Test Manager in the Agile Wilderness?

2 years ago the company I worked for decide to ‘go Agile’. Vast amounts of money were spent, many people were trained, and whole groups were reorganised. As managers, we all took a look at our groups, assessing the impact, assessing the likely damage 🙂 and trying to figure out exactly how it affected us.

I run a test and quality assurance group so the changes affected my teams a fair bit. We needed to figure out the best testers to put in the relevant scrum teams, those who were best suited to a more regression focused role, and those that we could train to move nearer development or into our automated testing stream. So we sat down, we thought, we planned, and it was all going well. Until……

The Test Manager stood up. ‘I’ve been thinking’, he said, ‘Where do I fit in this?’. And he had a point. We’d allocated the people doing the actual technical testing to the scrum teams. We’d trained, we’d supported, and we’d nigh on forced, the product owners to take the responsibility for quality. We’d put in place a framework which enabled them to plan and deliver their fully tested code to the relevant code branch. Had we done our Test Manager out of a job?

Well….stopping and thinking, we looked further. What does a Test Manager do? Planning, coordinating, ensuring test activities take place on time, on budget, are visible, and most importantly they take are effective, resulting in a quality product. Does the need for this change in an Agile environment? Maybe it does, but the cornerstones of a Test Managers’ role do not. I still require someone with their eyes on the testing. I still require someone who can give me the latest execution status, the latest defect count and the latest plans for testing. I still need someone ensuring effective coordination across the teams, both in process and in test execution.

So the role of the Test Manager changes. In small steps, but with similar goals to before. Make sure the results and status of testing is visible, make sure that the processes used are understood and actually used. And ensure ultimately that, at a programme level, the whole group produces a quality product.

So, we hadn’t abandoned our Test Manager to the Agile wilderness, but he’d had to change, like we had, to suit a new way of working.

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