Modern Test Management: People First

Since the publication of Peopleware by Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister in 1987, the importance of people in the success of software development projects could not be underestimated. This is also true in the software testing domain. In this article, Anna Royzman discusses some of the essential skills of modern software testers that managers should nurture and develop.

Author: Anna Royzman, Test Masters Academy, http://testmastersacademy.org/

Software testing as a profession undergoes a lot of changes in 2017. The job becomes more technical and there is a greater need for good communication skills, higher requirements for cultural fit and overall subject matter expertise. If your job as a manager involves supervising software testers, you need to make sure that they fit well into the changing landscape of software delivery environments. You will have to create opportunities for your software testing talents to grow and excel.

software testers at work

When I coach software test managers and leads on how to nurture software testers in their teams, I focus on three talent development vectors: strategy, communication and subject matter expertise.

Strategy skills involve following areas:

  • Know and leverage testing techniques and methodologies
  • Build effective test coverage
  • Adjust testing strategy to changing priorities
  • Learn how to evaluate and use software testing resources like people skills, tools, etc.

Communication skills would include:

  • Ability to explain what testers do and where they can add most value
  • Communicating status of their work in such a way that stakeholders can evaluate project risks
  • Be an effective quality advocate
  • Make connections with team members, peers, and stakeholders from various areas and departments

Subject matter expertise would show proficiency in:

  • System understanding; how the product they test fits into overall picture
  • Business domain knowledge
  • Organization’s goals and culture

Here are few my suggestions on how to coach your team members on developing these skills.

On software testing techniques and methodologies

First and foremost, open your testers to latest developments in software testing craft. There are various techniques and methodologies that have proven their worth in different environments and different contexts. None of the practices are “best” or could be claimed as such. Understand their pros and cons, and try them out without investing heavily. Experiment.

On changing priorities

Changing priorities should not be a source of frustration for the testers, even if somehow they often are. The fact that priorities will change shall be part of your testing strategy. It is good to have some exercises on ‘what if’ — that train testers to adjust the testing strategy and prepare for the real life situations. Some examples of “what if” could be: project time change, discovering large rework in one of the areas, changing business workflows, customer requiring a special configuration, etc. The team should practice evaluating the risks new priority is introducing, how such change would affect the existing test plan, which test methodologies need to be adjusted/adopted, estimating how the new priority will change the deliverables, and how to communicate these changes to stakeholders, managers or development team.

On evaluating testing resources

One good exercise on evaluating testing resources would be to brainstorm as a team whose skills and knowledge can be leveraged for testing tasks. There are developers who love to build tools and they can build little helpers to make testing less tedious, there is product support who deals with customers every day and understands their needs and major complaints (such information will greatly enhance testing coverage), there is an information security team who can share the social engineering techniques that make you identify additional security risks with your application, etc. When I do this exercise during my trainings, the list of testing resources grows exponentially.

On making connections with stakeholders on various levels

As a team, identify stakeholders that are affected by your work: from customers, to C-level management, to your development team, to sales and marketing etc. You will be surprised how many people rely on your work. Then, try to define what “quality” means to each of these groups. That diverse list will give you an idea what concerns them, which risks are important to them, and how to build the conversations with these groups when you need to communicate such risks and advocate for quality. Practice “speaking their language”. This exercise will build you allies throughout your organization.

Conclusion

Technology touches our lives in multiple ways, and its influence continues to grow. Thus, poor quality in technology will impact us on so many levels: social, professional and personal. Advocating for software quality requires integrity and skill. To become a qualified quality leader, you need to be the strategist, the coordinator, the coach and the motivator.

My work for the last several years is focused on advancing test management craft. The Test Leadership Congress, the annual conference I started in 2016, is dedicated to grow and develop test leaders and managers. It provides the unique forum for their collaboration and amplifies their expertise through introducing new ideas and latest developments in the craft. Our profession is too important for the well-being of humanity. Don’t let it slide. Make a positive difference in your career and make the world a better place. Join us at TestLeadershipCongress-NY.com

References

Developing a Test Strategy by Anna Royzman, http://whose.associationforsoftwaretesting.org/index.php?title=Developing_a_Test_Strategy

Testability Awakens: Moving Testability into New Dimensions by Maria Kedemo, published in the Trapeze magazine December 2015, http://www.testingtrapezemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/TestingTrapeze-2015-December.pdf

Session Based Test Management by Jon and James Bach, http://www.satisfice.com/sbtm/

About the Author

Anna Royzman is an international conference speaker and the founder of the Global Quality Leadership Institute, an non-profit organization that aims to become the leading advocate for quality in technology through innovative educational programs. The Test Masters Academy, an initiative envisioned and managed by Anna directly, organizes conferences and peer workshops. Follow Anna on Twitter on @QA_nna and @TestMastersAcad.

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