Test Managers - Do we need them?

What are your thoughts on the role of the test manager? Do you think the role of test manager is needed?

Obviously, this will vary from company to company and from your own definition of what a test manager is/does but I’m interested to hear about your own context for this.

In your current setting, do you see the need for a test manager? How does this compare to settings you have had in the past?

6 Likes

A good test manager would be an valuable asset.

From my experience I’ve noticed two trends:

  1. Formal test manger role does not exist in the company and test management is preformed generally by some senior tester on the team, as a small part of their regular activities.

  2. A test manager is just an administrative role where they just make sure that test statuses are updated and such, I’ve seen this in banks and in bigger enterprises where sometimes they may have a legal obligation to have such a role and it’s more of a formality than a real job, sadly.

5 Likes

My previous employer decided a test manager was no longer needed, so I was made redundant :sweat_smile: . I don’t know how they managed since.
In my current job the test manager left the company about a year ago. Since then we’ve put more emphasis on the Community of Practice around testing. That has massively helped to fill the void.
Sometimes I still feel there would be a need for a dedicated manager (especially in cases where you need someone to slam a fist on the table at the right times), but am surprised how well we are doing without

8 Likes

Test Managers have a title that contains a lot of different things. Two of which most companies I have worked at would benefit from. One is managing the testers, as in recruitment / personal development / competence development etc. This does not require a specific “Test Manager” but just any kind of people manager is fine. The other part is test strategy. The person that makes sure that you have a smart approach to how you do testing. My experience is that this is not addressed well in a committee like a community of practice. And while you want your testers to know, understand and adapt the strategy to suits their needs. I still think most companies will benefit from having someone driving this and having the main responsibility for your test strategic decisions.

Apart from that I am all for decentralizing and giving more of the ownership to the teams and team members. :slight_smile:

7 Likes

I suppose for a big company it could be useful but for smaller companies nah, as @pmichielsen said it’s not really needed as the team should be “self-managing”

A Test Manager in a big company would be the person who all teams report too and he reports to whoever is higher up ^^

5 Likes

I wrote this a while ago. I think the role needs to evolve but we can still be a valuable asset

9 Likes

A test manager could be:

  • a line manager of the test team / testers
  • an active coordinating role for a project or delivery (mostly v-model)
  • a coaching and advising role to enable a team (see Team topologies for enablement roles)
  • A Community of practice lead

In my current setting I do 2+3. I have been doing 2 since 2008, but is now moving towards more 3.

7 Likes

We don’t have a test manager in the purest sense at our company. My role is a dual role where I switch between being a QA manager and a senior QA engineer (like a 30/70 split).

I don’t think our company needs a test manager, given how teams work these days, the fact I’m doing some of the responsiblities as part of my role seems to be enough for now.

in the past I have worked with test managers but that tended to be in large, waterfall projects or in a SAFE project. From what I gather, their main responsibility was to go to meetings and be a go-between the test department and other leadership roles. Often the work allocation, reporting, coaching etc fell to the test leads on those projects.

7 Likes

I wrote a blog post too Do test managers add value in agile settings? | by Melissa Fisher | Feb, 2021 | Medium

I’m kinda biased because I am one, but with a title of test team lead.

We have a larger set of teams, so in this setting it’s useful for someone to see the bigger picture and help drive quality improvements across the board.

8 Likes

I support for “Test Manager” but Test Manager need to do justice with there role rather behave like manager.

  1. Need to monitor challenges and have to do regular retrospective with team to understand good work done by team , understand improvement areas and provide learning curve within team

  2. Is the gate keeper for lots of things
    a. Release health Go / No Go
    b. Interface b/w client and team
    c. make process and look the governance
    etc

  3. Help and guide team technically

  4. can collaborate with other leads , attend seminars , look for industry trends, look for available tools and can suggest within team so that team can take advantage

5 Likes

If the position of more of Leadership, and less of Management, then it’s great. A couple of areas that I can think of

  • Contributing towards Product Quality by keeping tabs on various aspects like requirements, infrastructure (hardware/software/tools/dependencies), working with the Product owner / Project Manager on the overall product schedule, etc.

  • Contributing towards Product Test Strategy (if there’s no Test Lead).

5 Likes

We need test managers only if they provide any significant value. My ideal test manager would be one who:

1 - knows the domain or features well,
2 - has some knowledge of the automation tools we use,
3 - can coach or mentor team members,
4 - can distribute work in a fair and balanced way,
5 - resolve any conflicts in the team.
6 - represent the team in any meetings.

There were times when I really needed point 4, but my test manager was not able to do it. The team had one very experienced QA person who had a tendency to hoard all the work and not complain about doing too much overtime. That person was the main expert in the domain, the team’s features and the company’s technology. So, the rest of us got very little work (especially me since I was new to the domain) and little opportunity to learn anything about the domain or the features. That is, although there were other team members, the bus factor of this team was essentially one person. Despite this, and despite hinting about my displeasure, the rest of us did not get much work. Hence, there was a conflict in the team and I felt the need for point 5 which the manager handled ok.

There were times when some team members did not know the domain or features well, were either unavailable or simply could not explain it well. Then, I felt the need for point 1 and my manager was able
to help me sometimes. A good team manager will share knowledge instead of hoarding it and will step in to help you when others won’t. They will remove any blockers created by other teams or your own team members.

On the other hand, I have also seen a test lead who did not really do any real work. They don’t have much knowledge of the product or the tools, and don’t really contribute in terms of code, reviews, strategy, testing labor etc. The rest of us could easily perform whatever clerical work they do such as pulling reports and sharing them etc. Moreover, this person was not exactly bright or creative when it came to testing. This is the kind of dead weight you don’t want on your team. You’ll usually find such people in big companies which have a monopoly of sorts, such as big banks, telecom companies, cable or internet companies, giant & decaying e-commerce companies etc.

6 Likes

The role of the Test Manager has been quite devalued since more and more companies switch to agile development. And where do you need test managers in those environments? The testers work on their tickets testing the features of their team, anything else is provided by the scrum master. But this is where the problems start, especially if the scrum master isn’t a tester. Some problems not taken care of by that setup:

  • new test management tools are needed by all teams. Evaluation and installation need to be coordinated.
  • the whole application needs to be tested, not just integration tests of each team’s speciality.
  • resources lacking in one team - could we lend a few of yours?
    etc.
    I heard of big projects with lots of agile teams taht had real trouble with coordination. I think they needed one (or more) test managers…
6 Likes

I feel strongly that testers should be managed by people who understand the nuances and work that testers do - therefore, other testers. In our organization, our QA managers come from the pool of qualified Senior QA members, and they are the ones that have regular 1:1 meetings with our testers and help us create a more overall direction for the QA team. The individual QA members will still have a regular meeting with their scrum team lead in order to understand the testing needs of their teams, but the direct line managers all come from the QA team.

7 Likes

We used to have Test Managers but all “manager” roles were replaced during our last reorg with role names that encourage hands-on work rather than purely supervisory or managerial. So Test Manager is now Test Engineer with an emphasis on getting involved rather than simply checking test status and approving test phases.

We now have a similar number of Test Engineers. The hands-on nature of the new role description didn’t suit everyone. We lost 1 test manager who has not been replaced although ironically he was more hands-on before than the ones that remained.

5 Likes