What is the Test Manager Role in Agile?

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I read an article the other day written by a consultancy company talking about the future role of test management. The audience for the article was freelance consultants like myself. Reading it got me thinking about the idea of the test manager role in Agile and test management in Agile. First, it describes behaviour that I have always deemed important, and secondly I become curious on whether my fellow colleagues in quality control and assurance (You the reader) are thinking the same way. With this blogpost, I hope to hear your experiences and/or get your feedback.

Let me start it off with sharing the highlights of the article:

  1. Test Managers need to really understand the business and business needs, and they often become the business proxy’s in projects.
  2. Test Managers need to be scrum certified because agile development is more and more common, so as consultants we need to understand the processes.
  3. Test Managers need to understand how to work in near-shoring environments. This means that you have to think about what test documentation is needed and how it is written, so that your near-shored resources can understand your thoughts and execute.

Let us look at those headlines in more detail.

Understanding Business Needs

I have always started my assignments by getting an understanding for the business and business needs. I would claim that if you do not understand their world, then you cannot test the solution properly. In other words: If you do not understand the business then your testing might not provide the value it should.

Through my continuous dialogue with the business members I get a feel of what is important, what elements need the most rigorous testing and what their expectations are. Sometimes I use a tool to facilitate this dialogue such as a product risk assessment. In many cases, this actually results in me becoming a subject matter expert. A go to guy for a quick clarification of a requirement. Sometimes I have to watch out that I do not become the only go to guy, because then we are implementing my interpretation of the business needs. So far, I have managed to navigate the course.

Test Manager Role in Agile

The short insight is that I am both a certified Scrum master as well as a Product owner. So I understand the doings of Scrum. However, both these certifications do not present you with a job description for a test manager role in Agile. I haven’t done a lot of agile work, so I have not given it much thought. At Eurostar 2016 I heard some opinions on the matter. Several were advocating that a test manager should think testing across all teams – sort of a product test manager. Making sure that the testers testing the individual user stories are thinking test aspects that go across multiple teams – A system/product wide system test. In other words the test manager must keep the high level overview, instead of the testers often team level focus. So when clients come to me and want me to be a test manager in an agile environment I will always start with a talk to see how they see the fit. A test manager in a single scrum team seems like a waste of time.

Outsourcing

All major IT departments in Denmark have some form of out sourcing so this is business as usual. Some have very successful out sourcing experiences others do not. Being a consultant, you quickly have to get the feel of how things are done and what the problems are. With this information at hand hopefully you can find a solution which works a bit better. I have worked with off-shored teams. In one instance whatever we got back from the off-shored team, had to be re-worked by a local developer. No matter how we structured the documentation, we still got junk back. The project I was on did not attempt to fix this, but the department in which the project and team were in was looking into it. I have moved on but I hope they have found a solution by now.

The other team I have worked with I had a Test Manager at the off-shored location. I had my dialogue with him on several weekly Skype calls – This way he knew my thoughts, and what I expected of him, and he delivered. This was easy out-sourcing.

Either way I agree – off-shoring/near-shoring is here to stay. More and more companies are looking into this. But with each shoring location comes new cultures and new challenges. We as test managers have to quickly understand these cultures so that we can adapt the way the test team is to function and how we are to communicate. Both within our own testing domain as well as across the whole development team.

Conclusions

These were my views on test manager role in Agile and how I tackle my assignments – but what are your experiences? I look forward to reading them.

About the Author

Martin

Martin Zedeler was a staff sergeant in the Danish army for a number of years before transitioning into a civilian life. Currently he heads the test department at PensionDanmark, where he manages and leads the mainly consultant based test team. He has eight years of experience from some of Denmark’s largest IT departments. Requirements Engineering, Test Management and process improvement have always been interests in his career. He is slowly transitioning from a very structured, process orientated and at times bureaucratic personality to a more pragmatic and heuristic one. In his spare time he takes care of his daughters, does a bit of DIY on his old house or does some Crossfit.
Find out more about @mczedeler

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