The end of the QA manager?

Before going into the article, let me tell you a bit about myself.

I was QA manager between 2006 and 2012.

In 2006, my employer did not have a test team so I volunteered to create it.

Being a QA manager was an amazing opportunity.

It allowed me to learn many things that otherwise would be inaccessible to me.

In 2012,  I decided to work only non-management, hands-on testing jobs.

How is QA management doing these days?





MANY CHANGES HAVE BEEN HAPPENING RECENTLY IN THE MANAGEMENT FIELD

Companies make their management structures flat, with less levels between employees and top management.

Flat structures means less middle managers.

Or no managers in some cases.

See this article about management changes at Zappos (Amazon owned) as an example.




Some management tasks are automated.

Time planning and vacation management are being done through web applications.

The information dissemination to employees is facilitated by email, newsletter and web portals.

Planning, control and evaluation activities are distributed to non-manager employees.

All of these contribute to less activities allocated to managers.





In many cases, managers are seen as not very useful because they only manage.

They dont do anything else than management.

While this is not correct every time, it still leads to the perception that managers are expendable.

So when companies restructure, managers are impacted heavily.




WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR QA MANAGERS?

QA managers are managers too.

All changes already mentioned apply to them.

But recent changes in software development pressure even more the QA managers.

Applications are being developed, tested and deployed fast using incremental and iterative processes such as Agile.





AGILE TEAMS INCLUDE TESTERS AND QA ANALYSTS

The QA manager role makes sense when a QA department exists for providing services to development teams.

When using Agile instead of Waterfall-like processes, testers and QA analysts move from the QA team to development teams.

The testing is no longer done after all features are developed.

Code changes need to be tested fast even if application features are incomplete.

The testing is also less scripted and becomes exploratory and session-based.







The testers are no longer coordinated by the QA manager.

The scrum master and development manager take charge.



COMPANIES ARE USING LESS TESTERS OR NO TESTERS AT ALL

Some companies do their development without having testers at all.

Facebook for example.

Or Hootsuite who has 1 manual tester for more then 100 developers.

The developers create the code and unit test it.

They may even do the test automation for the new features.





After the developers finish their development and testing, business users do the integration testing for the product.

Think about it.

Why would a company need testers if the developers do unit testing and test automation and the business users look at the product as well?





LESS QA PROCESS ARE USED AND NEEDED

One of the QA manager's most important responsibilities is to set up and improve processes.

Agile does not put a lot of focus on having the best documentation.

It does not focus too much on processes either.

What is important however is having self-organizing teams of motivated and very capable individuals.




SO WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH QA MANAGERS?

In companies that continue to use Waterfall development processes, QA managers will still survive, especially the good ones.

In companies that uses Agile or other fast iterative development processes, QA managers will become rare.

The more Agile becomes prominent, the less QA departments will be around.

Less QA departments, less QA managers.



WILL ALL QA MANAGERS BE IMPACTED EQUALLY?

There are 2 types of QA managers.

The first type is the "just-manage" QA manager.

He is highly skilled at management and very capable of managing testers.

But he does not know much about testing and technology.

His technical and development skills are very limited.




The second type of QA manager is very-hands on.

This is the "t-shape" type of QA manager.

He does management part time, is technical and development oriented.

He has broad skills (test automation, performance testing, web service testing), some of them very specialized.





I believe that many "just-manage" managers will disappear.


Their responsibilities will be taken over by development managers, hands-on QA leads and testers.

Agile does not require many managers, especially ones with no other skills than management.


The "t-shape" managers will survive.

When their QA management is no longer needed, they will join development teams as hands-on QA leads or senior testers.



WILL TESTERS AND QA ANALYSTS BE IMPACTED?

They will.

Having less managers will put more pressure on employees.

They have to do their work with less attention, less mentoring, less feedback.

No one will be around to tell testers what to do and how to do it.






With no managers around, testers should learn self management and become more autonomous.

They should learn to take charge on their goals and problems.

WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH MANAGERS IN OTHER INDUSTRIES?

Lets see what happens in the industry in recent years in Canada:

The number of managers is going down in every industry:

  • Walmart Canada cut 200 head office jobs in 2014.
  • After Tim Hortons merged with Burger King, it axed 40% of its middle managers.
  • When Rogers Communications restructured its business recently, it let go several hundred middle managers
  • It was a similar story at Bell Canada, when the new CEO cut 2500 management jobs.


In 1995, 10.4% of all jobs were in management positions.

In 2015, only 7.8%  are management jobs



NEXT

6 signs that your manual testing career is in danger
How to learn test automation from zero

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