Managing Director at a1qa, a pure-play QA and software testing company.
Successful managers gently guide their teams to follow best practices, constantly invest in talent to help them grow and professionally mediate conflicts to seek common ground and sustain a healthy workplace. Due to the positive influence of good management on business, the global demand for project managers (PMs) will only boost over the next five years, along with the size of the project management software market.
However, managing a quality assurance (QA) project is difficult, especially when a large team is working from different locations and time zones. In this article, I’ll focus on the most typical process challenges and offer techniques to mitigate them.
Challenge 1: There’s a lack of communication in the distributed QA team.
Good managers contribute to ensuring effective collaboration within QA teams as well as project teams. They also help settle matters that arise with developers and negotiate with stakeholders on the scope, deadlines, priorities and costs.
With a distributed testing team, it’s harder to manage collaboration and ensure efficient communication between the QA and project teams. QA engineers also find it difficult to stay on the same page and may have vague ideas about the current agenda and the responsibilities across the team.
Here’s how to solve this: Managers should plan stand-up meetings considering time zones and rely on project collaboration tools to visualize milestones and enhance transparency. Another effective practice is to supplement synchronous (in-the-moment) communication with asynchronous (which doesn’t happen in real time, such as via Slack, Microsoft Teams, Loom or Asana). The latter helps team members receive messages, take time to think over the best approaches to solving issues and respond, which increases productivity. Organizing informal team buildings is another practice to keep in touch with colleagues, boost their engagement and create trustful relationships.
Challenge 2: Team members don’t have the appropriate expertise.
Even with tweaking the project workflows to perfection, the lack of in-demand skills within a QA team can prevent you from reaching set objectives.
Here’s how to solve this: If you’re already at the project planning stage, the manager can design a skills (or competency) matrix to define the technical and soft skills of the QA team members. It’s also worth compiling project initiation and planning documents containing the definition of roles and responsibilities of the involved team members to assign the right-skilled specialists from the get-go. Also, the ongoing training of your QA team is of utmost importance, as the continuous accumulation of expertise and knowledge transfer throughout the project allows for quick onboarding of new team members and smooth problem-solving.
Challenge 3. Your deadlines are unrealistic.
This is one of the biggest problems when managing Agile-based QA projects, as sprints are usually short and requirements may still change. Last-minute testing may pose the additional risk of production issues and unhappy customers. Your QA team should always have enough time to perform regression testing and confirm the faultless functioning of introduced improvements and affected areas.
Here’s how to solve this: Agile release planning is of assistance here. Whether you roll out functionality every sprint or group them and release features afterward, while planning, you always should set time for regression testing. Also, test automation assists in boosting QA velocity and spotting errors of diverse severity levels.
Challenge 4: There are vague or changing requirements.
If requirements are confusing or change in the middle of a sprint, the QA team’s level of stress increases, as they must confirm that even the slightest code changes haven’t impacted correct software functioning. And they need to do it quickly to meet set deadlines.
Here’s how to solve this: First, it’s important to perform an impact analysis. By closely cooperating with the development team, QA engineers can understand what software parts might be affected by changes and fulfill regression testing more accurately. Second, QA managers, together with business analysts and stakeholders, can prioritize requirements to determine which ones fit within the current sprint with minimum risks to quality upon the software’s release. Also, educate stakeholders so you can avoid changing requirements in the middle of a sprint and perform grooming sessions to make sure the backlog contains only relevant and prioritized features.
Challenge 5. There’s a lack of transparency on the project’s progress.
Ensuring alignment between multiple teams and stakeholders and keeping everyone on track is impossible with bad workplace or project visibility.
Here’s how to solve this: To make your team members aware of the slightest changes within software requirements and project milestones, QA managers can foster interaction between stakeholders, business analysts, developers, QA engineers and key users. Also, managers can rely on absolute and derivative metrics (e.g., test effectiveness) to obtain a bird’s-eye view of processes and define current bottlenecks.
Challenge 6: You’re dealing with Friday releases (“Oh, no!”).
When releasing new functionality, it’s crucial that introduced software improvements and updates don’t impact the proper functioning of other features. Releasing on Friday afternoon is never a good idea if you want to guarantee a healthy work-life balance for developers and QA engineers who must support the quality of the release and briskly fix identified issues.
Here’s how to solve this: Build your release schedule so that you deploy new features at the beginning of the week and give your team enough time to deal with any issues that may arise or do a rollback, promptly minimizing the negative impact on your customers.
Each day, QA managers may face such challenges as a lack of communication, shortage of team expertise, unrealistic deadlines, vague requirements, limited project visibility and rushed Friday releases. To address these hurdles, QA managers should consider hosting regular stand-up meetings, adding asynchronous communication, pre-defining team skill sets and providing ongoing learning. They’ll also want to look at establishing release planning, performing impact analyses and requirements prioritization, fostering communication, applying metrics and realigning release schedules. Finally, they’ll want to strive to be the best manager possible!
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