for example, with developers, marketing, and sales, and feedback on interaction with users.
Another example of collecting feedback is performance reviews. At Zebrunner they take place twice a year. Each employee fills out a questionnaire on interaction with each of the colleagues, as well as an anonymous questionnaire on interaction with each of the managers. Then the feedback on the work of each of the employees is brought together. In the final stage, the CEO of the project calls each team member one-on-one to discuss the results of his/her performance review. This approach allows assessing the individual progress of each employee, identifying possible conflicts in the team at an early stage, and selecting individual recommendations for each team member.
Office work is not only about planning, completing tasks, and meetings, but also about having lunch with colleagues in the common kitchen, jokes, chatting near the coffee machine, corporate parties, and pizza for birthdays. Remote work provides a few alternatives here. Nevertheless, they exist: chats exclusively for informal communication, online board games, and online parties.
We at Zebrunner have several Slack channels that are dedicated to informal communication. There, colleagues share funny pictures and videos, as well as personal news and achievements. Thus, it is possible to maintain and develop not only working but also friendly relationships.