Maintaining Technical Excellence: A Slack Takeover with Jeff Payne | TechWell

Maintaining Technical Excellence: A Slack Takeover with Jeff Payne

Jeff Payne

Thought leaders throughout the software community are taking over the TechWell Hub for a day to introduce themselves, answer questions, and engage in conversations.

Jeff Payne is the CEO and founder of Coveros, a consulting company that helps organizations accelerate delivery using agile methods. He presided over our most recent Slack takeover, which led to some insightful discussions.

Agile Transformation Requires Management Transformation

“Do you think not having a test manager in agile helps the agile team, or can it be detrimental in the long run?” —@Harris Hasan

There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to agile. When starting an agile transformation, @Jeff Payne suggested looking at each role that managers play in the existing structure and mapping those roles to the new cross-functional structure.

Make sure of three things:

  • Every critical role is still played by someone
  • The person fulfilling the role knows it’s part of their responsibility
  • Each person knows how to do the role they’re being asked to fulfill

Payne argues that most agile transformations don’t fail because people can’t learn new skills, but because necessary management roles that used to exist go missing.

Automate Documentation Based on Customer Requirements

“I am somewhat a 'test coordinator' between our vendor and client. We were asking for test reports from vendor QA, and they flatly said "Kanban cards are enough for everything!" My boss gave up and asked me to do something. I am not sure if there is a template of test reports that I can follow?” —@marj

When you need to provide documentation to management, you might consider automating the generation of the necessary reports. Payne offered some steps for getting started:

  1. Work with the business to define the structure of the report.
  2. Create a set of tags for the template to tell a piece of software what to put where. These tags are associated with particular fields or sets of fields in a storyboard application. Train the business on these tags so they can take the responsibility of creating new document templates as their needs change.
  3. Create a set of scripts or an application that inputs a document template name and a location of a story board. The output is a document with the tags replaced with the appropriate information.

Maintain Technical Excellence through Leading

“One thing that I find myself continually struggling with is balancing being a test leader and being a tester. I find myself losing my testing and technical skills because I’m not using them. Granted I am always happy to help my team test, but they gel and I usually get the answer of ‘We've got this!’” —@JannaLoeffler

Leaders need to find ways to combine their need to maintain technical capabilities with the team’s need to learn, grow, and self-lead.

Payne offered five strategies for combining leadership and technical maintenance:

  • Pair with someone when they need help
  • Assist with something the team has committed to that they won’t be able to get done in the necessary timeframe
  • Provide examples and partial solutions to nudge the team in the right direction
  • Volunteer to play a testing role on a small project and let someone else lead it
  • Learn new concepts and ideas while putting together training material and demos as a way to push yourself to keep up with current technology

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