During the first quarter of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had most nations around the world issue stay-at-home orders to their public. This had devastating effects on every industry but perhaps most on software testing.
And while it may seem frivolous to suggest that stay-at-home orders wouldn’t have impacted the software and QA industry, the reality is far from the truth in this case. But it’s easy to understand why people would think this way – after all, QA technicians can simply use their computers at home and resume work, right? Not really.
Most QA and software testing companies tend to employ a diverse batch of people, and oftentimes, this diverse batch could already be working from home. Typically, around 10 to 20 percent of the company’s employees would be working from home pre-COVID, but having that number jump to nearly 100 percent can take its toll. Some employees may not have personal computers to work on and if they did, most times they wouldn’t be up to spec to perform the development of QA tasks. And if any of them aren’t in the same geographical region as you, access to fast and reliable internet can be challenging too.
The Shift to Working-from-Home
Working from home may seem like a silver lining for most employees, but the simple matter of fact is, it requires a lot of effort – from the employers and the employees. What you might gain from commute times to and fro from the office, you lose in distractions at home. What you gain in the ease of the pace you work on, you lose in collaboration and teamwork. And that’s the biggest problem.
The complex social dynamic of a well-functioning QA team rests on thorough collaboration and teamwork. Working in the same building affords you the ease of walking up to another person and talking to them. Now, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other virtual enterprise tools work to do the same. But it’s still more misses than hits as most businesses have found. Still, there are glimmers of this being less of a concern with most businesses being well into a year of remote working systems.
The main issue remote teams faced was communicating with an in-house team. But now that everyone is on the same pegging, this issue is slowly diminishing. This is because working from home forces more proactive communications and enables every member of a team to be in the loop. We see businesses apply several factors to help QA work remotely too, be it from home or otherwise. Factors like feedback sessions at the end of every week and virtual happy hours all help. Understanding that all members of every team are in a form of isolation is key and that’s to combat a shared enemy – the virus.
One important factor is the need to boost collaboration between testers, their managers, and developer teams. This collaboration can be fostered through test management tools that bring all team members on one platform. And because there exist a plethora of testing tools – performance testing tools, automation tools, and more – the need to have a tool that integrates all these and gives a one-window operation is greater than ever. Kualitee provides just that.
Stop Taking Connectivity for Granted
But before any of this can work, there must be connectivity at home, and we mentioned some of the most common problems faced by businesses all around the world. A good start would be to ensure all of your employees have access to fast and reliable internet connections and if they don’t arrange for them could be the obvious next step. Some might need help setting up proper home networks and others might require assistance with the entire infrastructure. The business should be proactive in solving this for them.
Kualitee faced a similar challenge when trying to get their teams operational from home. “We had some resources working with office systems remotely already, and some of them now have laptops issued by the company”, commented the IT team. “Around 150 to 200 laptops were provided.”
A strong commitment to getting everyone up and running should be on every QA testing company’s checklist if they are to remain functional and cohesive during the pandemic.
How Secure are Home-Offices and Tools?
If there’s one benefit of relegating IT professionals to home offices it’s that they aren’t dumbfounded by technology. Navigating around communication tools like MS Teams and Zoom is relatively painless and they can even access the existing development environment without ringing up the IT department.
But that doesn’t mean your current technical support staff is out of the waters either. Setting up a virtual environment on Microsoft Cloud infrastructure is going to be crucial. This way every QA technician can log in securely and access the company’s central system from their home computer. And security might be a constant concern too.
Deploying a commercial-grade VPN can handle any remote access requirements your employees might need. But IT departments may need to rush to add or renew licenses for all the new users that have transitioned to working-from-home.
During the prevalent use of Zoom, a few questions were raised about the company’s privacy policies claiming them to put user’s information at risk. And although the questions remain, businesses can mitigate them by using Zoom’s enterprise version as it has better security, and sessions and channels can be password protected. You can also opt to use hyper-secure micro-segmentation to further bolster the security of your communications.
Are Test Environments Available Remotely?
Trying to get access to test environments can also add another layer of complication for your QA team when working from home. You can have it one of two ways: either have the test environment on an on-premises server or run it through a cloud service. The recent influx in cloud-based automation testing has led to this problem is less of a concern for most software teams.
Cloud services have been on the rise and for good reason too. They make the entire testing process easier and streamlined for a business. Most companies use cloud-based software testing tools to ensure a user-friendly, seamless and collaborative environment. But these do come with a few exceptions. For instance, test environments that are machine-specific cannot be run through cloud services at present. This would mean your team would require a device home for testing or make a trip down to the office if local laws permit this.
Still, cloud-based solutions are the eventual next step in testing and considering these software testing tools can benefit businesses greatly during the pandemic.
Thinking Long-Term Now
For most testing businesses, the working-from-home shift seems to have worked out well. But it may be too soon to gauge whether these businesses would be welcoming their staff back into offices once the virus eventually succumbs and COVID restrictions subside. As you might have guessed by now, this largely depends on the nature and quality of work developers and QA technicians do, how it impacts a company’s culture and whether the necessary security upkeep is retained.
But it’s safe to assume that most developers and testers would be much happier working from home or remotely, especially as the shift to virtual work mediums has proved its effectiveness thus far. And this may benefit their companies too by saving them in office expenses. What may seem like a classic win-win situation in dire times like these, may still need more evaluation before anything conclusive is drawn up.