As stated in my previous blogpost last week, more and more testing tasks are being performed offshore which means the role of test leads and -managers is becoming more complex and changing rapidly. I included 5 tips to manage offshore based test teams. This week I would like to add 5 more tips that will help you make working with offshore based test teams easier and more fruitful.
- You can turn Time difference into a boon: If planned and used well, you can make the time delay between the teams work as a boon. The availability window of the testing team during a day will be longer. Consider for example a test team in India and the onshore team in The Netherlands, the time difference is approximately 4 hours. This means that the test execution can go on for close to 13 hours in a day! You will have the defects found by offshore team are already in Defect Management System for onshore team to validate and discuss during defect meeting. You can have the offshore team retest defects in the morning and report the status of fixes at 9:00 A.M. CET. This helps you to set the priorities for activities for the day. To conclude, with proper planning, you will have fewer hours burnt in “wait-mode” and you are able to execute tests for more than 12 hours per day against a relatively low cost!
- Sharpen your coordination: Many projects have issues with offshore test team as the onshore team lead does not have a clear view on the day-to-day activities of the team and resulting in lower confidence in the deliverables. To turn the table around, key thing for you as the test lead is to pay strong attention to the activity planning of offshore team members. Though the offshore test teams are usually well experienced with testing and have functional domain knowledge, the projects are controlled from onshore and hence you have to clearly specify the tasks and activities to perform. This has to be clearly communicated by you and managed daily. Remember that the more information you receive and share, the better the level of trust and confidence on the work performed.
- Share the success and guard the responsibility: Always ensure that you give the offshore team due credit for the tasks performed. Since the team is not located close to you, it is even more challenging to keep them motivated and engaged in the assignment. More challenging is to gauge the level of motivation within the team. The essence of the point is to make sure that you provide the feedback about deliverables in a constructive manner and not personal. Since review comments are mostly provided in writing, it is wise to review it with an eye for the language and meaning that the comments can be interpreted as to avoid teams getting into unpleasant tug-of-war situations. In my projects, I make it a point to appreciate and thank the team members for support for all the activities constantly. I do not sugar-coat the improvement points, but ensure to give due credit to the things done well!
- Have your contingency plan at hand: Keep an updated contingency plan for various situations like the activities that the offshore team can perform when the connection to onshore systems are not working, how to handle the timeline for test execution taking into account the possible risk of the connectivity issues etc. This will help manage the lost effort due to connection outages. I have a running list of nice-to-have things for the project and use items from this list as tasks during “wait-mode” for the team.
- Watch out for “blame game” and focus on interpersonal relationships: Most common issue with onshore-offshore test teams working together is the blame game. When things go wrong, the teams start blaming each other for the issues. You must keep a close look out for this kind of attitude and fight it from the start: we are one team with one shared goal! This means that neither team (onshore or offshore) should be able to feel superior or inferior. Promoting an equal basis for responsibilities will encourage sharing of information and more productive teams. Stephen R. Covey says “A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers: you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.” Whenever I come across conflicts, I get everybody in the team on a call and ensure that the issue is discussed openly. This makes team members respect each other’s point of view and understand the mistakes instead of only blaming each other.
Though this article has been focused on leading offshore test teams, parts of the learning can be used to lead any offshore team. The key message for you as the lead at onshore is to plan with the above awareness and build your team that seamlessly works as one single entity, even though there are miles of physical separation.