The future of the Test Manager?


(Simon Godfrey) #1

Interesting question as the role of a Test Manager has changed and will look different across organisations who employ them (us).

I read this earlier: https://blog.gurock.com/where-has-the-test-manager-gone/ which suggests a tester can operate without a Test Manager and is able to manage his/her own development.

Whilst representing an Engineering Manager, this article suggests that the role of a manager within an Agile world is more of supporting culture and people development.

There’s a bunch of context which probably determines if a Test Manager is required in an organisation and what they’re accountable for but the role has certainly changed.

What I also see, however, is recruiters who spend a long time (12 months +) trying to fill Test Manager vacancies due to a lack of quality candidates.

What’s your view on Test Managers and the role they play in the modern Software Development ecosystem?


(Jesper) #2

My experience is that some test managers become test coaches or practice leads. there are some examples of that that I link to here:


here is another great writeup:

Another role for test managers could be delivery / release train responsible


again depending on the shop.

All talk about the recruiters belong in #rants :smiley:


(Brian) #3

I was given the role of test manager once. Our group was 20 people (more or less), with 2-3 testers. The previous test manager had left and the management assumed that since we had a test manager, we needed another one. I accepted the job.

After maybe three months, I re-assumed the title of tester. Given the size of our test team (I was “managing” one person) and the context of our testing, the management role was just, “The person who planned the testing”. And we did that with the whole team in backlog and sprint planning sessions with the whole team.

From what I have seen in previous job-hunting experiences, test manager roles are mostly similar to that. Someone thinks that a couple of testers need management and ask for a “test manager” when what they really need is a “senior tester”.


(Jesper) #4

interesting - thank you for reminding me that even roles are interpreted very differently. To me a test manager manages the testing, not the testers (as in hire-fire manager). Katrina’s post above has some good examples of the differences too.


(gordon) #5

So with that definition who manages the testers?


(Simon Godfrey) #6

Katrina’s blog post is interesting actually. I’m a Test Manager (role title) but I do a lot of what Katrina describes as a Test Coach. I think the Test Manager/Coaching distinction really suggests that there is still an important role for a Senior/Experienced Test person (Manager/Coach) to play in terms of supporting and developing testers within an organisation, providing coaching/expertise, removing blockers, supporting culture, fostering communities of practice and managing tasks like performance reviews. recruitment and training.

Perhaps the role has changed and simply “Test Manger” means old-style, waterfall responsibilities to people rather than what is described by the Test Coach.


(Jesper) #7

Your mileage may vary - It depends

I have 10+ years as test manager, I have never had “personnel responsibilities” - as I reckon rarely a project manager have. (#rants why is no-one ranting over that?) My line manager today is a person with the title “Line Manager”. My experience is that all testers and test managers can have the same line manager. Independent on what projects we work on, waterfall, agile, operations etc. My tasks currently as a test manager is sometimes similar to a test coach - but again that depends on the project.

My context is from IT consultancies, where we work on many different projects, sometimes for years sometimes for a short period. As a test manager, I manage the testing


(Simon Godfrey) #8

This is again the definition of a Test Manager.

I have been a Test Lead (manage testing project), Test Team Lead (functional manager of testers), Release Test Manager (no line management, only co-ordination, strategy, leadership and coaching) and now Test Manager. All with certain overlap, different responsibilities and varying levels of people management.

A Test Manager as someone who co-ordinates and manages strategy for a whole testing team is certainly a role which does not exist so much now. A Test Manager as a line manager and coach is more likely to be seen within the modern SW Dev environment.


(Roseanne) #9

Did anyone attend Paul Gerrard’s talk at UKStar - he had an interesting take that Test Management had evolved into Assurance?


(Jesper) #10

for those not at the talk (or the same at EuroStar) here’s a link:
https://gerrardconsulting.com/blog/category/digital_assurance/
I don’t see much of that, but then I don’t see everything.
Discussed it in 2013 also, and since then some test mananagement has changed some hasn’t…


(Gary) #11

As can be seen by this thread there isn’t a definitive answer and the probably never will be.

A company with 20+ testers has different demands than somewhere with fewer testing resources.

In my personal opinion there is no need for a test manager (hope my test manager doesn’t read this :slight_smile: ) in a small team who are integrated into an agile environment. The scrum master covers the detail of work to be carried out and it is obvious where work is not been done etc.


