Saturday, March 16, 2013

Test Management is more about testing than management.

This started as a Test Manager survey from Mike Lyles ( and as I was answering question 45, I just kept on writing.

Any test manager needs to understand the three basic things any tester is or should be doing on any given day. For a couple of years now, I've been using what the Bach brothers refer to as the TBS Metrics of Session Based Test Management fame. T stands for "Test Design and Execution" related activities, B stands for "Bug Investigation and Reporting" and S stands for "Session Setup". On any given day, the amount spent on all three should add up to 100% of their time for a particular session or day depending on how you want to implement this.

Test design and execution means evaluating the product and looking for problems. Bug investigation and reporting is what happens once the tester stumbles into behavior that looks like it might be a problem. Session setup is anything else testers do that makes the first two tasks possible, including tasks such as configuring equipment, locating materials, reading manuals, or writing a session report.[1]

Based on personal experience, TBS is a really good way to look at the Work Breakdown of any given tester/ test group. You can see where the focus is from a management perspective. If a higher percentage of time is spent on Test Design and Execution, then you know that the testers are doing what they are hired for, which is ... ummm ... Testing. If a majority of time is spent on Bug investigation and reporting, it could be that the product is not quite ready for release, or that the focus of the testers are on regression duties due to the number of bugs and fixes that need validating. In this case, testing can't continue. If a majority of time is focused on Session Setup, your tester/team might be in too much meetings (which might be good or not) or is trying to solve a technology problem that your operations or support team can help with, for example setting up a LAMP stack for your web app so the tester can test in a local environment. Either way, testing has been limited.

There is no ideal percentage combination between all three since this is just an indication of what your context has to deal with. Or this is a way for you to initially evaluate and come up with questions before you have a one on one with a team member. You can even look at trends of any given tester or project based activities but trust me when I tell you that all this will give you is a graph and nothing more. As a manager, I really like what Jon Bach mentioned in his STP Crew talk about delivering Value with Test Metrics (paywall alert).

"Less BS, more T".

This is just a birds-eye view or guide for understanding what your team is up to. One on one debriefings or retrospectives will help and are more effective in finding out what is really going on with your organization. If you really want to be more effective as a manager, get in the trenches. Try to be at par with your testers' knowledge about the product. As a manager, your mission is two fold; serve your organization in making sure your testers are finding the necessary information about the quality of your software and you serve your testers in making sure that you enable them to do what they were hired for and that is to test. Bugs are just the bonus that comes as a result of your team testing properly and intelligently.

The one main lesson that I can take with me from this is that, Test Management is indeed more about testing than management.


  1. SBTM by Jon Bach -

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