Resource planning in a flexible test team Martin Jansson

How many should be employed?
The quick answer is as many employees that are needed to call the team flexible, but it is not as simple a that. In order to get resources for the team, the team leader usually need to prove he/she needs resources at a certain time. Since the team tries to be as flexible as possible, thus planning short term, it is hard to say when the team need more resources. Naturally planning long term and being less flexible to change is not what the team is about, so short time planning where the team knows for sure what to do over the next two weeks is natural.

The team will know after a time what is a good number to be able to handle all that comes the teams way. The planned test activities might have less priority than the unplannable test activities that comes the teams way.

So in order to be able to be flexible and take on the special tasks while at the same time performing the planned test activities the team need to have enough members to be flexible. When there is less to do, the team will be able to invest in the long term test activities.

Should external resources be used?
If it is possible to have the same external resource available that have extensive knowledge about how the company works and how the projects, products and tasks are performed it is very good investment. But if the testing team need to be strengthened temporarily, it is better to look inside the organisation. Someone being temporary in QA will learn a lot and might contribute to the team in a fruitful way. It is even better to have a communicated plan B that includes certain resources that know full well that they might be used as extra resources for testing. Support personel and developers should be the first in. These extra resources should be educated how to work in QA when the organisation has the least to do, thus making it up to speed when the load is heavy.

Martin Jansson May 21st, 2008

I am now on the brink to consider how many resources we need to be flexible. All of a sudden you notice that you cannot say that you are flexible anymore. How did it happen?

In most cases it has to do with how many tasks you get assigned to you. How many projects can you work on at the same time? What quality level do each expect? Do you need to work on test automation?

When you tell project managers and other managers that the test team is a service to the organisation it might result that they notice how big a service you can be. This might lead to too much work. So, do you say that you can deliver it all… or is it better to say what you could deliver?

With an increased work load it is natural that you need to expand your team. Recruiting for the long term takes a long time, so you need to communicate this to management as well.

Henrik Emilsson June 9th, 2008

To be able to be as flexible as possible and try to mitigate workload peaks, I have used the “slacker resource” strategy with success.
I.e., either have one resource that is not assigned any planned work packages during the month/iteration/week; or assign work packages that make up only 75% of all your resources available working hours.
This way the “slacker resource” can meet those extra hours per week that is necessary to meet the objectives.

I might add that you should be careful with how you communicate this strategy to your project/company environment. It should rather be used as an internal strategy to cope with various and dynamic workloads in a team/project, and to cope with slips in the plan.

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