Distributed QA teams might work from the office or from home, but one thing is certainthey’re not all in the same place. 

Relying upon remote, expert personnel, networked testing is similar to distributed QA in how it spreads testing across the globe and supports agile engineering.

In this post, we dive deeper into distributed QA and networked testing and how both work together to help organizations achieve faster time-to-market without sacrificing quality. 

A quick intro to distributed QA and networked testing

A distributed QA team is one that isn’t located in a single office. Rather, the team can be in separate locations, with some working from home and some operating as contractors or vendors, all over the world. As Small Business Chronicle puts it, “A business operating with a distributed workforce will often have static workers, those working in a traditional office environment, and a variety of alternative workgroups.”

So, a distributed QA team could look like one QA manager in the office and several distributed freelancers. Or it could look like an inhouse QA team working from home with one quality vendor that provides localization and device testing. 

You might be somewhat familiar with distributed work already, but what about networked testing?

What is networked testing?

Networked testing uses expert testers who burst into action so they can test when you need them to, often in very large volumes over short periods. Imagine having 30 testers working on your app in a single weekend.

By nature, networked testers are distributed around the world. They collaborate in collectives and are empowered by software to help them coordinate testing efforts at scale.

Networked testing is applicable to many types of software testing (including but not limited to) functional, usability, location, localization, and even end-to-end.

QA managers usually engage with a group of networked testers at a critical point in the release cycle, often when the release is nearly ready to ship and both quality and speed of testing matter.

Benefits of networked testing over crowdsourced, outsourced and in-house testing

Top philosophies of distributed QA and networked testing

Now that we understand distributed QA and networked testing, let’s dive deeper. Distributed work is built on a philosophy of finding the right talent for the job, no matter where they’re located. Companies that allow and even encourage remote work tend to enjoy higher levels of employee productivity and retention

Building a distributed QA team, with workers able to work remotely as needed or as desired, is usually a worthwhile investment. You’re investing in the happiness and wellbeing of your team. 

However, this philosophy alone can’t boost your in-house team’s productivity enough to cover all of your testing needs. 

Networked testing is built on the philosophy that testing should not only happen in distributed locations but that it should be burstable so you can ramp up at any time. 

All in all, networked testing has the following key attributes:

  • Expert testers 
  • Burstable teams
  • Distributed locations
  • Collaborative approaches
  • Real-broad devices
  • Co-managed runs
  • Traceable actions

Networked testing uses collective methods, tuned management, shared tasks, and short assignments to optimize testing efficiency, and effectiveness.

Meanwhile, crowd-sourced testing, which is also distributed, lacks expert testers who are compensated as professionals. This method also lacks collaboration and management.

When you utilize both a distributed team structure for your in-house team and networked testing for your additional resources, you’re able to experience expert testing with fair compensation and long-term retention. 

How distributed QA and networked testing align with remote engineering

Whether your engineering team is fully remote, partially remote, or occasionally remote, distributed QA and networked testing can support them. 

Distributed QA forces your internal team to build up strong online communication and collaboration, instead of relying on in-person communication. With on-and-off global lockdowns on the horizon for the foreseeable future, now more than ever, companies can’t rely on in-person or synchronous communication. 

Networked testing, in particular, can help remote engineers because these testers can be available when they’re working, or when they’re not. 

That brings us to improving agile software development. 

Enhancing agile software development

The last thing anyone wants is for testing to slow down engineering and release cycles. However, despite the best intentions, this still happens frequently. Organizations constantly feel the battle between quality and speed. Choose quality and the testing cycle takes weeks. Or choose speed, and you’ll ship bugs.

A distributed QA team is not enough to solve the quality versus speed conundrum. That’s because, even though distributed testers can test around the clock (during the workday in different time zones), you still have the issue of resources. You likely don’t employ enough testers in-house to cover all languages, cultures, and devices.

This is where networked testing can be transformative. You need burstable resources so you can expand the team as needed.

Networked testing helps align quality assurance initiatives with product and engineering teams.

For example, in a recent webinar, we discussed how a social media network uses networked testing to cover 45 languages and test during 15 global time zones. This helps the company not only have accurate language in each location but also provide exceptional cultural and style experiences that go above and beyond correct translation. 

In another example provided during the webinar, a leading media company makes excellent use of burstable testing. They ramp up from 2 to 60 testers as needed to cover live stream events and major functional updates. The company also uses networked testers in the right global metro areas so they can assure quality advertising in key markets. 

Utilization of remote technology and techniques

When your QA team is distributed, you’re forced to better utilize QA planning and assigning software, rather than to rely on meetings where decisions might go undocumented and internal agreement could last only as long as the meeting. 

Remote testing empowers QA teams to better plan, assign, document, and collaborate. This can look like documenting the process for how multiple testers work together to cover a complicated feature, or tracing the actions of testers as they engage in exploratory testing so that the QA manager can verify test coverage. 

There’s a good chance that your quality team is already distributed, which helps your company work with the right talent on their terms and where they want to live. Taking the next step and accessing networked testers allows you to expand your testing resources when needed so that you gain not only expertise but also limitless locations and volume. 

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Dayana is a QA engineer turned technology writer living in Milan, Italy. She's always down for a smoothie.
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