(Simon) #12

As a test lead in my current role I deal with staffing issues, including mentoring and coaching, test leadership, test strategy, test design and testexecution. I think with a small test team (there are four of us) having a test manager would be overkill, but essentially I believe I fulfill the role without the title. I set direction and lead, whilst developing my team (and taking care of the day to day stuff like holiday approval etc.) and performing the actual task of testing. I’ve seen useful test management on large multi-year aerospace projects - and I think in these cases it can be necessary.

Personally I love my current role, and whilst it may have more traditionally be seen as a test management position with some testing on the side, I agree with a lot of people that those activities need to be rolled into a team now. I believe myself to be a tester first, with a management / leadership on the side.


(Simon Godfrey) #13

https://gerrardconsulting.com/blog/re-branding-the-tmf-to-be-the-assurance-leadership-forum/


(Steve) #14

I’ve been to the talks by Paul saying that Test Managers are in decline, and I also spoke at a couple of conferences on the same subject after researching a near 50% fall in Test Manager roles in the UK in 2 years.

Interestingly though, I am looking for a Head of Test/test Manager/test Coach role once my interim role finishes. I was, up until February, a Senior Test Manager - we then followed a path along the squad model, and my role would have morphed into a general Engineering Manager role, which I didnt necessarily have a problem with, it just isnt the way I want my career to go. So rather than be pushed into something, I took redundancy.

Over the past few months I have looked with interest at the number of Test Manager roles that are still being advertised. I assume most (but not all) are genuine, but it seems that the decline must have slowed, otherwise there would be a lot less open vacancies.

What does this tell me?

There is a need for management of particular teams - maybe they are not following squad models, or are Agile but not as mature as other organisations, there is a need for coaching and mentoring (I am not interested in any job that doesnt have these as key responsibilities!!), and if testers are isolated, (1 tester to x devs and BA’s), who do they go to with testing issues?

I think the future of the test manager is not as uncertain as it appeared - lets review in another 2 years.


(Simon Godfrey) #15

Hi Steve - I think you’re absolutely right to make the distinction between maturity and team size here. I also see plenty of Test Manager roles in the Thames Valley / London area so if I were job hunting I wouldn’t be short of options.

It has been good to discuss the role and direction of the Test Manager/Coach in this thread.


(Christina) #16

We run Dev and Test within the same management structure and last summer switched so that we now have a Dev Manager with a strong QA background (and some dev from about 15 years ago) plus a Technical Architect. This gives us good coverage from both the Test and Dev sides of the coin. (We have in-house teams plus some outsourced teams).


(Simon Godfrey) #17

How big is your development/test group Christina?


(Christina) #18

Simon, our numbers are fairly fluid (hence using off-shore to bolster team numbers when needed) but we’re generally hitting around 20 with 1:4 test to dev ratio.


(Terryl) #19

So, I work for a small company, with 6 developers and 3 designers. There are only 2 testers, myself being one of them. My colleague is at a senior level and myself at a mid - senior level. We don’t have a test manager. Instead, we are both managed by one of the joint MD’s. Lucky for us, he used to be a developer and knows a lot in the world of testing, but we basically manage our own development.
We make our own training suggestions, we run our own work load with very little intervention at all. If ever we have problems or need help, our manager is always on hand to help.

Bearing all this in mind, if we were a bigger company, I would certainly suggest that we take on a test manager. Bigger teams employ people at different levels and who have different skill sets that can be used in many different situations. A test manager can help utilise people in the right way and place them where they are most needed.

In short, I think a test manager can be very important and there is definitely a need for the role, but I think it depends on the company and how many testers are employed, what level the testers operate at etc. :slight_smile:


(stephen) #20

Our test setup seems to be top heavy.
Test Director, Test Manager, Test Lead, Test coordinator.

To me, the lead and coordinator perform the same functions. Report monitoring, mentoring, test review and they have extensive application and testing knowledge.

The Test Director should be seen as a link between senior management and the other application teams within the business and is in discussion with the leads. They deal with the hiring and firing and the money side. They should have a knowledge of test functionality and the way their business operates as well as an ability to source extra requirements, be that software, hardware or staff to improve the ease of testing for the staff. Not solely a manager filling a void because it has always been there.
The Manager is not required. The director and the manager really perform the same functionality.
Leads should mentor, identify and validate. They should facilitate the ease of working for the general tester and assist with links and discussions to developers and other testers where needed.
In some areas with large teams they are a requirement. We have 12 in our group, but as detailed 4 of them do no testing but just direct traffic with little system or testing knowledge.
The testers are given a piece of work and then left to their own devices. When not if a failure is identified in production, the tester wears the blame as test management is just a signaling device on the freeway to delivery.

YMMV, but this is my experience and one I hope to change.