The 5 Secrets Of Happier Testing Teams

A happy team of skilled software testers is critical for long-term digital excellence. The insights that software testers gain over time can literally make or break your websites and apps, which is why retaining great testers can be such a massive competitive advantage.
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Keeping testers happy and motivated is not always easy.

Hazy test requirements, monotonous work, and impossible timelines have become the status quo for many organisations - essentially setting testing teams up for failure - yet it’s testers who are often thrown in front of the bus when issues arise!

The result is a culture of frustration, poor performance, burnout and employee turnover.

Below we look at five secrets of highly-effective digital teams and the strategies they use to empower testers, increase job satisfaction and boost digital quality. 

We have also included tips to help you create an environment that will ensure your software testers are as effective as they can be, while keeping them, and their proprietary knowledge, on your team long term.

Secret #1: They rethink mundane, repetitive tasks

Perhaps the most common problem testers face is monotony.

As applications become larger and teams become more focused on particular areas, the software testers are likely to test the same aspects of the application iteration after iteration, release after release.

At first, this seems like a good thing. After all, if they are experienced in a particular area, why change?

The problem is complacency.

As testers test the same code over and over again, they will begin to take certain things for granted. Certain user experiences may become commonplace to them and get ignored, letting issues and defects slip through to production.

What you can do about it...

The most obvious solution to combat monotony is to mix things up. Rotate teams so that software testers will test different aspects of each release. Not only does this keep the work fresh, it also ensures that all software testers have a broad understanding of the application as a whole.

When it makes sense, change testing methods. If testers aren’t able to switch areas of expertise, encourage them to approach the testing from another area of the application. This will facilitate testers putting themselves in the mindset of a person who has never seen the application before.

If monotony stems from large amounts of routine testing, consider outsourcing some of the testing. Third party testing solutions, like Bugwolf, can take some of the weight off of software testers, so they can focus on more specialised sections of the application.

A fresh set of eyes may even see issues that someone who’s been analysing the same code day in and day out could miss and overlook.

Secret #2: They take a pragmatic view of schedules

One of the key aspects of the agile development methodology is ensuring that sufficient time is allotted for testing. Each story should have tasks for testing, but each release should have time set aside for large scale testing and regression of the work about to be released.

Sometimes QA estimates are viewed with scepticism or scorn. Some features and stories may be very light on development, but could require extensive regression testing of the applications and websites affected. It can be difficult for software testers to increase the size estimate of a story if they feel that their estimates aren’t respected.

When teams aren’t given sufficient time to test, mistakes will happen and defects could make it through to production. This will not only affect the public’s perception of your websites and applications, but it also requires you to derail teams from new work to revisit what was just completed, which pushes scheduled for new projects further behind.

What you can do about it...

Get testers involved in key projects as early as possible. Make sure they are present as features are being groomed so they can weigh in early with QA estimates and concerns. The sooner the stakeholders and developers are made aware of heavy QA requirements, the more likely they’ll expect and respect the time requirements.

Take advantage of nights and weekends. While the development environments can be in flux during the business day with frequent deployments, nights and weekends give QA a reprieve from these changes to test code. Again, third party testing providers can take advantage of these times.

Secret #3: They have well-defined features and stories

There are few things worse than opening up a story for testing and seeing a blank screen. No acceptance criteria (AC), no specific requirements. When software testers write test cases for stories, they often look to the AC, writing a test case for each point, ensuring that each is met.

When none are available, software testers are left to either track down the stakeholders and developers to determine the intent of the story or, even worse, attempt to determine the intent themselves. At best, this wastes the time of the engineer and the developers, undermines the concepts of agile development, and slows productivity as they have to locate product owners to determine the AC. At worst, the real intent of the story is never tested, and a flawed user experience can be deployed to the public.

What you can do about it...

There’s no harm in having QA involved with every aspect of the backlog refinement and grooming processes. They know what they’ll need in order to create effective test cases and can guide stakeholders and product owners into creating succinct and clear AC.

Ensure that a process is in place for creating and defining initiatives, features, and candidate stories. Involving developers and software testers early makes hitting the plan’s goal possible.

Secret #4: They're have the tools they need to succeed 

Keeping up with the ever growing number of devices can be incredibly costly

It’s very difficult to test adequately when guidelines aren’t in place to tell testers which OS’s, browser versions, and devices should be supported.

Without adequate resources, testers will have to pass code blindly, not being able to test fully in all the devices and browsers that management wants to support.

The proliferation of connected devices has made cross-device compatibility testing more crucial than ever before. If you’re not supporting testers with a deep device lab that mirrors your customer’s usage habits, you’re setting them up for failure.

What you can do about it...

Clearly define your requirements. Before any code is written, developers and software testers should have a clear understanding of what devices, OS, and browsers you expect to be supported. This allows the developers to write code that will both function properly, and which software testers can test properly. When the testers know what to test, productivity and quality will increase.

Have the appropriate devices and emulators available to the testers. This is another case where a third party tester could be helpful. Third party testers will have the necessary devices and infrastructure. If your team can pass off test cases to another party to test across all devices, their time is freed from repetitive testing to move on to the next project in the pipeline.

Secret #5: Their feedback is valued

In my experience, software testers have a very comprehensive understanding of the code base and the application. Developers can tend to focus on a single component or module, working through specific issues.

I’ve seen developers who are so content to have solved a particular pain point in the code that they fail to consider all of the implications of this code. Testers have to approach the module as it fits into the whole.

Despite this understanding, however, testers are often given a secondary role, if not outright ignored during grooming and planning. Their input during testing regarding user experience is often dismissed, completely ignoring their in-depth knowledge of the user flow through the application.

If the input of your team is not taken seriously, the greater business may not have a full understanding of the complexity of the tasks. This quickly leads to unrealistic expectations and the view that the testing team is a bottleneck.

Listening to the feedback and suggestions from your QA team will increase their morale by showing them that their feedback is valued. When your team’s suggestions are validated, the testers will take more pride in their work, which has been shown to increase effectiveness and productivity.

What you can do about it...

Listen: understand that these people have valuable and informed opinions, and approach them with an open mind.

Give QA a platform: encourage them to speak up during planning meetings and design reviews so that they can effectively apply their knowledge.

Solicit impartial opinions: Sometimes it’s more effective to hear something from someone outside the company. Hearing a third party echo the concerns of your own team of software testers will lend credence to their opinions in the future.

With the amount of proprietary knowledge software testers gain over time at a company, of applications, infrastructure, and methodologies, replacing them can be as costly as replacing a software engineer.

While the cost of recruiting a replacement has been estimated at 13.4% of that employee’s salary, some estimates have the cost of onboarding a new employee at 150% of that salary.  The cost of replacing a software tester can be even higher, as their onboarding will affect the productivity of the entire team.

It literally pays to keep them happy. Tackling some of the frequent problems and headaches they have to deal with by adjusting processes and bringing in third party resources like Bugwolf allows your engineers to truly focus on what matters: delivering a quality product to your consumers.

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