Test Architect

Testing as a career offers multiple paths for testers to traverse in pursuit of their career goals and aspirations. Testers generally take the regular path from being a junior engineer to fairly senior quality engineering positions such as test leadership roles before coming across a fork in the road, one path leading to Management and the other pointing to a Technical growth path. While the Management career path is fairly well known and Managers seem like a dime-a-dozen!, the Technical path tends to seem a little unclear especially if you have few Senior Technical Leaders in the Testing space to look upto in your organization. The purpose of this post is to hopefully shed some light on the Test Architect role which is part of the Technical growth path in Testing.

Without much ado, lets dive right in.

The Test Architect (TA) role is a senior position in the organization and is treated on par with equivalent Management positions in terms of rewards, recognition, visibility and influence. However, one basic factor that distinguishes a TA from a Manager is the absence of direct-responsibility for managing people. While Management tends to have people management as a core feature of the job, the TA does not directly manage people. However, this in no way lets the TA off the hook, so to speak, from influencing, mentoring, coaching and providing direction to members of the Testing Organization - all very important responsibilities of the TA.

The Test Architect -
  • provides Technical Leadership and Strategic Direction to the Testing Organization (TO)
  • is responsible for Test Strategy formulation
  • helps Formulate & Develop effective Test Architecture per organizational needs
  • is Technically responsible for all the Testing performed by the TO
  • is the foremost Technical Authority and is responsible for the overall Quality of deliverables across all parameters, both functional and non-functional including performance, security, usability, etc.
  • is expected to pro-actively analyze current processes and practices and suggest/ drive improvements. Also, defines processes as needed
  • has wide-reaching scope, impact and influence extending beyond the confines of the TO and spans across the entire product organization
  • is the counter part to the development architect
  • is involved in driving organization-wide Quality Process initiatives and their implementation to ensure Quality of deliverables
  • maintains a “big and complete” picture view of the product, its dependencies, organizational goals, technology arena, etc. and helps guide & direct the functioning of the TO appropriately
  • influences the product organization's future direction, strategy and planning
  • collaborates effectively & on an on-going basis with all constituents involved in product development & release activity including development, testing, technical publications, marketing, program management and other entities to ensure execution & deliverables per plan
  • is involved in customer engagements and provides customer facing organizations with necessary technical product support in making presentations, demos, pocs, etc. Also, receives and analyzes existing customer feedback to identify gaps as well as work with deployment / sustaining organizations as needed. Customer engagement activity also spans alpha / beta trial opportunities and acts as a liaison with customers and partners while ensuring Test strategy is aligned appropriately
  • helps with Test plan development
  • is responsible for design & development of the TO's Test Automation framework / harness and any in-house tools required. Where tools do not fully meet requirements of the TO, the TA writes code / develops components that can extend available tools or even design & develop tools as needed
  • is involved in understanding Business requirements and works with the development architect to translate requirements into solution architecture designs. Reviews requirements and seeks clarity as required, participates in product design reviews and works with the development architect and development team to make any design improvements and refinement as needed. Also helps incorporate Testability requirements into design
  • Analyzes competitive products and technologies and makes appropriate suggestions (may use demos, pocs) to influence product / technology direction
  • has overall product knowledge and is able to guide both junior and senior team members
  • influences Technical direction and use of technologies after making necessary evaluations
  • involved in hiring activities for the TO and mentoring of TO team members
  • pro-actively seeks to make continuous improvements to Test coverage, execution and automation
  • is results oriented and has a high degree of accountability, commitment and responsibility. The expectation is that involving a TA in a project is a guarantee of obtaining positive outcomes
  • participates in test planning for all products handled by the TO and owns the test artifacts such as test specs, code, etc.
  • Growth upwards from a TA level is towards a more senior role with wider scope of activity & influence across the organization. Needless to state the obvious, there is considerable enhancement in responsibilities and charter as progress is made upwards on the growth path
Some of the attributes expected of a Test Architect
  • Extensive Technical skills covering Product, Technologies and Competitive knowledge. Sound knowledge of domain / areas being handled is essential. Its not sufficient to be a specialist in any one area or technology and requires a wide and fairly deep understanding of a gamut of technologies and tools
  • Knowledge of current industry wide Quality & Test processes and practices, Tools and techniques
  • Ability to work with teams. This point cannot be emphasized enough since at this level, the last thing that would be acceptable is silo behavior or merely trying to be an individual star performer. Being able to get the team to perform at an outstanding level is absolutely essential here. The “ability to influence” despite not having direct reporting relationships is very key. In this position, a high EQ is as much a necessity as a high IQ. The ability to collaborate and co-operate is important
  • Excellent communication skills – within and outside of the TO, across teams, with customers – both horizontally and vertically, is important. Effective negotiation skills are very important too.
  • Another facet that is extremely important is an excellent working relationship with the Manager. No i don't say this because i'm viewed as being on the Management side ! The fact is to be a successful TA, requires working in tandem and close co-operation with Management, keeping Management abreast and updated of developments, seeking and providing inputs and feedback, regular reporting, etc. is very important. This attribute cannot be stressed enough
  • Ability to focus and prioritize is important. Understanding the distinction between the urgent and the important and effectively prioritizing tasks is key
  • Needs to focus on the explicit & implicit customer / user needs
  • Self-management is a key attribute expected of a TA. Being able to work without the need for follow-up or “too much” management is important. The TA should be self-motivated and a self-starter. No, this does not absolve the Manager of the responsibilities of managing the TA as needed !, but a TA should require very little following up to get things done. The expectation is when a TA is assigned to a product, project or specific area, positive & agreed upon results are guaranteed almost always
  • Ability to motivate self and others is important. Also, vital is being able to set a good example for the other members of the TO to follow
  • Ability to set goals is also key. In many instances, the TA will need to define and set goals including stretch-goals as appropriate
  • Patience and a touch of humility is valuable, especially in all dealings with team members. This is especially true when trying to mentor or guide other team members, the ability to articulate in ways that are understood by the listener at their level is necessary while also possessing good listening skills. The humility to acknowledge need for continuous learning and to undertake a program of learning to constantly update skills and keep abreast of current developments in the industry is vital
  • Ability to strategize and look ahead and at the big picture
  • A great deal of maturity, accountability, high degree of integrity, highest levels of pro-active behavior, ability to take initiative and professional behavior is naturally expected of a TA
  • Sound Project Management abilities is important
  • Software Analysis & Design knowledge/experience is needed while also having a solid background in Software Quality & Testing. Must have hands-on experience having performed both functional and non-functional testing and be able to review requirements, design and even code as needed
Am hoping the above is useful in gaining a general understanding of the Test Architect role and some of the expectations surrounding this position. The above list is in no way complete nor a full representation of the responsibilities / requirements of the Test Architect role. Each organization and even groups within the larger organization would have its own expectations that form part of the Test Architect's charter. However, most or all of the elements listed above would be present in one form or the other.

