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Is there a place for test managers in Agile Development?

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

In my book (Agile Quality: A Practical Approach), I talked quite a bit about testing and test managers in particular. I also release a specific article in my blog, “The changing role of QA managers in the Agile environment.” However, I still get a lot of questions about it and see frequent discussions about this topic in different conventions, social forms, and more.

If you read my book and Articles, you should know by now that there is no one correct answer for the changing role of test managers as much depends on your context and the goals you want to achieve. For Example, if you have a large organization with hundreds of Agile teams, you may require a separate line manager. Still, if it is just a small organization having only a couple of teams, you may not require this position at all. The teams can handle all the testing tasks and report to a delivery or development manager.

Yes, this can work great; agile teams are usually managed/led by a software development manager who can handle all the testing activities well, starting from the first layer of Unit tests until the product is released to the field. And testers? They can benefit from it if the manager appreciates what testers can bring to the team. This does not mean that test managers and testers will lose their identities. Organizations can promote the use of “Quality” Guilds, focusing mainly on testing, allowing new testers to mentor and improve their testing. As they grow, their culture will enable them to maintain this way of working.

There are also some organizations that the testing process cannot be handled only by its teams. Therefore test managers will have the opportunity to help and close the gap for the missing integrations and, of course, to add a layer of testing that cannot be handled by the team, such as Performance, Scale, and more.

I also can share my experience and say that the role of a test manager extends far beyond the general scope of the day-to-day work of the Agile team. Much of his work should involve looking outside of the iterations activities (which are handled by the team), focusing more on the strategic and cultural needs of the testing operation. I think that it is necessary to have someone in the business representing the testing at the same level as the R&D manager (it may be with the role of test director or Head of quality, but the meaning is the same) to ensure a balanced approach that considers each discipline equally.

A test manager can also ensure the diversity of skills among testers in their teams and ensure they are collaborating and not duplicating their efforts. In addition, he can become a testing mentor that guides testers or be a type of coach for the communities of practice within the organization. The test manager can facilitate learning sessions where interested parties can share their ideas and discuss any initiatives that promote quality practices/culture within the teams.

As I said, there is no one right way. Test managers can add tremendous value to the Agile software development process. You need to understand your context and what you need to benefit from their knowledge and experience.

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