Wednesday 19 November 2014

Different Ideas for Defect Management

I believe that a good defect management process should encourage and facilitate discussion between developers and testers. Frustration with the way in which defects are reported and managed may be due to a lack, or absence, of conversation.

The way that you manage defects should depend on your development methodology, location of team members, and company culture. Yet it seems that many testers adopt a bug tracking tool as the only way to communicate problems, with little consideration to establishing team relationships. Finding a bug is a perfect excuse for a tester to speak to a developer; utilise this opportunity!

Here are four different ideas for defect management that pair the tools we use with developer interaction based on my own experiences.

Bug tracking tool

I worked onsite with a client in South America, installing hardware and software then co-ordinating testing across the wider solution. The developers supporting this install were based in New Zealand, which meant that they were largely unavailable during South American business hours.

Though our software had a user interface, much of the function was performed by backend components. The information required to identify and fix problems was recorded in multiple log files stored in different locations.

During the day, I would identify problems, reproduce them, capture a clean set of log files, and then raise an appropriate defect in our bug tracking tool. The tool required a number of attributes to be set for each bug; priority, severity, component, etc. They also had a title, short description, and a set of attached logs that the developer could reference.

In this environment, I felt that the tool was essential to manage a high volume of problems with associated logs. However communicating via the tool alone was ineffective. When the New Zealand based developer arrived at work, he would have an inbox full of notifications from the bug tracking system reflecting the problems resolved, remaining and discovered during our day. The volume of these messages meant that he occasionally missed information that was important, or prioritised his time incorrectly.

I initiated a daily skype session for defect triage to explain which bug tracking notifications he should focus on, and why. This happened at the end of my day and the beginning of his. During this time he would try to ask enough questions to understand the complexities of the problem, so that he could provide a timely fix. These conversations helped us to create a rapid and effective defect turnaround.

Visual management board

I worked in a team developing a web application using a kanban development methodology. We focused on flow through the process, which meant that stories were rarely owned by individuals. Instead tasks across multiple pieces of functionality were shared among all the developers.

The team used a visual management board that occupied a large whiteboard alongside our workspace. This board was frequently referred to and updated throughout the day, not just at our morning stand up meeting. Upon completing a task, both developers and testers would determine their next activity by visiting the board.

We used the same board for defect management. If issues were discovered during testing, I would write each one on a post-it note and attach it to the board. In this team, issues generally manifested in the user interface and were relatively simple to reproduce. A post-it note usually captured enough information for the problem to be understood by others.

New defects would be picked up as a priority when a developer visited the board in search of a new task. They would place their avatar on the defect, and then speak to me about anything that they didn’t understand, or wanted to question the validity of.

As problems were resolved, the developer would commit their change to the repository and we would swap my avatar onto the task. Bugs would then move to “done” in the same manner as other tasks on the board.

Desk delivery

I worked in a team developing a web application using the scrum framework for agile development. In this team stories were adopted by one or two developers, who would work on tasks and take ownership of fixing any associated defects discovered during testing.

We had an electronic visual management board that was used regularly and updated often. There was also a physical visual management board, but this would only match the electronic version immediately after our daily stand up had occurred.

The piece of software that provided the electronic board also offered defect tracking functionality. In this organisation I was reluctant to use a defect tracking application, as I felt the team were at a real risk of communicating solely through tools despite being co-located. Instead I decided to record my bugs on post-it notes.

Unlike the previous scenario, in this situation there was little point in sticking these post-it notes on the physical visual management board. It wasn't being used often enough. Instead I would take them directly to the developer who was working on the story.

My post-it note delivery style varied depending on the developer. One developer was quite happy for me to arrive at his desk, read out what was written on each post-it, then talk about the problems. Another preferred that I show her each defect in her local version of the application so that she was sure she understood what to change.

The developers would work from a set of post-it note defects lined up along their desk. As they resolved problems they would return the associated post-it to me. Having to transfer the physical object increased the opportunity for conversation and helped create relationships. There was also a healthy level of competition in trying not to have the most post-it notes stuck to your desk!

Cloud-based visual model

I worked in a team developing a web application using an agile methodology. This team was co-located in one area of the office, as we all worked part time on other projects.

A portable visual management board was created and maintained by the business analyst using a large piece of cardboard. It was kept under his desk and only used during our daily stand up meeting to discuss our progress.

From a defect management perspective, this organisation prided itself on its trendy culture. Though a bug tracking tool existed it was largely used by call centre staff to record customer issues in production.

In this team I decided to communicate information about my testing using a cloud based visual model. Each person in the team had a MindMeister account. I used this software to create a mind map showing my test ideas, reflect progress through testing, and to record defects, which were highlighted in red and had an attached note that explained the problem.

When I completed a testing task, I would send the developers a link via instant messaging to the cloud-based visual model. They could see where the problems were, and would respond with questions if anything was unclear. They seemed to like being able to see defects within a wider context, and were quite positive about a nifty new tool!


  1. Great post Katrina! What really caught my eye was the opportunity to speak with a developer!

    We have been discovering a fair amount of bugs recently and logging them in our tracking tool. What has surprised me is the diversity of reaction to the bugs and lack of understanding on how to manage them. After a week, we finally realized that we must have everyone meet to learn how to address bugs for our project. I thought I might be describing our process but now I might approach it but now I'll have a more collaborative delivery.

    I agree defects are an opportunity to speak with developers. I also encourage my team member to introduce themselves at the start of the project, and speak with the developer frequently to learn what they're doing, to discover possible difference in requirements interpretation, and to share testing ideas.

  2. Oh the good old days of face-to-face communications. In one organisation I worked people sitting alongside each other would use IRC to communicate!

    On a more serious note. In those circumstances where you recorded the problem on a stick note that was later discarded - if asked, did you find it harder to tell the product story (how the product can work, how it fails, and how it might fail in ways that matter)? Or did you keep a separate list of this sort of stuff?

  3. Great article Katrina, I too share the frustration with the obsession for bug tracking tools and communication mediated by tools.

    I work with agile teams and decided to remove every trace of a bug management tool about 4 years ago, the results on flow, tester/developer relationships and general collaboration have been excellent. If you want to know more about my experience have a look at

    I look forward to your next post!