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The Agile QA Manager – working towards your own extinction?

AgilePosted by Testsson 2016-07-18 21:07

I was recently appointed QA Manager in an agile(ish) organization where the aim is to have truly cross-functional teams. I know it sounds like an oxymoron and the phrase rebel without a cause came to mind at first.

In an agile environment the QA roles, if existing, belongs to an agile team and the teams are responsible for any test specification and the quality of the product. Meaning that the traditional responsibility of test management belongs to the team. The QA Manager role needs to be redefined to find a purpose in this type of organization. This is not a new problem, there are postings and threads 10 years or older that handles the altered traditional QA roles and in my quest I have dug through some really good and some really bad articles.

So what is the verdict, is there a place for a QA Manager in an agile organization?

If you have a really mature agile organization with teams containing the right mix of T-shaped people (Subject for a separate post on a later stage) the need for a QA Manager might not be there. Seeing that very few organizations are actually agile and true cross functional teams are scarce there is a place for the QA Manager that is willing to adapt to organizational and process changes.

In short: If a QA Manager does the job right the role may become obsolete.

As a part of my new assignment I was asked to come up with a role description. Based on the current maturity of our organization this is the short list I presented.

The role of a QA manager in an agile organization is mainly about supporting, training, facilitating and coaching QAs and other team members and to ensure best practices are established and that quality is built into every step of the process.

What it is not
There are some things that traditionally used to be included in the job as QA manager that are not valid for an agile organization. This includes but is not restricted to:

* Writing heavy documentation such as detailed test plans
* Being individually accountable for the quality of the product

What it is

The role includes but is not restricted to:

* Personal support, mentoring, and professional development for QAs
* Participate in the recruitment process for QAs and Automation Engineers (roles TBD)
* Taking an active part in evaluating and implementing tools and processes focusing on the quality of the products
* Drive the evolvement of true cross-functional teams
* Ensuring the teams implement and follow best practices to prevent defects finding their way into the product
* Drive the quality aspect of CI/CD in close cooperation with the infra team and the Development Manager
* Set the quality vision for the department
* Ensure that any work/process changes has a clear purpose and is moving towards the agreed vision
* Coordinate any cross-teams test/verification effort
* Help out with hands on testing when needed

These are some of the articles on the subject I have found interesting that I have used for inspiration for this post.

Gojko Adzic - Changing the role of test managers
Katrina Clokie - Test Manager in Agile
Amir Ghahrai - Role of QA Manager in Agile Project
Stephen Janaway - The end of the road for Test Managers?

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