Less Test Managers, More Test Coaches

One of the trends/shifts I experience in testing & test management in particular is the Test Coach as discussed initially here: The Shift-Coach Testing Trend (Oct, 2016). Recently (Aug 2017) it came up again in a Twitter thread, where Stephen Janaway stated the inspiration to the title of this blog post.

Less Test Managers and more coaches. That’s how I see it going.

Fittingly as he inspired the first post with his talk “How I Lost My Job As a Test Manager” presented at Test Bash 2015. This post is a further elaboration of the Shift-Coach test management trend. Here are some of my experiences:

  • I have been assigned to an agile development team to introduce them to 3 Amigos, Test data driven test automation and such things. The purpose of my involvement was to enable the team to continue the practices without me, and without testers besides the business analyst / product owner (See The domain expert is the tester) as they are doing Shift-left. Similar to an agile or scrum coach, my approach was to look at it as a change in the way of working.
  • Another project is an infrastructure project, there are no testers only technicians configuring Cisco routers that by software can replace firewalls, iron ports, VM servers and other network equipment. The project has to implement 80+ of these, so I setup both a test process and an ITIL change request process acting as a test and release manager – another quite frequent trend. I could continue in the project for the duration, but instead I setup guidance and leave when it’s sufficiently in place.

This might be similar to a test architect, a (internal) test consultant activity. It has nothing to do with diminishing testing. Rather I see it as more testing happening, something that would not have been done without the coaching from a test manager. It’s all about finding a test approach that is fit for the context.

Here are some things others have written:

The competence of the test coach is to have enough change management expertise (people skills) and test management expertise (domain skills) to know how to coach and facilitate the change. Should test coaches test too, perhaps when required, but not necessarily. The activity is primarily to up-skill the team to continue on their own.

The “Test Coach” is a trend similar to “shift-left” and all the other shifts in testing and test management. I see it as a pattern, and what I read from the threads and discussions is that many test managers gradually shift towards test coaches.

2017-07-03 13.57.42

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The domain expert is the tester

Sometimes the best tester is the domain expert, the person that knows all the in’s and out’s and corners of the system. I have worked with testers that have had hands-on on a system since the late 1970’es, but I also know testers of mobile app’s that marvel in being the subject matter expert of the domain. Sometimes the professional tester doubles as agile Product Owner(1) too given her vast knowledge. The tester becomes the the SME …

The subject matter expert, though, is usually a business analyst, or perhaps a User Experience expert. Those persons might have a better stand to be testing the system, than testers with no prior knowledge. Often the SME is the best tester available. I see this happening in a shift-left setting – but also in settings with a heavy user and business involvement. Like SAP releases to enterprise systems – where the business users and SAP architects still spend a month off their “actual” work (user acceptance) testing corporate configurations and customization.

The UAT is not dead, but the classic role of the tester testing on behalf of the business is declining. The business would rather test their own, with in-house subject matter experts. The field is active, as there is tool support for this activity. Panaya(2) is a tool that specializes in managing the UAT of a corporate system like SAP, and one of the key elements is that test cases can be broken up in steps and handed over between persons. Not even classic HP ALM’s handle hand-over between testers well. While ALM’s support that the tester does the testing, Panaya supports that tests are distributed across many people. People that have other (“real business”) tasks during the work day.

Testing can also be pushed even further out to the users with crowd-based testing, beta releases etc. In both crowd-based and UAT-based testing, the role of the pro’ tester is missing but the testing is still happening. IT’s being done by the most skilled – most valuable for the task.

So what can we as testers do when our tasks are gone – skill up, go with the change and become the expert – or move out to other skills: Coaches, delivery leads etc.

2015-12-18 13.49.28
The expert says 5 pieces should be in the build – though the customer is OK.
  1. If she doubles as scrum master, she’s probably more a Test Coach
  2. this post is not sponsored. I’m just making observations – not recommendations.

 

Testing roles are shifting

New ways of delivering software and solutions challenge existing perceptions of what roles and activities testers and test managers have. Some are getting more into development others into people skills. Sometimes forcefully, other times as part of self-organizing teams.

This post is a link collection for the talk: Testing roles are shifting, but where to? for the Ministry of Testing Meetup Copenhagen chapter, march 2017.

Introduction

Shift Left:

Shift Right:

Shift Coach

Shift Deliver:

 

Additional links

Continue the discussion Where are testing roles shifting to?

Co-creating Smarter Tester
Co-creating Smarter Tester

Many Bits under the Bridge

I’ve been in the testing business for 14 years – when I started in late 2002 it was all about using HP Test Director 7.6 – in a browser… There was only one model of testing, v-model, and only one book of testing the ISEB (later ISTQB) vocabulary. And only one expected output of testing: Testers designed test cases, executed and perhaps wrote both a test plan document and test report document. Test process improvement was a thing, but even so testing was often a pointy cog…  

Many Bits under the Bridge Later

It is not about the test cases any more, it’s about being part of a team – that delivers an IT solution to the business. First of all, if it’s just about the test cases then it is a race to the lowest paid off-shore location, a run to the bottom in repetitiveness and mechanic activity. Checking! with more focus on crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. We have tools for that now – the plates are shifting.