Signing-off this post with a short quote, "Successful people don't do great things, they only do small things in a great way."

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Excellent article, after reading this i am thinking of becoming a TA, not now though in future..;-)

Posted by Amit Bakhru on October 08, 2007 at 06:09 AM IST #

Good plan, Amit. Looking forward to that and my sincere best wishes too :)

Posted by John Morrison on October 08, 2007 at 06:23 AM IST #

Wonderful article John.The Test architects are called by different names in different companies, we end up calling him as a Staff Engineer Quality or a Quality Architect. I think one major challenge is the common naming across different companies.

Posted by Kalyan Moharla on October 09, 2007 at 07:52 AM IST #

Yes, a rose by name would smell just as sweet :)

Thanks for the feedback, Kalyan.

Posted by John Morrison on October 09, 2007 at 07:57 AM IST #

Greate Article. Acutally, we don't have any designated Test Architect or Quality Architect for our organization. However, I want to create the notion of how important this idividual can play role in quality organization. This is my future as well but let's see if I get there.

Posted by Pranit Patel on January 25, 2008 at 03:31 PM IST #

Thanks Pranit. I can see you are on the way there. As they say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step ... you've already taken the first and probably the most important steps towards your goal ... by way of your desire and plan for the future.

Best wishes and hoping you get there soon !

Posted by John Morrison on January 25, 2008 at 03:35 PM IST #

Excellent article John. Our company started off with a similar role last year -though it went by a different name. They were called Testing Experts. But everything that you listed fits the job description perfectly.
Great Read.

Posted by Arvind Ranganathan on March 26, 2008 at 03:07 AM IST #

Thanks for your feedback, Arvind. Good to hear that your organization has a similar role. If you think there are additional items that need to be added to the description, let me know too.

Posted by John Morrison on March 29, 2008 at 11:19 PM IST #

This article made atleast some of people as Test Architect

Posted by Vengateshbabu on April 10, 2008 at 10:14 AM IST #

Thanks for the feedback, Vengatesh.

Posted by John Morrison on April 14, 2008 at 01:49 AM IST #

Excellent article. I was looking for defining a role like this and this provided me ALL the info I needed. Thank you very much ! Can I use this for my document ?

Posted by Vandana on May 09, 2008 at 09:54 AM IST #

Of course you can. Please feel free to use this info. Also if you have any added insights, let me know too.

