The flexible testing team Martin Jansson

The flexible testing team is one way of organising the testing team. It will not be the optimal in all situations and it might not fit all organisations or companies. It might not even be possible to fulfill this because of management issues. In any case, this is one way of looking at it and thinking about how to organise the team.

When should the flexible testing team be used?
The following criteria is recommended:
* When there are many unplannable test activities, that might coming more frequently
* When deliverables to the test team does not arrive when they are supposed to do
* When it in general is hard to plan the testing
* When there is no need to promise testing has covered “everything”
* When there is no promise from management that extra resources will arrive if there is an extreme work load

What are the success factors
To ensure that the flexible testing team is successful the following things could be used:
* Test planning is good to do by the week and having planned ahead tasks that are almost certain to happen
* Work off high priority tasks as quickly as possible (using the whole team if possible)
* Remove or postpone tasks that are not really high priority
* Make test preparations as early as possible or when there is slack in the plan
* Do not focus on too much administration and reports
* When speaking with project managers or management be flexible in your attitude
* Try to make project managers or management to be flexible with the tasks for your team

What does the term flexible really mean?
Flexibility according to Wikipedia.
Flexibility to whom or in what way?
It might be that management want the testing team to be flexible about their tasks or it might be that the team itself want to be flexible to be able to handle all tasks. Whatever the cause, it is good to understand who asks the team to be flexible as well as asking why and what it means, thus what it has to achieve to be considered flexible.

Flexibility to undertake anything that comes the teams way?
Sometimes it is impossible to be as flexible as the team would like and on those occations management need to assist with prioritizing tasks. In order to make it clear for the team what to expect and who are dependent on the team, consider the following questions:
* Who are able to use the testing team?
* What has been promised to them?
* Is the team able to say No?
* Is there resources that can be borrowed from other departments if the testing team is under resourced?
* Is there a plan B regarding resources if the team is under resourced still?

Flexibility to work both with short term and long term tasks?
It is important that the testing team is able to catch its breath sometimes. To work on long term test activities that invest for the future is essential for having a functional testing team. When the testing team does not have time for long term test activities during a longer period of time it should be seen as a major risk and that the testing team is under resourced.

Martin Jansson May 21st, 2008

Well, being flexible is context independent. Considering that you might work with different projects, for different customers where some might use the waterfall method and some using scrum being Agile. In this case you need to be flexible to handle all these cases. You might not be able to say that you work Agile in the strict Waterfall project, but it might work to say that you try to be flexible.

It might just be different words, but I think a manager would like it better if you say that you want to be flexible towards the organisation to handle anything that comes the test teams way. It has a nice ring to it.

Henrik Emilsson May 25th, 2008

I think this looks great, and I have had the opportunity to work in such a team.

Martin, what do you think are the main differences between a “Flexible test team” and an “Agile test team” (i.e., Agile with a capital A)?

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