When testing professionals puts “writing test cases” on their LinkedIn description. It seems to me that they are stuck in the testing world of 10 years ago. Standing still and not seeing that Testers are Knowledge Workers – not workers of producing artifacts. It is much more important to see beyond the visibleUncovering better ways and seeing testing as an activity to provide information to the stakeholders, based on experiments and observations.

Skill up and be smarter! And don’t listen to old tapes – it’s not worth it :).

See also this from QA Symphony & Ministry of Testing:

The Software Tester: Modern vs. Traditional [Infographic]
The Software Tester: Modern vs. Traditional [Infographic]

Shift-Deliver, TestOps and Management of Changes

Shift-Deliver is a label I choose to put on the changes the roles and activities of the TEST MANAGER, when the test manager moves towards (also) being involved in the ITIL change requests, delivery management, configuration management and branch management that happens when the solution goes from the test phase to production. Another label could be “TestOps” as presented here, as the intersection of Testing and Operations. TestOps have been identified for along time. ….Interesting.  🙂

In my IT outsourcing context, this is less about software, and more about solutions. In at least two of my long term enterprise scale projects, half the job was test management (of operations) projects, half the job was regarding ITIL change management. My change management activities was mostly making sure that

  • the process was followed
  • that information was provided to the stakeholders
  • that testing happened
  • risk mitigation happened

I was hired as “the quality guy”, but expanded the role over the time I’ve been on the team to take ownership of all of our build and release infrastructure as well. Basically, I’m responsible for everything from the moment code is checked in, until it hits our production servers 

To use a quote by Alan Page. Again Alan is a representative of what happens with regards to trends in testing. He might be wrong, as well as I. I try to label the trends to understand them. These four trends that I have spotted are not mutually exclusive, neither do they all four need directions. Change is happening to the classic test manager rolle of going through the motions of test cases and documents. This is clear when looking into these posts:

Initially I discussed Shift-Deliver, Shift-RightShift-Left and Shift-Coach  at Nordic Testing Days 2016 during the talk “How to Test in IT operations“ and coined the labels on the EuroStar Test Huddle forum.

DSC03562

Shift-Right, you wild one!

The Shift-Right label is that more and more testing (and checking) can happen on the live application in production. Some call it monitoring, some call it Testing in the Wild. It is a very wild idea for some people and some contexts #YMMV. It may very well be the best way of testing in some contexts.

Once I consulted on a network stabilization and delivery optimization project for a consumer bank. They had many issues in their production environment… I strongly advocated that they did test controlled and structured in production on the network changes and other operational activities. (I have talked about “How to Test in IT operations“ at Nordic Testing Days 2016). More on testing during IT deliveries in Shift-Deliver.

Shift-Right is trend that people have covered well before me, here are some pointers:

The key is really as Alan puts it “testers should try to learn more from the product in use” and with that comes the tools of Google Canary builds, NetFlix Chaos Monkeys etc.

kabuum

This trend goes along with Shift-Coach, Shift-Left and Shift-Deliver discussed separately. Initially I considered shift-right to be regarding consulting, but after hearing Declan O’Riordan at DSTB 2016 I realized that shift-right was the right label for test in production, testing in the wild etc.

Similar posts regarding things in the wild: Bugs HappensThe Kcal bugTradition is a choice and Can you see beyond the visible.

The Shift-Coach Testing Trend

Shift-Coach is when testers and test managers trends towards being coaches and facilitators of the testing activities. Shift-Coach is more about leading the testing than leading the testers to paraphrase from @DevToTest Joe DeMeyers blog post.

The ground breaker for this trend, is to me, the talk “How I Lost My Job As a Test Manager” presented at Test Bash 2015 by Stephen Janaway. Stephen explains how reorganization of the test manager role forced him to be more a facilitator than embedded in the teams. Similarly many other great test managers talk more and more about people skills and coaching, especially in agile projects. I want to define shift-coach around the facilitation testing activities, and place testers that doubles as scrum masters in the Shift-Deliver trend.

In traditional (v-model) projects testing has often included people that were not professional testers; – in user acceptance tests this has often been business subject matter experts. The testing was done by someone with the best knowledge of the topic, and that may not have been the professional tester. That more and more projects do this – more and more, is a big challenge for many testing folks. But it is a significant trend in testing world of 2016.

Shift-Coach trend is visible when Alan Page  talks at Test Bash Philly 2016:

You’ve heard the rumors, and you’ve seen it happen. An organization or development team decides they don’t need testers, and you have big questions and massive concerns. Is quality not important anymore? Are they irresponsible or idiotic? Are their hats on too tight? Do testers still have jobs?

Alan Page is a career tester who has not only gone through the “no-tester” transition, he’s taking it head on and embracing it. Alan will share experiences, stories, strategies, and tactics (and failures) on how he’s taken everything he’s learned in over twenty years of software testing, and used those skills to have an impact on software engineering teams at Microsoft. Whether you’re going through this transition yourself, think it may be coming, or just want to tell someone what an absurd idea this is, this is the talk for you.

This trend goes along with Shift-Right, Shift-Left and Shift-Deliver discussed separately. I discussed these trend labels at Nordic Testing Days 2016 during the talk “How to Test in IT operations“ and coined the labels on the EuroStar Test Huddle forum.

legocoach
Drive the Testing – Coach!