Sunday, February 23, 2014

Are QA Managers necessary?

Unfortunately I did not attend the Agile Austin QA Special Interest group meeting last Wednesday, but they did explore an interesting topic.  A couple of my colleagues did attend so I got a little bit of an overview.  Since the topic is somewhat hot of the press, I am going to explore the issue.

Are QA managers required in an Agile development world?  Since I am a Director of QA of course my first inclination is to say, “Yes”. 

Is it necessary for the team to include a QA Manager to create great software?  I would conclude, “No”.

Who makes the tough decisions?  I would like to think this is a role of a QA Manager, but a team could certainly make the decision.

Who looks out for the best interests of the testers?  Perhaps we need a union, but I would think this is a role of a QA manager.

Who provides mentorship?  Could be the QA manager, but I think anyone with an experience to share can be a mentor.

Who puts together the budget?  I think this could be the role of a QA Manager.

Who does the hiring?  Entire team should be involved, but I think the decision boils done to the QA Manager.

Who does the people management such as career growth or disciplinary actions?  I would conclude the QA Manager, but it could be any people manager.

Do QA managers get in the way of Agility?  They could, but I think a good QA manager would not get in the way and would be an advocate for innovation and change.

Why was this topic even pondered at a QA SIG?  For this answer I wish I had attended.  I suspect as companies grow, layers of bureaucracy cause frustration and a reduction in speed.

Without QA Manager role what would be a logical career path for testers?  Oh yes, I believe testing is a career, but a tester could be perfectly satisfied focusing on a technical growth path and not in management.  I do like the fact that over time testers have a choice.

I have pondered several questions in this exercise, but I do not think I have scratched the surface on this topic.  I am leaning toward the cop out answer of “it depends”.

If every tester was self motivated, self correcting, self reflecting, and great at their craft, then I would have to say QA Managers are not needed.  However, with the inherent complexities with in a company and various degrees of learning, I think QA Managers can serve a very important role.

I have been managing projects and people for almost 30 years, so believe it is an important role.

Some of the software purists believe that there is no need for QA at all and that code can be so perfectly created that it encapsulates the requirements and essence of the product being delivered.

Many of the “Great” testers that I know are either managers or corporate consultants, so I would conclude leadership is vital from a quality perspective.

It is a delicate dance that probably depends on the size of the company, the structure of the company, and the complexities of the application under test.

Do you have an opinion?

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