Distributed working: Remote Pair Testing

At ZEISS Digital Innovation the distributed approach has been put into practice for a long time. Especially in corona times, this approach is more in demand than ever. The good news: Work can continue from home. But remote work is not only possible in home office, but also at different locations and offices.

Classic pairing is already used very successfully in agile software development. It is an efficient method to solve complex tasks together and to achieve the best possible result with the knowledge of two people. It is also an optimal tool to distribute knowledge. Through extensive communication of thoughts and ideas, both participants reach a similar know-how level in the end. In this article I would like to show how the distributed cooperation can be successful.

Presentation of the method: Pair Testing

Pairing involves dividing the couple into two roles. On one side there is the driver. This driver implements his test idea and communicates his thoughts to the navigator. He explains everything he does as transparently as possible. This enables the navigator to understand the driver’s approaches and steps.

On the other side there is the Navigator. He checks the driver’s inputs and also communicates his thoughts about them. In this way, new solutions can be shown and the navigator can clear up any ambiguities by asking questions. Thus both learn from each other. 

The roles change regularly so that everyone gets the chance to experience the application and implement his ideas. The change takes place after a completed test idea or after a few minutes. This is also called the rotation of the roles.

man at the wheel and woman with map
Figure 1: driver and navigator

Remote work: Technical requirements

In order to both parties being able to work remotely with each other, suitable conference software is required, e. g. MS Teams or Skype. This allows the test object to be shared via screen sharing. There are two possibilities for the working process:

  • On the one hand, the mouse control for role rotation can be requested alternately. However, this can lead to delayed work.
  • Alternatively, the screen sharing can be switched according to the role rotation. This disturbs the process less, but then both require access to the test object. Likewise, a thought cannot be continued directly, since the application is in a different state after the change.

If you follow the approach of the role change after a few minutes, any stopwatch function (e.g. mobile phone clock) can be used to stop the time. However, this can lead to problems if you are interrupted in the middle of the test idea and this idea may have to be followed up by the new driver. Therefore it is worthwhile to have the rotation performed after the test ideas are completed.

Pair Testing: General Requirements

There are other aspects to be considered in order to make distributed working a success.

The tasks for the Pair Testing Session should be large and complex enough that they can be solved in pairs. Therefore, it is important to prepare the session well, and appropriate tasks should be set. This content can be, for example, stories that are to be tested.

Focused cooperation requires a lot of concentration. It is therefore important to take coordinated breaks to regain energy. Simple tasks can also be solved quickly and effectively on their own. It is therefore advisable to create time slots in which Pair Testing Sessions are held for the prepared content. Then this can mean, for example, spending half a day testing together in pairs and the other half working alone.


Pair Testing is a lightweight method that can be used by anyone without any complications. With the right technical support it is also easy to be implemented in remote work. This way we can learn from each other and support each other in complicated tasks, despite long distances. Furthermore, working together helps to prevent remote alienation.

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