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My team consist of 6 backend developers, with 4 different test phones and tablets.They need to use test phones to cross check front end developers work, and debug their API.

Testing in mobile is about 10% of their workload.

Should I let them take the test devices home? Or put those devices in office and let those who need to perform testing to take the device?

  • 4
    Is this within the scope of pm:se? – Mark C. Wallace Jun 19 at 14:27
  • Test phones are for work. Are they supposed to be working at home? If so, why? – user207421 Jun 21 at 9:50
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    This seems more like a business policy question, or (vaguely) a technical workflow question. How is this a project management issue, and what do your company policies have to say about it? – Todd A. Jacobs Jun 21 at 11:09
  • What is your location? – Mast Jun 21 at 12:51
  • Our company is still new, and is now trying to start with company policy on test phone. – vences Jun 24 at 2:00
27

Should I let them take the test devices home?

No

For several reasons:

  • Insurance: company property on company grounds is covered by the companies insurance. Company property in the hands of an employee damaging it after hours on private grounds? Might be insured. Or not. You would need to figure it out.

  • Availability: If employees come in one morning and don't have a device to test on, that's bad. You said you have more employees than devices, so even if they all need one, they can talk and figure out priorities in the office. If the device needed is still on Steve's kitchen table because he had an urgent doctors appointment and is late today, then you cannot do anything but sit around and twiddle thumbs. Equipment that is not available is not acceptable.

  • Accountability: Lets say it gets lost or stolen. Apart from insurance, is there enough trust that an employee can "lose" a thousand dollar consumer electronics device and not be suspected or reprimanded?

  • Work/Life Balance: An employee should have a healthy time off. There is no reason to have a work device in your spare time. Leave work at work. Live a happy life and come back to work relaxed and ready. That's way more productive than being "always on".

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    Forget for a moment that these phones are for testing, rather than for making phone calls and so on. It is completely normal for employees to have work-owned phones, laptops and similar devices and usually the whole point of these devices is to have them taken off company premises. It is completely normal for insurance to cover these devices in that situation and it's completely normal to trust employees not to steal or lose the devices. So it's hard to see insurance and accountability being more than very minor issues, here. – David Richerby Jun 19 at 18:17
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    I'd agree with a check first on all things mentioned, but this seems far too strong. In particular the work life balance seems too much projection of your preferred work/life balance onto other people. Some people actually prefer to be able to leave the office early on some days and do work from home, because that's way more healthy for them than to organize everything private outside of the 9-5 work schedule. So as far as improvement suggestions go: many of your points are valid and worth to consider, but I would soften the tone and not (as strongly) evaluate them for OP/the general case. – Frank Hopkins Jun 19 at 20:00
  • In which country can (and does) a company actually get an insurance which covers company property on company grounds if damaged by an employee? – lalala Jun 20 at 16:35
  • @DavidRicherby Usually employees sign a contract before taking phones/laptops to home, so it's a bit more complicated than that. But you got the gist of it right. – Mast Jun 21 at 10:23
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    @DavidRicherby Odd. Well, good for you lot really, the amount of rules and paperwork here gets beyond awful at times. Guess this is another situation where the answer depends on locale. – Mast Jun 21 at 12:52
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The answer mainly depends on whether you have enough phones so that if people are using them outside the office nobody in the office will be searching for a phone (and can't find one because all of them are at home).

So if you have lots of phones, you can allow them to go home, otherwise, you probably want them in the office all the time, unless there are tests that are best done remotely.

But more importantly, if you do let people take them home then you need to have a clear procedure for tracking who has which phone.

If somebody leaves the office with a phone they need to check it out from a spreadsheet or database - and then it's their responsibility to return it safely.
Otherwise, you will quickly start losing phones; easy come = easy go as the saying goes.

