Sometimes a product manager is asked to do things like testing to help software development processes. This is especially true for product management job titles like product owners, business analysts, product analysts, etc. What about when the product manager is the primary tester? Sure, there are reasons why it can be a good thing. First and foremost, it is a great way for a product manager to understand the product and how it is used. However, I wanted to focus on the limitations of this arrangement. I’ve compiled a few of the consequences that arise from having product managers as the primary testers. These include impacts on the development process, conflicts of interest, and impacts on the performance of the product manager.
Impacts on the Development Process
- The turnstile. Using the product manager as a tester is to have one person be the action person for too many parts of the process. You’ll be at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the team’s work. In this flow, the product manager naturally becomes a bottleneck.
- The weird smell. You’ll be less likely to investigate something that passes, but passes oddly (something’s not right). In an ideal world, an engineer or tester should investigate the weird smell. A product manager probably doesn’t have the expertise or the time.
- The importance of testing. Testing is a full-time job (usability testing, performance testing, load testing, security testing, etc.). Doesn’t there need to be a dedicated person doing this job?
- The stuntman argument. If you’re an actor, you may not want to do your own stunts because it takes away work from a stuntman. Same argument here: you’re taking away experience from a junior engineer.
Conflicts of Interest
- Pulled in different directions. Product managers should want to ship the product as soon as possible; testers should want to send problems back to engineers to ensure quality. Product managers who test face tough decisions on what is important.
- Scope creep. The product manager will have the ability to sneak in additional requirements to get it perfect. It’s always very tempting for a product manager to do.
- Perfectionism. Being the finder of bugs makes you more likely to delay a launch to address a defect. After all, finding and squashing the bugs is what a good tester does.
Impacts on Your Performance as a Product Manager
- Less time for your day job. You’ll have less time to interface with customers. Understanding customers is probably the most important thing for a product manager to do.
- Different mindset. Testing puts you more in the details, and less with the overall vision. Testing every day can shift focus away from developing the 3-year big picture, or at least developing the big picture with an open mind.
- One more way to be wrong. As the product manager, you’ll be the throat to choke for starting late. As the tester, you’ll be the throat to choke for the launch being delayed. Why open yourself up to more potential criticism?
What do you think about product management and testing? Leave a comment!
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