Making Requests for Additional Staff

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Getting senior management to agree to hire extra staff for the test team can be difficult, even in the best of organizations. The discussion is often a battle of differing opinions that leaves both sides feeling frustrated and uncertain of the real need for the extra staff. In this article, Mark describes how a fact-based approach can get senior management on your side.

Qualifying the need for additional Testing Staff
One of the things I always expect Test Managers and staff to say is "We need more testers in the team." I'd say this is so common I'd expect any Test Manager that doesn't say it to be thinking it. I certainly have and about what a struggle it is to get the extra staff.

The need for extra staff is very real for most teams, not just the test team, but for the test team it seems we often have a serious struggle to achieve sign-off of the needed budget and headcount.

Often the need for extra staff is a perceived one based on the Test Manager’s professional experience and understanding of what activities the team should be doing but can’t seem to get around to delivering. The need being a perceived one is often the central reason getting that extra budget and headcount signed-off is so difficult.

Unqualified Request
If the request isn't qualified then i's just an opinion based on the Test Manager's viewpoint and not driven by facts. As a consequence the request is easily countered by someone else’s opinion, usually that of the senior manager who has control of budget and headcount.

In my experience the responses from the organisation are so consistent they could be scripted;

  • "Are they wasting time, not working hard enough?"
    Because the senior management don't know what the test team actually do or what it takes to do what they do–they're obviously not being professional and efficient. If the test team would just work in a smarter way then they wouldn't need the extra staff.
  • "Are they doing the wrong work?"
    If they need more staff to do more work, yet we have quality issues such as bugs going out, then they mustn’t be doing the right kind of work in the first place. You want more staff to do more stuff wrong? Maybe start doing the right kind of work first then we can see if the extra staff are needed.
  • "They seem to waste a lot of time in meetings"
    Weekly team meetings last over an hour, does it take that long for such a small team, does it need to be every week? Also, they sit together going through documents with customers taking their time up as well. The Test Manager is in meetings that aren't that important for the test team, could they get the information off others afterwards?
  • "The Test Manager has only have 3 people to look after, aren’t they testing?"
    What is it the Test Manager is actually doing in the day other than meetings; with only 3 staff to manage that can’t be taking much time can it? When you say there are only 3 testers in the team we worked out we needed 4 and there are 4 with the Test Manager–or is the Test Manager not testing?

After the senior manager has shared these various opinions it's not uncommon for the Test Manager to find themselves frustrated and unable to respond in any convincing way. It's all too easy to get into many rounds of discussions such as the above, each side arguing their viewpoint but getting nowhere.

Remember the senior manager may feel the same way, don't forget they often have to go to their own managers and put forward the case you're giving them. They need to feel reassured about your request too.

In these circumstances the Test Manager needs to make sure they have all the facts to hand before they attempt to have the conversation again. While it would

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