4 Challenges of Managing Software Testing Teams

Let’s be honest: managing a testing project is fraught with difficulties. Estimating a testing scope, building a test strategy, choosing the most appropriate automation tools—these issues stay high on the list of test managers’ concerns.

At the same time, managing a testing team can be no less tricky than accomplishing a project, and here’s why:

  • Testers usually face a lot of monotonous work, so they can burn out easily.  
  • Testers and test managers may have conflicting goals and speak different professional languages with software developers.
  • Testing doesn’t require engineers to be present on-site. Testers can be distributed all over the world, which complicates their management.  

Dealing with these issues is a heavy yet manageable task. Below, we’ll review the main challenges common in software testing consulting and discuss some ideas on how to tackle those effectively through effective distribution of human resources and tasks.

Challenge # 1. Dealing with Monotonous Work and Motivation

Monotonous work is a sticking point for most testers. On the one hand, if a tester always deals with diverse, mentally draining tasks, some routine might help them to gather breath. On the other hand, if a tester performs the same tasks regularly, it might bore them and affect the testing quality. Working on the same unit for a long time, testers can get relaxed and miss serious bugs. 

What is the manager’s best move in this case? It’s wise to let particular team members switch focus for some time. For example, some testers can review test cases instead of preparing bug reports or perform additional regression testing instead of unit testing. Non-typical tasks can add a new twist to a tester’s working experience and let them upgrade their skills.

Making tasks more diversified is already a significant step toward testers’ greater motivation. Luckily, there are other ways to keep the team spirit up, and here’s what a manager can try.

  • Testers like when a test manager joins them. Team building is good, but daily lunches and short foosball breaks together are better.
  • It’s important to take time to thank testers for late hours, or when they answer the phone outside the workplace, or raise an important question at a meeting.
  • In case of overtime, it’s also a good idea to initiate double payment for every extra hour. It can motivate testers to deal with burning deadlines more effectively. However, it’s better not to use this practice excessively. Testers can start working late hours on purpose and end up with lots of cash but also a burnout.
  • Managers should carefully analyze testers’ performance and give objective and timely feedback on their achievements. They can also encourage top performers with tangible bonuses: promotions and senior-level responsibilities are feasible ways of showing testers that a manager recognizes their effort.
  • Another option to boost testers’ motivation is to adopt gamification—game-like activities that may also resonate with them. A classic example is a monthly bug contest encouraging testers to find as many errors in a given product as possible. The funny Honorary Bug Digger badge coupled with tangible bonuses might become a nice prize for the winner.

Challenge # 2. Balancing Task Assignments

One day, every testing team gets loaded with complicated tasks requiring a lot of time to puzzle them out.

To assign complex tasks correctly, a test manager has to consider the context. If the deadline isn’t strict, it’s a good idea to fall in with the testers’ preferences. Indeed, some may prefer validating design or interface modules; some may be more excited about unit testing. 

If there is no time to spare, it’s wise to distribute tasks according to the testers’ experience and their understanding of particular software types: testers skilled in validating iOS apps should rather deal with iOS than Android, which makes perfect sense.

If there are junior testers on a team,a manager can delegate them simpler tasks to help them both understand the project better and train their skills.

Surely, it happens that testers miss deadlines. There can be different reasons for the lag: it might be that the initial schedule was incorrect or the project requirements were changed substantially. To solve the timing problem, it’s vital for managers to understand the root cause and eliminate it. Otherwise, a manager risks facing overdue tasks repeatedly.

Challenge # 3. Damping Down Tester-Developer Conflicts

Unfortunately, conflicts between testers and developers are not rare. Bad mood, the prospect of long hours, and developers’ underestimation of testers’ role on the project are only a few possible reasons for discord. Such conflicts might also start with a rough dialog in a meeting room, ending up in the ‘it’s not a bug, it’s a feature’ dilemma.

Usually, a test manager is the one to address such conflicts. Basically, staying calm and objective is an excellent strategy. However, a test manager should remember that in such disputes it’s better to handle an issue through negotiation and compromise. 

All in all, testers value their manager’s ability to deal with a problem cold-bloodedly and wisely. That’s why a manager’s decision on the conflict should be well-grounded and clear to all the involved parties. Besides, if testers understand why a particular bug is a feature indeed, they can avoid the same mistakes in the future.

Challenge # 4. Managing a Distributed Team

The most significant problem with a distributed testing team is that a manager can’t contact them as freely as the ones located on-site. For instance, those testers who share a room or an office floor would predictably find it easier to communicate and share ideas than their physically distributed peers.

Working across time zones is another trouble as it’s harder to arrange an online meetup between team members. With a distributed team, on-the-spot talks won’t work. To organize a meeting, a manager should plan it carefully, check testers’ schedules and offer the time that suits all the conference participants.

To add up to the hassle, distributed testers can find it difficult to stay tuned with their project: they can’t communicate with peers and can have an incomplete vision of the agenda.

While keeping everyone in a distributed team in sync, it is unreasonable to choose messengers and other text tools as the primary communication channel. That’s because text is harder to interpret as we can only guess the actual tone of voice behind it. To avoid misunderstanding, it’s better to inspire testers to use video conferencing that has the effect of face-to-face communication.

Besides, managers can have a concise 30-minute meeting online to catch up on the previous day’s work. It’s the opportunity to not only personally greet the team, but also learn the project status and discuss current challenges. A single collaboration tool that is comfortable and accessible for all the testers is a must, be it Skype, Slack, or something else.

Distributed testers should keep tabs on the project flow at all times. A test management tool (TMT) can help them do just that. Most of such tools provide an end-to-end view on all the requirements, performed tests, and discovered defects. To succeed, it’s worth choosing a TMT supporting the function of real-time reporting in order to have a clear vision of the project’s progress.

Dialog and Success Go Hand in Hand

Overall, a testing teams’ success significantly depends on communication. By respecting testers’ short- and long-term career goals, expertise, and preferences, a manager will never have to deal with wretched video meetups, demotivated testers, and cross-team conflicts. In the end, a continuous and constructive dialog always goes hand in hand with success in projects, including software testing ones.

Nadya Knysh

Nadya Knysh

Nadya Knysh is a Managing Director at a1qa. Nadya constantly enhances her expertise and promotes the value of software testing, which can help business owners streamline the release of their products and ensure impeccable quality.

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