Project Manager’s Guide to Reducing Defects in Production

Project Manager Guide to Reducing Defects in Production

In a traditional ‘waterfall’ organization, when an issue or bug is reported in a software application during the development lifecycle, either they get lost in the sheaf of papers that are never logged in the computer, or they are incomprehensible in a disheveled and unorganized spreadsheet. Due to the complex and incoherent records of the issues that have been reported, they are nearly impossible to analyze which is detrimental to the overall quality of the software application, as the managers are forced to rely on hearsay and there is no proper way to track the progress of the issue. This has become a serious challenge for companies today as the release cycles and time between sprints are getting shorter and there is a lot of pressure on the organizations to release products as fast as possible without compromising on quality. This means that most organizations have taken a drastic shift from the traditional approach and have adopted agile and DevOps methodologies to improve their processes.

Bugs and defects are an inherent part of a software products, and so the fundamental goal of the developers and testers is to identify and mitigate all possible bugs before they move into the further stages of production and become too large to handle. Any variance from the expected behavior of the software application, be it performance or usability, can be classified as a defect, for instance, new application errors, performance problems, user experience issues, or any other regular problems are all different forms of defects which are most likely to occur during the development and production process. As stated before, the earlier the defects are identified, the more cost-effective and effective it is to resolve that issue. However, the typical testing and quality assurance approach for eliminating defects in the application is counterproductive, mainly because it usually comes as an afterthought and is not embedded in the initial phases of the development and production. Thus, the focus is primarily on discovering defects and then resolving them, instead of preventing the defects from happening during the production stage with the use of effective issue tracking tools.

Importance of Defect Escape Rate for Project Managers

Having to overlook bugs and issues in the system before production is criminal, and the defect escape rate is used to measure the number of bugs and issues which have escaped the quality assurance test in the development and production phase and persists in the system. This metric especially comes in handy if there is a need to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of the testing process and defect tracking system that is currently being used. The ability of the testing tools to effectively track, manage, organize, and schedule the prevailing issues is the software application that can be measured by this metric. A higher defect escape rate denotes that there might be a problem with the testing tool or the testing process, while a lower defect escape rate, that is preferably closer to zero, is indicative of high-quality testing tools that facilitate the organizations in achieving their goals. The best way to calculate the defect escape rate is to utilize the issue tracking tools which allows more room to the developers to discover detects and issues in the system while they are writing the code. It is also important for the software developers to document their testing strategy for every work item, for instance, if they are working on a specific item, then it is required to make notes about which automated testing strategy would be best, or which manual testing approach suits this work item.

Steps and Strategies for Defect Prevention

As a project manager with a vested interest in the software development cycle, the underlying goal is to reduce the percentage of defect count by a significant margin. From developing the right attitude towards defects to changing the strategic testing approach altogether, project managers take some serious measures to ensure that the end product is at par with the quality standards. 

According to a research study carried out by Crosstalk, the Journal of Defense Software Engineering, a large number (around 64 %) of software failures are caused by defects and issues in software requirements and design as opposed to the source code. This is why a thorough software requirements analysis should be on top of the checklist for project managers, as not only are errors more probable in design and requirements, but they are also more severe and harder to resolve. This is especially important because front end errors that are detected in the design and requirements cannot be identified through the normal testing process, instead, they require pre-test reviews and thorough inspections.
Code review sessions including self-reviews and peer-reviews should be conducted by the project managers invariably as they are effective pre-testing activities that facilitate the developers in uncovering the errors, especially in terms of incorrect logic or certain missing conditions, in the code. 

In addition to that, with the help of the systematic process of logging and documentation, a structured tracking of defect progress system can be established by project managers which offers the means to spot defect depletion trends or reduce overall costs. A defect logging system, such as issue tracking tools, must include all critical information about the defects, such as, the development phase at which the defect was found, the members who identified and reported the defects, complete and authentic information about all aspects of the defect, and the severity and impact of the defect. 

Once the defects and issues have been logged in the system and documented, the next step in this process for project managers is the determination of the preventive measures for defects and root cause analysis. It is of utmost importance for the project managers to analyze and explore the root causes of the defects so that effective preventive measures can be taken. The root-cause analysis is primarily based on three main principles; reduction in the size and frequency of defects to improve the overall quality, application of local expertise (especially the members who were present when the defect occurred), and lastly, targeting the systematic errors that are found in a typical software application.