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Good idea to bundle Proj. Mgr. + Tester?

Hey all,

We're a really small software company looking to improve our QA and customer experience. We do consulting, but we tend to retain customers for years and they continually develop new products with us.

Anyhow, we only have the budget to hire one good person right now. My question is, can I get away with hiring a single person to manage both our Project Management stuff, as well as function as a tester? Joel says never to make a programmer a tester which is why I'm somewhat hestitant about making ANYONE but a tester a tester.

Anyhow, I'm curious if this breaks any rules regarding separation of powers or something, outward-facing responsibilities vs. inward-facing ones. I can't think of anything, but I'd love to hear some suggestions.

- Jake

Friday, November 15, 2002

Damn, I began two paragraphs with "Anyhow." I hate that.

Friday, November 15, 2002

It really depends on what the Project Manager job entails. If you are talking about someone who will will center on the overall management of a project (doing only a small amount of code), then it should be fine. If you are talking about a Lead Developer, then it would be a bad idea.

The concept here is that you don't want the person testing the code to be the same one who wrote the code. Developers miss most of their own bugs. When someone else tests the code, they will always find things that the developer missed.

Personally, I think there is some value in having the person at the start of the process ("the designer") be the same person at the end of the process ("the tester"). It is a could help insure that the end product works the way it was designed to work. That is assuming of course that this person is equally as good at testing as they are at designing. That is the one problem with your plan, its going to be hard to find someone who is good at both.

Friday, November 15, 2002

It's a good idea. For a small outfit, the project manager should be checking quality anyway.

Must be a manager
Friday, November 15, 2002

I think it's a good idea, if and only if, you have no worries that the PM will attempt to short-change quality.

In other words, if his bonus is dependent on shipping on time, he's going to have a conflict-of-interest.  If sooner or later he says something like: "oh, it's good enough" or "we'll fix the bugs after ship", you're sunk.


If you are going to do salary reviews/bonuses for this type of person, I'd base it on customer acceptance tests/customer satisfaction, as well as ship on time and profitable. (I know, customer satisfaction and profitability often run against each other.  It's tricky.)

For a small shop, it's not a bad idea, especially if you team is small - this will keep the PM from micro-managing because he's so busy testing. :-)

Then again, you could probably get an intern from a local college for $7/hour for 20 hours a week, or from a high school for free.

just my $0.02.  To paraphrase Steve McConnell "if you are even thinking about this, you are probably in the top 10% of your field ..." :-)


Matthew Heusser
Friday, November 15, 2002

I may be off base here, but I know for a fact that no Project Manager I've ever met would take on a solo QA role (I've seen a few QA Managers roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, but that's different).

I'm also not sure the circular client relationship would work in the long-term (i.e., in your role as a programmer for their project they are your client; in their role as tester for your software you are their client).

If buggy software gets shipped due to lack of proper testing, do you really expect the PM to fall on his own sword?

(Come to think of it, with that arrangement I'll bet your shipping deadlines would be a LOT more realistic.)

Dunno Wair
Friday, November 15, 2002

Great responses. Thanks. Like many others, I've been an independent developer for so long I've never had to separate the PM/Coder/Tester part of me. Now that we're growing, addressing these issues is becoming a real pain. So there are three things, essentially, to be worried about:

- PM and Test are two totally different skill sets. Could pose a problem as our location is somewhat isolated making it hard to find talented individuals with experience.
- Relationship may be awkward if the PM doesn't present good specs to the developers, and when the same person tests they are unsatisfied (or some variation on that theme).
- PM has too much ego to test product. Clearly this is not somebody who has ever, or should ever, work in a small start-up.

There are those within our organization that feel we don't even need to fill the PM role. We have four active developers, and I think it's time, but there's dissention. So the big question, I suppose, is still up in the air, although I'm a bit more educated than I was when I walked in. Thanks.

- Jake

Friday, November 15, 2002

"Then again, you could probably get an intern from a local college for $7/hour for 20 hours a week, or from a high school for free."

dangerous (though all too common) idea. Such people are not qualified to do meaningful, methodical analysis and testing. And, certainly would not be able to do anything meaningful in the QA arena.

If they had an experienced, real, QA Manager to supervise and mentor such a neophyte, then it might work. But the shop in question doesn't have a senior experienced QC person.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Jake, if your guys aren't keen on having a project manager as such, you shouldn't have one, or at least, not defined that way.

The big problem is that project managers often have to fill co-ordination or support roles, but this gets confused into hierarchical things, which is not appropriate. That is, the manager part of the title is not accurate.

For your firm, you might be better hiring someone like a bus dev person who will handle relevant parts of product management.

Must be a manager
Saturday, November 16, 2002

Such people are not qualified to do meaningful, methodical analysis and testing ...

Respectfully, Uh, No.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, we have a company called X-Rite.  They make SW/HW tools for scanning color.

They built a world-class QA department called STARS (Software Test And Release System) - With a real manager and a buncha CS interns.

The creater of STARS went on to found SageStone Consulting, which has ~ 40 employees now.  (It's been about 5 years or so.) 

I submit to you that a good Junior CS major, given some room to learn about "good" testing, can do better than you'd think.  (I dunno about a brilliant high school student, but I would assume the same based on anecdotal evidence.)

just my $0.02 ...

Matt H.
Monday, November 18, 2002

Matt H. -

Regarding STARS. Well, that's very interesting. Question (clarification here, not trying to be contentious):  you mentioned there was a manager there. Did the manager serve as the QA/QC mentor for the interns?

If you recheck my previous comment, I believe you'll see that I allow success would be possible were such a mentor available.

If I'm wrong, well, not the first/last time for it. My experience in the field, while pretty broad and lengthy in a variety of ways, is certainly not all-encompassing. My statements were accurate applied within the extent of my experience.

Thanks for the information, though. I'll take a note of it and check it out; my current situation is one where I may find myself having to expand/contract departmental end strength fairly flexibly, with me being the 'mentor' (ok, ok 'old fart'), so if somebody's gotten that sort of thing to work well with the types of people in question, that could be useful to me.


Tuesday, November 19, 2002

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