Many software teams were forced to work remotely because of the onset of the global pandemic of COVID-19. Months in, most teams have now found their pace and made their peace with it. Hopefully, you’ve gotten comfortable and set a routine for yourself in your new work-from-home setup.
But are you engaging enough with your colleagues? Or are your conversations limited to virtual meetings and video calls? It’s important to have other ways of staying connected with your team.
As an organization, it is important to realize that however close-knit or small your team may be, not having a proper open channel of communication may make people feel out of the loop. In my article published at Testrail blog, I have discussed some tips on how to keep yourself and your team engaged when working from home.
Bump up communication
Before, it may have been enough for the manager to have one-on-one conversations with team members once a month, but our new remote situation calls for a little more. Managers should increase the frequency as well as the quality of the conversations they have with their teams. Strive to understand what teams are struggling with, remove their impediments, and ensure a smooth workday for each person.
As a team member, you too now have the responsibility to stay in touch with your peers more often. It is important for you to participate more in conversations with others rather than just being a spectator in your group chats or calls. A simple greeting and an update about what you are working on today is a good start that helps others peek into your day, and it increases the chances of their doing the same.
Provide clear directions
Managers and leaders need to focus now more than ever on setting up open lines of communication within teams. Give clear directions about what is expected of everyone, share what you feel about their work in the form of constructive feedback, and ask them their opinions. It is important to be empathetic and understanding and to have a listening ear.
In the middle of this chaos, it is important for people to have specific instructions, tasks, and goals so that they can focus on achieving objectives and have some structure to their days. Achieving these small tasks will make their time more productive and motivate them to get more done!
Agile leaders are supposed to get the maximum amount of quality work done with minimum control of the situation. The team constantly needs support and guidance while remaining independent and self-motivated.
How do you get this done within the tight deadlines? Do you have the team’s trust, and do they have yours? How do you know if you are a good leader for your agile team?
In my article for Testrail blog, I discussed the challenges of Agile Leadership and shared some tips for aspiring Agile Leaders to excel in their team management! Here are some areas to focus on:-
Communication is the backbone of agile. Open, clear and frequent communication breathes life into the agile team.
As an agile leader, you will be required to be big on communication, stressing its need, ensuring it is happening, and keeping it open and constructive at all times. You may even need to get over your own fear or reluctance if you are an introvert! A good agile leader needs to constantly encourage people to work together, discuss issues, and enforce good communication practices.
As a good agile leader, it is imperative to maintain a clear vision for the project. Since agile requires teams to deliver working software frequently, most of the team’s time is spent concentrating on different tasks and activities to make the release happen.
But since requirements change often, it is easy to lose sight of the overall vision for the project amidst all that chaos. It falls to the leader to keep the team aligned, maintain the overall vision, and help everyone zoom out periodically to look at the bigger picture.
An agile leader is required to be a constant problem solver. They need to look for problems before they happen and resolve them as early as possible.………
Reduced awareness or unintended ignorance of certain aspects can lead to inattentional blindness, or the failure to notice something that should have been visible because our attention was engaged elsewhere. As a human psychological concept, inattentional blindness also plagues testers and their mindset when testing. In my latest article for Testrail blog, I look at some steps we can take to overcome this challenge and avoid blind spots in our testing work.
It is a natural response of our brain to avoid getting overloaded with information. It automatically focuses on information that is most important while avoiding unnecessary details and noise.
In many situations, this manifests in our focus on the task at hand and its context so much that we neglect surrounding details. This is true for day-to-day activities like bumping into a pillar while looking at our phones, failing to see a swerving car when watching the road ahead… or not noticing a takeaway coffee cup in the middle of a popular television show set in ancient times!
Let’s say you are browsing through a website with the intention of looking at the layouts that must match provided mockups. While you are doing that, you may miss the following:
The homepage of the website has an older logo of the company that should have been replaced by the newer version.
The login box has username and password fields but the login button is missing.
The URL structure of the website is all wonky and the individual page URLs are not named correctly.
Testers often execute tests that have defined steps and expected results, so we frequently overlook anything that is not defined and only check for the results we’re looking for. The tester’s mind is attuned to looking for specified errors, while other information or defects may tend to get missed, even though they may be right in front of our eyes. Pick up any passed test case and try to re-execute it, but this time keep an open eye and an open mind for any new information surrounding the test. More often than not, you will find that many more defects, risk areas or questions can be found in the same area, despite the test having passed.
The use of advanced technology in business environments can sometimes be jarring. Adjustments can be difficult, and on top of that many employees across a range of industries worry that technology can make them obsolete. These can be legitimate concerns in some cases. But, more often than not, technology serves instead to simplify processes and, ultimately, make life easier on people as they go about performing their jobs. This is certainly proving to be the case where project management is concerned.
Project management demands and processes vary across different businesses and industries, which means that not all teams in this category can implement modern technology in exactly the same ways. Here we’ll examine a few key ways in which tech can and has changed project management for the better.
Communication & File Sharing
Maybe the biggest change that technology has brought about for project management teams is a simplification of communication among groups in a work setting. In 2019, our post on ‘Overcoming Barriers to Effective Communications in Agile Teams’ touched on the idea that various barriers to regular communication can negatively impact productivity. And the same is absolutely true for project management teams of all kinds.
Now, however, there are several different communications platforms that are being used in professional environments to streamline collaboration. Often enough, they’re used to simplify digital communications in office environments in general, providing a space where everyone from a manager to a part-time freelancer can log in, see shared information, engage in relevant chats, and generally stay up to speed. These platforms can also be invaluable for project management teams.
