Test managers tend to be quite nervous about agile. As the focus of a testing team switches to collaboration on products and projects, rather than testing being an isolated phase or service, it may feel like the need for a test manager disappears. I think there is a place for Test Managers in agile, but that their responsibilities and scope may look quite different to in a waterfall environment.
Because testers should be communicating their progress directly within their project teams, providing their estimates as part of an agile methodology and using just-in-time test planning, there is no need for a Test Manager who acts as an intermediary or overseer at a project level. If a Test Manager is required in this capacity, it's a sign of dysfunction within the agile team.
Instead I see the Test Manager role as evolving to a higher-level position that includes:
- facilitation of inter-team communication across many agile projects within an organisation
- presenting an aggregate view of testing utilisation to high level management
- personal support, mentoring, and professional development for testers
- being an escalation point for testers
- budgeting or forecasting for testing as a service dependent on organisational process
To those test managers who don't find this appealing, as a tester involved in an agile delivery team you operate with a higher degree of autonomy and freedom than in a traditional environment. You have ownership of test strategy and planning, are accountable for your own progress, and responsible for accurately reporting to your team.
There is also an opportunity for test leadership, though not at the expense of hands-on testing. In a cross-skilled team, the agile tester must ensure that the quality of testing is good regardless of who in the team is completing it. The tester becomes the spokesperson for collaborative testing practices, and provides coaching via peer reviews or workshops to those without a testing background.
- The role of the Test Manager in an agile organization - Johanna Rothman
- Changing the role of test managers - Gojko Adzic
- Test Manager's Survival Guide to Going Agile - Joel Bancroft-Connors