The future of the Test Manager?

My current job title is Test Team Leader, I work for a large company and have a team of 5 Senior Test Analysts, 13 Test Analysts and 6 Junior Test Analysts…oh and 1 contracted TA. I report to the “Development & Test Manager”, who has no experience in testing, but acts as that bridge to the rest of IT (Directors and Heads Of). The D&T Manager also has 5 development teams to look after, ranging between 3 and 5 people in each with one Senior Developer in each.

I guess my day to day role is that of a Test Manager, although that being said, I do sometimes question the necessity of my role. The STA group that I oversee consists of some excellent men & women who can handle most of what comes in, and could easily escalate to the D&T Manager.

Previous to this role I was Test Manager for a large global medical company, it was a newly formed function and having me there was perhaps beneficial especially as the new team were not testers by trade.

The more I look around now for different opportunities, it’s very rare that I see the role Test Manager come up in the job searches. Most are looking for Test Lead, or Senior Test Analyst…sometimes different titles like Testing Leader. Could this be a move to reduce the overall salary required to get someone at the ‘head’ of the testing tree…maybe, but then I can be a pessimist sometimes :slight_smile: . More likely I would like to think that the resultant shift is due to modern methodologies like DevOps and Agile, where there is no need for a Test Manager (in my opinion).

I am keen to progress my career even now, but to do so I fear that I will need to get “back on the tools”, to be a practitioner rather than a manager. I’m okay with this, so long as I can find the right role (and salary). I do fear the role of Test Manager is on the way out, and I’ll need to evolve or die…who knows, maybe I’ll turn back to my previous experience in development :wink: .

To me there are three different activites that typically goes into the role of test manager in different places.

  1. Project Manager for the testing effort
  2. Coaching employees with the title tester in their work and career
  3. Working with the overall quality strategy for the organisation

In modern software development, having the single point of coordination is an outdated idea so job 1 is of the table.

Learning from the fully distributed and autonomous people at Valve, one common critique is the lack of career coaching, so the coaching aspect is still important in the modern development. Having been an engineering manager for a software development team with both testers and developers in it I must say that coaching a tester or coaching a developer is not that different. Sometimes it helps to know the domain, sometimes it hurts. And it is more important to develop your coaching skills than to know the domain to be a good coach.

The last area is, the strategic part is tricky. In the distributed, autonomous, adaptable team environment, the need for the strategic directions are still there but it is requires less management and more coaching to get there. Some colleagues of mine call themselves quality coaches which tries to work in this area.

So all in all, no there is no need for Test Managers in modern software development.

@ola.sundin As per my own post on this topic, I do think you are right. In modern software development the role of Test manager is one that is dying, it’s just not required.

Role of Test Manager, my simplified view:

  • In a consulting company - manage contracts - can be called Sales Manager…
  • As a consultant for other companies - do whatever the others require; they usually are asked by the companies to do particular things they read on the internet, or they dream about doing. Very few test managers dare to challenge, as they want to keep the contract. They can do anything in theory, most of the times with just an ISTQB Test Manager certificate to their name: teach everyone how to test in a few days, do a test assessment, create a very structured process which includes lots of documentation and detailed steps, etc…
  • as a full time test-manager variant 1 - act as a tester, as a test lead, and be responsible of how testing is performed on particular components/modules/products.
  • as a full time test-manager variant 2 - act as a lead and translator for a team of outsourced persons; manage what they do, the value of their work, the way they work…
  • as a full time test-manager variant 3 - act as an architect for the quality of the systems in relation to general processes of: development, integration, deployment, implementation level testing coaching and training, environments architecture, test systems management, complicated architecture and tooling integration…etc.
  • as a full time test manager variant 4 - be the person that’s always in all the meetings with higher managers, and just orders stuff to a team of people, without knowing much about testing.

Not so long ago I entered the testing world in a fairly sized software house around 100 people, for the first couple of weeks I was working under someone who was sort of a test manager/test lead for the team and I a tester.

Around 3 months in i got moved into a new team as a sole tester in that team. For me being new to the testing scene I didn’t know how important it was to have someone in place to do what a Test manager does (I understood what they do and their role, but i didn’t know the impact!).

I guess in conclusion i think they’re a necessity, especially if the project is large and spans over a long time.

1 Like

My current role’s Dev Manager (I’ve not done actual dev work since the 1990s!). I was brought in 14 years ago to introduce a QA function (note QA not test) into a small dev team. Since then I’ve worked in QA, Test and Analysis (usually all at the same time) and we’ve expanded to have a team of 5 or 6 testers (flexible as we outsource some of the work). We’ve had a Test Lead and run a Test Team but now have testers assigned to dev teams. My role’s effectively an amalgamation of Test Manager, Project Manager, Scrum Master and Dev Manager - I rely on an excellent Technical Architect and a CTO for tech advice. We hover around the 20 dev mark so are not a large department and I still get involved with hands on testing as well as analysis, UX etc. For our more junior testers it’s important that they’ve a senior colleague available to advise and guide them, also for the department to have someone who overseas testing and ensures that we’re all as efficient and effective as possible whilst ensuring we continue to improve our QA across the entire department.


Test management is definitely dying - and fast. I was a senior test manager in a very large utilities company for over 5 years and my role was focused on resource management, managing test budgets/forecasts and fielding escalations from project managers. Projects had their own test managers who were basically test leads. In the end, the company decided to outsource almost all of testing, other than the head and a few other senior people so I was made redundant.

I think in future there will only be ‘hands on’ test leads and heads of testing - managers will go. The trend started as long ago as 2000-2002 and it has now escalated. In the '90s testing jobs came out in dozens every week, now it’s more like dozens every year. Test managers will need to re-skill and go for project management or business analysis roles, I don’t see any other option. Top heavy management is a thing of the past - nowadays if you don’t add direct value by ‘producing’ you’re out of the door. It’s brutal - and it will only get worse. There was a time when test managers were not expected to produce technical deliverables but now it’s standard, so the technical skill requirements for the few remaining test management vacancies are becoming more and more demanding. Employers want test managers who are also software engineers. Test managers used to be managers who knew about testing, but now they are becoming becoming test engineers who know about management.


I completely agree with this, and am starting to see it first hand as my role looks to be changing within the next 12 - 18 months. I think that as a Test Manager, and perhaps even a Test Lead, you now must think about moving out of a direct test based role or dusting off your skill set to become more hands on again.

I think test management is an ongoing process that will be forever. For a successful software testing, it is a must to have a proper test management process so that you can get the output that you wanted to achieve.

The role of the test manager is very important when it comes to managing the test teams who are working on a distributed environment.