For instance, think about a fairly common project such as developing a website or an app for a business. These are projects that involve contributions from people with different skills in conjunction with one another. A page design can’t be completed without understanding of the content layout; content layout can’t be finalized without a thoroughly developed visual aesthetic, and so on. On these modern communication platforms, these matters can easily be discussed between relevant parties such that the greater project can move forward. Updates and examples can be shared, and people can easily work with relevant collaborators whenever they need to.
In the past, one issue that plagued some project management teams is how to get everyone on the same page in more multi-faceted projects. There haven’t always been structured ways for different aspects of one overarching project to be addressed in a cohesive manner. This is changing, however, thanks in large part to both abstract and specific software.
Exit criteria are a list of items to check off that define the end of any activity. Exit criteria can be defined for any activity you want to undertake: You can have exit criteria for cooking veggies to the desired doneness, or for a city tour to be sure you see all the sights, or for a meeting to assign action items for everyone! Exit criteria are helpful to tell you (and others involved) when to stop the activity. Specifically, for an agile project, having clear and concise exit criteria makes it easier to understand the scope and avoid going overboard while keeping a tab on your quality.
The first rule for exit criteria is to have them defined up front, before beginning the activity.
For an agile project, let’s say we want to have exit criteria in place for the end of the sprint. We will need to work on defining them at the beginning of the sprint, or at the release-planning stage. Once the activity begins, the goal is to achieve all exit criteria by the end. We cannot have people defining or changing the planned exit criteria during execution of the activity, since that will not be upholding the quality standards set in the beginning.
The second rule is to have standard exit criteria for all similar activities. So, exit criteria defined for the sprint level apply to all sprints in that release, and exit criteria defined for the user story level apply to all user stories in all sprints. This upholds the same standard of quality and expectation of work required for each of these work units.
In the article, I have discussed sample Exit Criteria for Sprint, User Story or Task level and also shown how to create your own exit criteria based on your project’s and team’s context.
The important things to focus on are having the exit criteria defined up front and ensuring follow-through by sticking to the criteria throughout your release cycle. Being consistent with checking off everything on your exit criteria list ensures a smooth flow of high-quality work.
Agile teams are constantly running toward goals, requiring constant planning, monitoring, and re-planning. Metrics can help support these efforts by providing useful information about the health and progress of the project.
There are a few common metrics we use in agile teams: sprint burndown charts, release burnup charts, team velocity. They’re common because they communicate practical information, but they’re not the only metrics we can employ.
In my recent articles for TestRail blog, I described 3 Uncommon metrics you can easily create that will be very useful for your agile team. I also wrote about 3 Metrics that are not useful and you must stop using now!
Metrics are supposed to help and support an agile team by providing useful information about the health and progress of their project. But not all metrics are always beneficial. Going overboard with them can sometimes cause more harm than good.
In this post I have described three metrics that can impede your agile team instead of motivating you.
Since software developers and testers work together in the Agile and DevOps environments, it gets challenging to cope up with the increasing competition. Development teams work in collaboration with various stakeholders to make the most of the testing efforts. Defects in software applications are a norm, the sooner you realize that better it is. It is impossible to have a 100% defect/error-free software application, but experts work to make the most of their efforts. The current need for faster delivery and quality products calls for robust software testing solutions that can meet customer expectations.
A defect management system is a defect repository where all the defects appearing in a system are identified, recorded and assigned for rectification. This system includes defect management software and defect management tools to achieve projects efficiently.
How Does Defect Management Work?
A defect management system works in a systematic manner, and records all the defects in the system without duplicating defects, and maintaining a log for future use too. There are different steps involved in the defect management that are explained below–
On top of that I get to present not one but 2 talks!! My topics are
“The What, When & How of Test Automation” 45 mins
In this I will talk about preparing robust automation strategies. Agile means pace and agile means change. With frequent time boxed releases and flexible requirements, test automation faces numerous challenges. Haven’t we all asked what to automate and how to go about the daily tasks with the automation cloud looming over our heads. Here we’ll discuss answers to some of these questions and try to outline a number of approaches that agile teams can take in their selection of what to automate, how to go about their automation and whom to involve, and when to schedule these tasks so that the releases are debt free and of best quality.
“Gamify your Agile workplace” 15 mins
In this I’ll present live some innovation games and have audience volunteers engage and play games based on known scenarios. Let’s Play and learn some useful Innovation Games that can help you gamify your agile team and workplace, making the team meetings shorter and communication more fun!
Both these topics are close to my heart and I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts with a wider audience.
I am also excited to meet all the awesome speakers at the event , as well as get to know the fantastic team of organizers behind this event!
A task board is a physical or
virtual chart containing all current team tasks at hand and their progress over
time. For an agile team, all sprint tasks can be represented on the task board,
and their flow over various stages can be tracked in the daily standup meeting.
Task boards are a great way to visually representing pieces of work and their
Besides helping to organize and track work and being the focal point of the iteration and relevant meetings, task boards can have numerous more benefits for an agile team. In my article published @Gurock, I have discussed four additional ways in which Task boards can help an agile team-> https://blog.gurock.com/agile-task-boards/
I was invited to present a talk at this month’s @Playscrum Meetup at Bangalore, hosted by @Leanpitch technologies on 20th July
It was a small event with a great set of delegates who gathered to hear me talk about Gamification in Agile teams. Agile teams rely heavily on communication and collaboration among all team members. In this session, I talked about about ‘Innovation Games’ which help make all agile meetings and ceremonies shorter, crisper, more visual and open involving all team members.
It was an interactive session wherein we played many Innovation Games with the audience volunteers, which was a big hit with everyone. There was good participation, many great ideas and discussions in the group. Overall a good experience at my first Playscrum meetup in Bangalore. Would love to collaborate again soon!