Test Leadership – Chief Duties
The importance of testers and testing groups has been reconfirmed.
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An app or product’s success principally relies on the deployment of efficient and impactful testing methodologies, which are fundamental in unveiling legitimate bugs.
Key Learning Points:
Overview of the Test Team
A testing team is made up of individuals with diverse skills, experience, expertise, attitudes, and different goals/interests. To maximize quality, it’s crucial to effectively leverage these various resources.
They need to operate harmoniously as a team, abide by the prescribed test procedures, and complete their assigned tasks timely. This demands the presence of a test lead tasked with overseeing tests.
As testing professionals, our work product is primarily driven by leadership decisions. These decisions aim to implement effective QA processes and ensure efficient testing team administration.
This article is split into two sections:
- The first section focuses on the typical duties of a test lead and important factors when managing a test team.
- The second section highlights essential leadership skills required and tips to motivate a test team.
These guides will not just help test leads improve results by adjusting their approach, but also instruct seasoned testers looking to take on leadership positions.
Roles and Skills of Test Lead/Leader
By its essence, the main role of any test lead is to efficiently guide a team of testers to achieve product objectives and consequently accomplish company goals. However, the role encompasses a wide range of duties.
Let’s delve into the commonly assigned duties of a test leader.
Recommended read => How to set up a winning QA team?
Typically, a test lead is responsible for the following:
#1) Identifying how their testing teams fit in the grand scheme of the organization and ensuring alignment with project and organizational goals.
#2) Deciding the extent of testing needed for a particular release based on the document requirements.
#3) Developing the Test Plan in coordination with the testing team, and getting it reviewed and approved by management/development team.
#4) Identifying necessary metrics and ensuring their execution – they can act as a yardstick for the testing team.
#5) Estimating the needed testing effort by figuring out the necessary resources to handle a given release, and planning consequently.
#6) Identifying the required skills and ensuring the testing team is adequately equipped. Addressing any skill gaps by arranging training and knowledge sharing sessions for the team members.
#7) Identifying the proper tools for test reporting, test management, and test automation, and delivering necessary training to the team members on how to use them.
#8) Retaining competent resources by nurturing leadership qualities and offering tutelage to junior resources, helping them professionally grow.
#9) Creating a conducive and enjoyable atmosphere for all team members, ensuring peak productivity.
Successful Management of Test Teams
#1) Initiating Test Planning actions, including test case designing, and promoting review meetings within the team to incorporate feedback.
#2) Supervising test progress during the testing cycle, continually assessing individual workloads and reallocating resources as necessary.
#3) Identifying and addressing potential delays to adhere to the schedule, by addressing and resolving issues faced by testers.
#4) Hosting team meetings to ensure all members are informed of each other’s tasks and progress.
#5) Delivering timely status updates to stakeholders and management, instilling confidence in the work undertaken.
#6) Preparing risk mitigation strategies in case potential delays or challenges are foreseen.
#7) Bridging any differences or gaps between the testing team and management, facilitating clear communication.
Recommended read => How to motivate software testers?
Management of Tests
While leadership comprises various facets like power, knowledge, forward-thinking, intuition, and influencing abilities, it’s essential to appreciate that leadership and management aren’t synonymous, though they frequently go together within testing teams.
A test leader might possess all the necessary leadership skills theoretically, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can effectively oversee a team. While testing procedures may be well-defined, test team management often lacks strict guidelines.
Why do you think this might be the case, and how is a test team different from other teams?
A theoretically perfect and proven management approach might not always work efficiently with a test team.
Key Aspects for Successful Test Team Management
The following considerations are necessary for effective test team management:
#1) Knowing Your Testers
A tester’s duty is to find bugs or defects in software to improve its quality. There could be testers in a team who have a talent for original and creative testing methodologies. This necessitates specific abilities, creativity, and a special mindset when it comes to assessing software.
Often, experienced test members spend considerable time on their job, which makes it challenging for them to switch from their “testing” mindset. It becomes an inherent part of their personal and professional character. They tend to find flaws almost everywhere, including the product, processes, test leads, and managers.
Understanding this mindset of the test team is the first step towards creating an efficient test management strategy.
#2) Testers’ Workplace
Test teams often face high pressure due to firm deadlines and the comprehensive testing needed with limited resources.
Things like delays in delivering code to the test team, acquiring necessary environments, or fixing/re-verifying defects due to multiple reasons are not rare. All these happen along with non-negotiable schedules.
Also, testing frequently demands significant effort, and any inadequacies or incomplete testing can raise questions about the product’s quality.
Even though test teams may identify risks proactively, their findings might not always be positively accepted by management, possibly due to a lack of understanding or perception of insufficient skills within the team.
No wonder test teams face frustration and pressure to meet deadlines. Recognizing the work environment and the challenges it presents can provide valuable perspectives on successful test team management.
#3) Role of the Test Team
With years in testing, I have realized that no amount of testing can cover all aspects, and identifying “all” bugs is an impossible task.
Time and again, despite thorough testing, bugs are found in customer or production environments, labeled as having “slipped through” the test teams. The test team often faces criticism for such instances and is interrogated about the thoroughness of their testing coverage.
This can be disheartening for testers as it influences how their skills and roles are viewed by others, both within and outside the team.
Recognizing these realities within a test team is important for figuring out an apt management strategy, going beyond standard and theoretical methods.
The second section of this guide will delve into such strategies. So, keep an eye out! In the meantime, feel free to voice your thoughts and comments on this guide.
About the Author: This article is a guest contribution by Sneha Nadig, a Test Lead with over 7 years of experience in manual and automation testing projects.