Testing in Agile: roles merge but don't disappear

With current Agile approach there's a little bit of anxiety, especially among Software Testers, about "Roles merge" idea. Let me comfort you - roles do merge, but they do not disappear. Lets have a look at this in a little bit more details - first, let's discuss why roles do and should merge in Agile projects, then why they will never disappear.


Why roles merge

Agile team is typically is a cross-functional team having shared goal (well, at least in theory ^_^ ). For instance, this goal may be paint a room, prepare a party, write the best ever software or anything else. This means that there will be situation where one needs to step in and help others do they job.



Very great example of it was a truly agile and cross-functional team of criminals trying to rob a Casino in a movie "Ocean's eleven". It consists of criminals with various primary skills, but when necessary, one is abandoning his primary skill and doing something he is not specialized in.

Thus a nature of project in a complex and ever-changing environment - you will have to adjust your plan to conform real life. In software developer terms, when QA specialist struggles with testing some functionality, Development specialist may help or do some other test related work. Similarly, if all developers got flu (shit happens), somebody will have to proceed with implementing functionality. There's no time to wait, value should be delivered no matter what and team should do it's best to help this happen.

Naturally, team members are widening they skills in adjacent areas becoming more general specialist, merging roles. This also is great tool of decreasing project "Bus factor"

Why roles don't disappear

Still, one can't be very good at everything. It is hardly possible to be great front-end and back-end developer, or be both good at writing and testing software. Each skill requires time to grow. Skill exercised most will always be better developed then others.

Look at "Ocean's eleven" again. Each of team members is particularly good in somethings. In a similar fashion. you team will require somebody particularly good in front-end, database development and testing. Naturally, those who has particularly good skills in something will spend more time on exercising they skill, both because it lets us get value faster and because they just like doing their kind of things more. Roles will never disappear entirely, just be less prominent.

So what should I do?

Well, first of all, identify your primary skill you want to have. Choose what ever you like. Be good at it. Try to be best at it. Second, learn something outside your comfort zone. Make curiosity your habit.

And a small disclaimer - fact, that roles will not disappear doesn't mean demand for all roles will stay the same. It is possible that for particular role demand is going down, so try to have other options (secondary skill may be helpful here).

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