As a Quality Assurance Engineer at Moniepoint Inc., amongst other things, I track and report software defects. Trust me; it can be overwhelming trying to track software defects. But a rewarding feeling comes with sorting out these defects to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Software defects, also known as bugs, can cause significant problems for software development teams. In a more general term, Software defects are "any threat to the value of the product to any of the stakeholders." Most defects occur because of mistakes in program design, source code, or in the operating systems on which the program is running. These defects can lead to loss, costly delays, decreased user satisfaction, and even security breaches.
Therefore, tracking and reporting software defects effectively is crucial to ensure that they are addressed promptly and efficiently.
This article will discuss all-encompassing angles for tracking and reporting software defects. Let's start with the process itself.
The tracking and reporting of software defects process
To track and report software defects, you should:
1. Use a defect-tracking system
A defect-tracking system is a tool that helps software development teams manage and track defects throughout the development process. The tool you use for this process is not set-in-stone as it differs based on different factors.
There are many defect tracking systems available, both free and paid. The most popular ones include Jira, Bugzilla, and GitHub Issues. At Moniepoint Inc., we use Jira, which is fully integrated with QMetry application (our mainstay test management tool). So, you can choose a tool based on its efficiency, ability to integrate seamlessly with other test management tools, subscription package, personal preference, organization choice, etc.
A good defect tracking system should allow you to categorize, prioritize, and assign defects to specific team members. It should also provide a clear view of the defect's status and allow accessible communication between team members.
2. Provide detailed descriptions
After using the defect tracking system to pick out a bug, you need to relay the details of the issue to the teams involved. Therefore, you must provide detailed descriptions of the defect. It helps ensure stakeholders know where they need to come in to resolve the bug.
Your description should include steps to reproduce the issue, screenshots or videos, and other relevant information, such as browser or operating system versions. The more information provided, the easier it will be for the development team to reproduce the issue and determine the root cause.
3. Prioritize defects
It is essential to understand that not all defects are created equal. Some bugs may be critical, while others may be minor. It is vital to prioritize defects based on their severity and impact on the software.
The development team can now focus on and address the most critical defects on time. You wouldn't want to make the mistake of treating less critical bugs than the important ones.
As we go further, I'll talk more about defects prioritization.
4. Assign defects to specific team members
Once a defect has been reported, it should be assigned to a specific team member for resolution. It helps to ensure that each bug is being actively worked on and prevents duplication of effort. It also allows for accountability and ensures that defects are not overlooked.
By doing this, everyone knows the role they have to play, and it can be tracked to ensure efficiency. If you leave the defects without assigning them to anyone, they may stay for weeks or months without being resolved. And you can't fault anyone for it in this case as you didn't assign the defects to any specific person.
5. Test fixes thoroughly
Once the development team fixes and returns the defect, verifying it has been restored is essential. It involves testing the software application again to ensure the bug no longer exists. If the defect has not been fully fixed, it should be recorded as a new defect, and the process should begin again.
It includes both manual testing and automated testing. Automated testing can benefit regression testing to ensure the fix has not caused unintended side effects.
6. Communicate the status of defects
Effective communication is vital to ensuring that defects are tracked and resolved promptly. It includes updating the defect tracking system with the status of each defect and communicating any updates or changes to the development team and other stakeholders. It allows everyone to stay informed and ensures everyone is working towards the same goal.
You must have excellent written and verbal communication skills as a QA engineer. Some people tend to ignore these skills when talking about QA engineers. However, you cannot excel without them.
Now let's reanalyze prioritizing defects and how to go about it. You may wonder, how do I know what bugs to treat first? For example, when executing your test, you tend to find different kinds of bugs, unfortunately your defect tracking system cannot help to categorize defects automatically, hence the decisions on that is all yours. That said, knowing or picking the defect that should be handled first might be confusing.
One thing you should always consider when you want to fix a bug is its impact, the impact of the bug on the application. For example, there are bugs we call blockers or showstoppers. If you don't fix these bugs, you can't move forward with using the application.
Let's say you want to watch a movie on your favorite streaming platform and it has a showstopper bug, which prevents you from being able to log in. You definitely won’t be able to stream without login. Login bug is your showstopper in this case.
Another example is when you want to call on your phone and cannot access the dialer application. Thus, limiting you from inputting numbers. Now, you may want to test for the quality of the call, sound quality, connectivity promptness, etc. All these would be impossible as there is a blocker bug, and you can't even dial a number. So, these kinds of bugs should always take priority.
Measuring the effectiveness of your process
Often, people carry out processes without running checks on their effectiveness. Tracking and reporting software defects goes beyond the process alone as you need to checkmate the process to check if it should be continued or if you'd need new approaches.
Therefore, it is essential to have a metric that checks this effectiveness. The best approach is to check the estimated turn-around time for handling the bug.
Let's say we've agreed that the bug needs to be fixed and closed within 24 hours. Our process is effective if everything is done within that time frame. We could use 10 hours, 20 hours, 22 hours, etc. But once we go beyond the 24-hour time frame, it shows that the process could be more efficient, and we are lagging.
Thus, we would need to return to the drawing board and develop a process that suits the 24-hour time frame.
Involving stakeholders in the process
There are usually many stakeholders involved in any process. Many people track, report, and resolve a bug issue, as it doesn't concern the QA engineer alone. You'd have the project manager, product manager, testers, developers, etc. And it is vital to carry everyone along to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Communication is essential in this aspect, as information needs to be passed around. Ideally, all stakeholders should be carried along from the beginning of the task. So, there should be a task board from the start.
On this task board, we'd have the names of the product managers, enterprise architects, and all stakeholders involved. When a bug is detected, everyone is notified and carried along. The task board can be any tool you use, although Jira is the most common.
If you are not carried along from the beginning, you can still be added to the task along the line on Jira. The process is like tagging someone on social media. So once I tag your name, it adds you as a recipient of notifications on any kind of update made to the task.
In conclusion, tracking and reporting software defects is essential to software development. Using a defect tracking system, providing detailed descriptions, prioritizing defects, assigning defects to specific team members, testing fixes thoroughly, and communicating the status of defects are all critical best practices to follow. By following these best practices, software development teams can ensure that bugs are addressed promptly and efficiently, leading to higher-quality software and happier users.