26 Jun

The Skills Triangle – Testing, Project Management, People

A little while ago I posted on the Triple Constraint triangle, and how Risk was a combination of managing budget, time, and quality.  In a similar vein, the test manager needs a combination of technical/testing skills, project management skills, and people (so-called “soft”) skills to be a truly effective manager.

As with the Risk Triangle, there is lot of crossover between the three (for example, the ability to convey a detailed plan to stakeholders requires Project Management planning ability, technical skill in the planning application, and soft skills to present appropriately).

Technical and Testing skills:
– Testing  – while it’s not necessary to be an expert tester, at least learn a variety of good testing methodologies and the basics of good testing to be able to put together a coherent and understandable test strategy. If you only know one way of testing then your test strategy will be one-dimensional and insufficient (aka if you only have a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail).
– Test tools – learning about the various tools available to help the testers will enable the test manager to make knowledgeable choices when setting up the test project. Test case management, defect management, automated testing/checking, SOAPui, iDoc xml, etc.
– Project Management tools – MS Project is the application of choice for most detailed project plans. There are free or low-cost alternatives available, and even MS Excel will do for some projects. Powerpoint is not a planning tool, it’s a presentation tool.
– Reporting tools – MS Excel is a powerful tool when used correctly, with charts, graphs, pivot tables, and complex formulas available to an experienced user. Powerpoint, Word, and Visio are also common tools used for reporting progress, and being able to extract data and reports from your test and project management tools is crucial.
– Domain skills – for an SAP Test Manager, an understanding of general business processes (sales, procurement, HR, logistics, finance, etc).

Project Management skills:
– Planning ability – from high-level one-page summaries down to intricate detailed tasks to achieve the milestones
– Organisation and multi-tasking – ability to juggle environment readiness, data checkpoints, tester identification and readiness, overlapping Build and Test Phases, etc
– Leadership – becoming the focal point for testing. Painting a picture of the test strategy and inspiring confidence in the test team and business to realise that strategy.
– Communication and Reporting – effective communication of the strategy, plan (both high-level and detailed), and effective reporting of test status.  Communication of the right level (of detail), to the right level (of stakeholder).
– Negotiation – from securing test resources, to length and timing of test phases, to environment and client availability, to downtime of test systems for dev updates, to test scope, ability to form key relationships and negotiate effectively is a key test management skill

People skills:
– Leadership (again)
– Team building and motivation
– Communication (again)
– Influencing
– Political and cultural awareness
– Negotiation
– Trust building
– Conflict management
– Coaching