The Value of Face Time?

November 13th, 2015 by inflectra

We recently had our development and testing team for Rapise come together for a collaborative planning section. Our company is based in Silver Spring, a suburb of Washington, DC but we have team members working remotely in other countries as well. The occasion made us think about the benefits and limitations of modern collaboration tools.

The Rapise Team Gets Together

This week, we had the various members of the Rapise team fly in to our offices just outside Washington, DC fly in to meet for a planning session for the upcoming versions of Rapise:

We discussed lots of exciting new functionality for automated software testing:

  • When Microsoft Edge will be ready for automated testing (WebDriver API and plugin support)
  • How we can expand Rapise to make testing of ERP (Microsoft Dynamics AX, etc.) easier
  • Trends in web and mobile application development
  • Is there still a need for a SOAP testing module (yes there is!) with APIs moving to REST
  • Plans for a scriptless data-driven testing interface for Rapise

Working Collaboratively

We planned this meeting because we recognized that although we have lots of good collaboration tools at our disposal:

  • SpiraTeam for requirements, planning, instant messaging, defect tracking, etc.
  • TaraVault running Git for our distributed source code management
  • WebEx and GotoMeeting for our online meetings
  • Jenkins for our continuous integration
  • VOIP and Email for other ad-hoc communications

... there is value in having a face to face meeting so that we can all get to know each other, discuss frustrations in the development, build, testing and release process and also put a lot of ideas onto a physical whiteboard and get everyone's opinion onto the table at the same time:

Does that mean Remote Working is Bad?

Since the beginning of the Agile movement (remember pair programming in XP), there was always an implicit preference for physically co-located teams and interactions over processes / tools. However in today's increasingly distributed environments, it is not always possible to have everyone co-located all of the time. In fact, we have found at Inflectra that there is a balance between collaboration time and quiet time. Sometimes working remotely is the best time to think and have insights that are lost in the office. Conversely working remotely 100% of the time, leads to myopic thinking and no feedback from customers and co-workers.

It is much easier to say, "take a look at this new idea for Spira? What do you think of the UI" than send a screenshot, setup a web meeting, etc.

As my grandmother used to say - "Everything in moderation..." - sometimes it is good to have some face to face time!

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