  • You know most phones have a "Find your phone" feature. If it geolocates to an address, ask HR if any employees live near there. Voila: a familiar name. – Harper Jun 19 at 17:18
  • @Harper - very funny. Firstly I'm not sure HR are allowed to disclose this information, and secondly, what do you do if a lot of your testers live close together? – Danny Schoemann Jun 20 at 9:04
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    Then HR themselves can make the phone call, and IME the horizontal precision is finer than 50 feet. – Harper Jun 20 at 14:42
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    Isn't the 'find your phone' option relatively new? Ideally, they would be testing their app with all sorts of devices, including 5 year old phones that might not have that option. – Ivo van der Veeken Jun 21 at 12:30
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Yes, if they test with it

For a simple reason. You need to test your apps beyond the idealized conditions of your testing lab.

I can't tell you how many Really Bad apps and websites I have used when the app was clearly only tested on the latest hardware, with an all-internal-router gigabit pipe to the servers, and never "in the wild" with cellular data networks falling back to last-gen and 5% packet loss. In those cases you just get stupidly dopey performance, and testers are oblivious.

So yes, get those phones out into the real world and test. And take the data seriously.

4

Make a rule for them to ask for it every time and explain why they need a device at home.

This will stop them from making a habit of taking devices home for no reason and will give them an option to do some testing outside of work when necessary.

  • The only purpose of these phones is for testing apps under development, so "explain why you need it" is trivial: "Because I want to test the apps." And, in a situation where asking to borrow a phone always produces exactly the same pointless conversation ("Why do you need it?" "To test the apps while I'm working from home") followed by acceptance of the request, people will just start taking the phones without asking. – David Richerby Jun 20 at 10:14
  • @DavidRicherby What I have on mind is a set of rules which makes it quite bothersome to take the device, but leaves a possibility when necessary. So not because "I need it to test stuff" but something like "I'll be working from home on Thursday and in my schedule I have tasks which require the device" – Igor Gorbenko Jun 20 at 10:57
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    So your proposal is to make it "quite bothersome" for people to do their jobs. Great. – David Richerby Jun 20 at 10:58
  • @DavidRicherby yours is basically not letting them do their job from home. even better. – Igor Gorbenko Jun 20 at 11:40
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    @IgorGorbenko David has no made any proposal of his own at all, but from his comments here, one would guess that his take is more like "just let devs take the phones home, no questions asked", rather than "forbid them from taking them home in any circumstances". – Mark Amery Jun 20 at 11:57
1

Yes, because then real-world testing comes for free.

If the applications the testers are developing are applications they would be using anyway, or if the testing runs automatically in the background, then by all means let them take the phones home. Or on holiday, or anywhere else. The quality of system testing is roughly proportional to time spent, and the more time spent, the greater the probability of running into one of the (inevitable) corners you've not thought about. Your team don't need to be doing anything in particular, they just need to have the phone with them.

I worked in mobile phones for a couple of years. We were all issued with development phones which we could take home with us, fully equipped with logging. If anything went wrong when we were away from the office, we raised an issue and dumped logs when we got back in. I was working on system-level debugging, so a lot of my work came from these issues. It was incredibly effective, it didn't take time from the engineers, and it only cost the company the price of phones, SIMs and calls.

The most significant case where this helped us was an obscure issue with the phone dropping the network. Hong Kong were reporting this as a regular occurrence, but we simply couldn't reproduce it over here. Then a team leader happened to go to the local pub near us, and found that his phone fell over repeatably with exactly this fault. This was the first time anyone had managed to get it to happen anywhere in the UK. So my friend talked nicely to the landlord, and for the rest of the week his entire team relocated to the pub, occupying a fair chunk of the restaurant area with their PCs and hardware test kit, until they'd fixed the bug!

0

Yes, but only on weekends and when necessary.

I feel that only staff who have pending tasks to be done and have decided to take the device home over the weekend to finish should be allowed to take it home. There should be a rule for them to ask for it whenever they need it, explaining why they need a device at home.

Moreso, every task done during the week that needs testing should be tested before the weekend to enable those with pending tasks take it and those taking the device home must make sure it remains in good condition.

0

i thing this is related to your company policy and the business needs. some products need to be released in a certain time, so over-time or night-shift team will be a necessity to end up with expected release date. you can decide according to the number of phones. who used it. and the priority of the product that phone are needed for. in our company as a night-shift testing team we suffer from another morning Work Team, some people take devices to work from home. our manager order us to collect all device in a draw to be available to all team.

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