Good day! In case you’re attempting to kick start your testing career, one of the things you’d naturally think about is – what is a test manager responsible for?
I’ll need to really honest with you, I find it extremely tough to to put down an exact list of things a test manager must do – he or she does SO many things – not just testing, but project management, business analysis, stakeholder and change management.
I’ve been in the business for quite a while and I know numerous individuals in the market who think that a Test Manager should just do “testing” – execute test scripts, click buttons and record results, then attend the odd defect meeting.
All things considered, I’d be the first to disclose to you that a Test Manager is responsible for the quality of part of a system implementation – and that he or she is directly or indirectly having a say in the system requirements, scope, priorities and trade-offs.
So if you think about it, it simply means that a Test Manager must play many, many project hats at once.
And I’ll be honest with you – the truth is some of the best Test Managers I’ve seen … they play all the different hats very well – they’re equally comfortable being a Project Manager, Business Analyst, Test Manager and heck, sometimes even a Deployment Manager.
Now, don’t be afraid! Before you start to worry about all the things and multi-facted skills a Test Manager must possess, you should know that there ARE some basic skills he or she should possess.
This brings me to the purpose of this article – I would like to share with you five key things a Test Manager is responsible for at a fundamental level – the best Test Managers do these very well, and they can also build on these skills and do even more.
And I can tell you – if you devote time to picking up these five things and deepen your skills here, you’ll be on track to being a great Test Manager in no time!
Item 1: Test Management
One of the first things I can imagine when it comes to a Test Manager’s role? Well – it’s the obvious one – test management, of course!
Now, on top of that, you should also realize that test management is not just “management” – it involves the ability to go down to the ground, understand why test scenarios and scripts don’t run, schedule who must test what when, and importantly, roll all of that into a central Test Management Plan.
But here’s an important thing. You should know its very easy to get overwhelmed by these things – when I first started as a Test Lead, that’s exactly how I felt.
Now, I’d be the first to tell you it’s terribly important for you to understand the various typical areas under test management, e.g. test planning, test scenario and script development, working with business users to sign them off, coordinating test environments and test execution plans – the whole lot.
The real truth is that there is no shortcut to learning all of this – you need to take it step by step.
Try talking to some senior Test Managers and also, being involved in an end-to-end implementation of a system is also tremendously useful.
I’d like to quote real example which will be of interest.
When I first started my IT consulting career, I was tasked with leading a ten man testing team in Malaysia, rolling out a life insurance system.
From the beginning, I knew I had to pick up test management skills extremely quickly – so I took an existing Test Plan and went to speak to an old friend of mine who used to run huge testing teams.
Now, the important thing was that I got his advice and he eased me into the role – and I’d recommend you do the same as well.
In essence, here’s what happened in the end: With the help of my friend, I managed to take up the testing role, ran test scripts and results ahead of schedule and we cut live pretty smoothly (those of you in the IT industry will know this is VERY RARE).
Now, if you’d like to get more information about test management and the key basic testing skills you need to excel in the role, you should definitely check out this page for more detailed information.
Item 2: Stakeholder Management
What’s the next thing you need to do as a Test Manager?
And this may come as a surprise to many – you need to manage stakeholders I must stress this to you – learn to go beyond just testing and recognize that your job is to get business users to agree on your test results and that you’ve sufficiently quality tested an IT solution.
So please know that the ability to communicate with your project stakeholders will help you TREMENDOUSLY when it comes to testing – if you have defect that needs analysis or troubleshooting with a user – it’s so much easier to do when that person is on your side.
Here’s another thing – I think it’s also important to understand that good communication skills CAN be practiced and picked up – never assume that you can’t handle it.
You must also attempt to open your ears and listen more – you see, many Test Managers like to talk and don’t try to understand what their users and stakeholders are saying – don’t be like that.
If you have an interest in gaining solid stakeholder communication skills to improve your testing skills, then do check out this resource for more detailed information.
Item 3: Industry Knowledge
There’s something I need to tell you upfront – too many Test Managers think that “industry knowledge” is for the Business Analysts or business users, not them.
Why is this? Well, I think it’s because they feel their more on the IT or system side of things and want to work on testing a screen, batch job or script – some Test Managers don’t feel comfortable talking “business”.
Well, I’ll reveal to you that the reality is industry knowledge is SO important for testing, just as it is for business analysis.
So it’s a great myth that Test Managers don’t need industry know-how – if you gain this skill, you’ll be head and shoulders above ALL the other Test Managers out there.
Another thing to consider is to think about how you can gain all that industry knowledge – it does not come in a day. For me, I had to work in banking project after project to see things front-to-back, end-to-end.
Here’s an example I’d like share with you.
A friend of mine was stuck in a testing role and wanted to become a Business Analyst very badly.
I listened to her speak frequently about how she really wanted to move out of IT into the “business”.
Now, what happened was that I took some time to mentor her on the business side of things and imparted a lot of banking domain knowledge to her.
And in the end, she began to make a good impression on the business users who saw that she could speak their language.
If you wish to understand more about industry domain knowledge and how you can pick it up, you definitely want to do check out this page to get some tips.
Item 4: Solution Knowledge
One of the most essential things you need to know about test management is that you need to understand at least PART of a system solution.
Frequently, one thing I observe is that a Test Manager CANNOT function well if he or she doesn’t understand the software modules being tested.
If you put some thought to it, you’ll find it is really important – I’ve seen teams and teams of testers run amok discovering bugs when in fact they just didn’t really know how to use the system.
You should realize that if you don’t demonstrate the requisite system or solution knowledge, I can tell you that you will quickly lose your users’ respect.
So, I can’t stress the importance of knowing that picking up solution knowledge is of the key things a Test Manager is responsible for. It is a responsibility – not a “nice-to-have”.
Now, you may wish to know about a good trick I use to gain solution knowledge – be very inqusitive about a software product, download and really read its manuals and product brochures, and also – learn to attend Business Analyst workshops to understand how requirements translate into solution design.
What’s good about this?
Well, it gives you a great view of what is needed from a business and system perspective – and that means you become one of the most valuable players on the project team – now wouldn’t you want that?
If you wish to pick up more skill sets and solution knowledge so you can better develop your Test Manager career, do check out this link for more detailed information.
Item 5: Project Management
I’ll tell you about another important fact – good Test Managers are also good Project Managers.
Also, you should know that test management involves coordinating HECK of a lot of people and things – schedules, test scripts, development, test and production environments – all of which need project management skills!
As an example, you may find it tough to get a team of testers to run their test scripts according to schedule, so you need to carefully plan their availability and whether the test data is “ready” for them to test.
So what can you do, then? I’d say you should talk to your Project Manager and get some advice – some of the better testing teams I’ve seen have a “Test Execution Manager” who helps with testing scheduling and logistics, and this person rolls up into the overall Test Manager.
My advice to you is this … don’t be overwhelmed by the testing role. It is well recognized that testing needs a LOT of resources, so never be afraid to voice out your need for more people on your testing team.
If you want to get more information about project management skills (which, of course, is a key topic on this blog), do check out this article – it’ll give you tons of information about innovative technology solutions in the market.
Before I sign off, let me just say that the things a Test Manager needs to do in a typical project can be multi-faceted.
One key takeaway I want to leave with you you need to know testing methodologies and approaches, stakeholder management techniques, industry and solution knowledge, as well as general project management skills.
Another key point you should remember is that you should never be overwhelmed by the role. Talk to veteran Test Managers you know and take it step by step – you can and you will learn the ropes over time.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my article. If you’re interested in learning more about the things a Test Manager is responsible for, do feel free to check out this useful link here – it contains some good, practical information.