Challenges in remote collaboration – Call survey summary

While working on Remo we are collecting the feedback from any possible source. Recently we moved forward with this topic and put it into another level. We launched a call survey with IT specialists dealing with Mobile Development on various levels: analytics, managers, developers and testers.

Communication is a subject that cannot be measure by numbers, requires set of soft skills, we decided to ask open questions to our interviewees. We’ve allowed our respondents to freely share their experiences and thoughts which we precisely noted into the document. It actually cannot be displayed in excel spreadsheet with fancy charts and diagrams, yet it’s worth sharing.

The survey was based on short phone conversations during which we have asked questions divided into three segments: we’ve asked about the environment (company’s size, area of work, position, etc), then we generally spoke about communication channels and related main challenges and finally focused with interviewees on technical aspects of communicating while implementing mobile software solutions.

Regardless the time zone and size of companies our callers were working in, the same motive was present: the tech guys are more likely to communicate with others via instant messengers such as Skype or chat or simply sending email rather than use voice call via Skype or simply call by phone. What’s worth considering is that none of our callers pointed the phone (in terms of calling to someone over GSM) as his communication tool- how come?

When asked about the tools used a number of names came out but the prime leaders was Skype and email. Almost all callers mentioned the Skype  which is being used as IM and voice call tool.It’s available on almost all desktop and mobile platforms. Supports chat, video conversations and screen sharing. However Skype lacks some functionality as well. Our callers missed possibility of sharing screens of mobile devices and had complains related to possibility of browsing historical conversations. Email, however, provides easy to follow conversation even in the distant past but it is not an instant messenger and communication is not fast enough especially in dynamically paced teams. Additionally these two technologies were pointed as not best experience with sharing files.

A great number of different project management platform was mentioned but definite leader is Atlassian Jira. This is common platform with vast amount of modules, allowing teams to track  work. It is not interactive but has other strong purposes rather than instant messaging, allowing to focus on a current state of issues. Our callers said they are not entering enough data they collected from very simple reason- repetitive attaching all the attachments is simply boring so they skip sometimes some information or simply forget to attach key files. It is also known for having a ping-pong game when reporters reporting a problem and developers/support claims there is no such a problem or they cannot replicate it. This happens from various reasons, mainly by not detailed problem description or environment settings (when testers works on different platform version than their fellow developers).

What caught our attention was different ways of communication such as visual presenters (also known as visualisers, document cameras, or digital overheads) used for remote presentations. These are used (from our data) mainly when communicating with the client and presenting the current progress of project. The drawback is that watchers are unable to participate in the presentation – they can only watch and comment (“please click on top right corner on the blue section in third column from the bottom”) and when presented touches the screen covers the vision to watcher. Also there are some problems with light reflections.

When we have asked about testing the mobile software, we have learnt that the average number of mobile devices used by interviewed testers is 4. The range was between 1 and 9. Some people work in big companies having laboratories equipped with over 50 mobile devices, but despite that, testers use only a few while working.

What’s more, only a few of our interviewees reported they use automated testing tools, while the rest test software manually. A problem while communicating between tester and developer is often a fact that they are using different set of devices and in such cases they are convicted to exchanging the screenshots (rarely movies) and log files.

And you? What are your challenges while working remotely? Please share your thoughts in the comment below. Surveys like this help us to summarise the approach of people in our industry and focus more on key features of our tool Remo. Would you like to see what it offers and how it may improve your work? Check it out at https://remo.io and leave us a feedback and we will treat you with extended trial with extra features to try out.