Thanks for your feedback,

- John

Posted by John Morrison on May 09, 2008 at 10:55 AM IST #

It's greatfull information, i wanna become a TA in my future Role. How could i reach this position Mr.John. Right now i am working as a Senior Test Engineer with Finance domain in a company. can you guide me?


Posted by vijay v on June 09, 2008 at 10:33 AM IST #

Do you think there is still a role for a Test Architect in an organization that is moving to Agile/Scrum since all Scrum teams are self managing and there really isn't a test organization any longer but maybe representatives in a team that maybe more knowledgeable about testing.

Posted by shirlch on June 11, 2008 at 04:58 AM IST #

Mr.John can you please give some breif road map for becoming Test Architect and its basic needs.

By Vengateshbabu Vijayakannan

Posted by guest on October 23, 2008 at 08:39 AM IST #

Mr.John can you please give some breif road map for becoming Test Architect and its basic needs.

By Vengateshbabu Vijayakannan

Posted by V.Vengateshbabu on October 23, 2008 at 08:40 AM IST #

Hi John,

I am into Product Testing for almost 4yrs, my aspiration is to become a TA. But i am blindfolded and dont know which way i can achieve my Goal. Kindly walk me thru on how to become a TA. Awaiting your reply......

Posted by David on June 01, 2009 at 08:57 AM IST #

"Road to quality as has no finish line". Excellent article that defines the roles and responsibilities of a TA.

Posted by Rodzes on July 31, 2009 at 01:36 PM IST #

Hi Rodzes, Thanks for your feedback.

Also, thanks are due to all the wonderful folks who have posted comments here and have been visiting the blog. I have unfortunately not been able to reply to most comments yet. Have meanwhile, moved blogging on QA & testing to another site - http://softwareandquality.blogspot.com

Do stop by when you find the time and provide your feedback. I'll try and respond as soon as i can, going forward.

- John

Posted by John Morrison on July 31, 2009 at 02:11 PM IST #

Hi John,

This is the BEST article I have read which is granular, clear and articulative about what TA activites are and what is expected of them. I think you should plan to write similiar descriptions for other roles in a test organization. This could be then advocated to be used by the industry as a reference. I offer myself to help you with, if it benefits us. Please feel free to comment and respond.


Posted by Raghu on November 12, 2009 at 09:05 AM IST #

good article about QA Job...very informative and beneficial for my company

Posted by holy on January 26, 2010 at 08:23 AM IST #

thank you John - I'm being offerred one and i was wondering exactly what it involved as i kept being told that i fit the bill - but didn't what the 'bill' was!....:):)...thank you for an enlightening article..:)

I do have a query though? - so where does the delivery of the strategy fit in? - is this where test managers & analysts take over?...


Posted by chitrali on February 02, 2010 at 06:21 AM IST #

Congratulations, Chitrali !

While choosing a test strategy is usually the responsibility of the test manager, when a TA is available, both can jointly craft the strategy document and take on the responsibility for its implementation and delivery. The TA works closely with the Test Manager on various tasks and they can together ensure the right strategy is chosen and followed to meet the objectives.

Yes, in many instances the requirements for such roles is fairly fluid (the "bill" is sometimes left undefined) while the TA would be expected to take on initiative and add value.

All the best to your new role!

- John

Posted by John Morrison on February 02, 2010 at 12:31 PM IST #

Hi John,

thanks so much for your prompt response. Apologies if this follow-up is not relevant, but how does a TA or a senior TA role compare to say, being a project manager?...are they 'parallel' in an organisation's hierarchy (generally) or "higher" or "lower" etc?...is it even possible to make that sort of comparison?...please do let me know if this is a query i can take elsewhere, thanks very much.


Posted by chitrali on February 03, 2010 at 01:10 AM IST #

Hi John,
Excellent article! I can say you have enlightened a lot of people just looking at the thread of comments that go way back as 2007 and you are still receiving comments! :)

I play a similar role at my organization and since the concept was introduced just about a year ago, the roles & responsibilities were not clear enough. I will certainly take some of your points when I go back and prepare the list. Also, another thing that I am involved in is research of industry best trends in software testing (be it tools, techniques, methodologies) and applying them in the operations group.

My 2 cents there!

Thanks again for a great article!

Posted by Rashmi Chandur on March 03, 2010 at 09:38 AM IST #

Thanks for the feedback, Rashmi ! All the best on your endeavors.

Posted by John Morrison on March 03, 2010 at 11:25 AM IST #

Good article, John.
Can you please elaborate on what you consider as 'test architecture' in bullet no.3? Cos I see multiple interpretations by people and would like to know what you are considering as test architecture.

Posted by Gopi on September 06, 2010 at 03:14 AM IST #

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