Bigger product / more complexity? You need parallel teams!

our work will benefit from someone with a designated responsibility for planning the joint test work and defining a common test strategy.

Having a test leader helps us to ensure product quality by having a strategic and well planned approach to test the work, even when we are working agile. The test leader is not to be placed in one of the teams, but should sit outside the teams to be able to focus on the overall approach.

Support in testing communication within and outside the team

The test leader is a leader for testers in individual Lean|Agile Teams. Not only does the test leader help testers to think about how to test his team’s tasks, he or she is also helpful when motivation is short. Test leaders also help to drive the continuous improvement efforts from a testing perspective as a whole.
We need someone who can assess which approach has worked better in one team, from a testing perspective, and who can lift it to become a norm for all the teams. It is hard to see beyond the team and see why someone else’s work is better than your own. 

How do we copy something that worked well in a team to another? How do we learn and find new approaches that can give us even more?

A very good solution is to conduct a retrospective  session with the testers from all teams. The purpose of the retrospective is to identify pros and cons with the current way of handling things in order to improve the process.

In larger Agile delivery, the principle “Scrum of Scrums” is usually implemented. At regular meetings representatives from each team meet to focus on overlapping activities and integration issues. The same principle can be applied to testing to create a “test of tests” where test issues are under focus. As a test leader in an agile world, it is your responsibility to ensure that this happens. The Scrum Master could do it, but often they do not have the testing-knowledge needed to bring this improvement to its “next step”.

The test leader will also meet other stakeholders such as the client, Program Portfolio Leadership, or whoever is responsible for funding in your organization. Probably no single team is responsible for this, but it is a joint initiative and needs to be managed as such. However, it could also be the end-users that plan and conduct demos and user testing. Each team’s testers can not run to the same people and ask for help, but obviously we need to coordinate it to be effective. Again, we say that the Scrum Master usually does not have the testing-knowledge that is needed to explain the need or to be able to analyze the results. In the high level planning activities, it will also be important to get estimates from testing, this is where a Test Lead can also represent the group of testers, so the testers can focus on the work on hand. In any delivery, there is always someone who needs to assume that role, and why should not there be a Test Lead?

Agile Test Lead? Of course!

Someone always takes on the role of test leader, even in agile context. We have seen this over and over. Someone distributes work between what is internal team work and what is common test work. Someone reports the results of testing. Someone puts up the strategy for test work and plans the order in which the work should be carried out. If we are to call that someone by a name, that name would be Test Lead.