Project Manager’s Guide to Reducing Defects in Production

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In typical software teams, when multiple issues are reported in a software application, some may get lost in between various versions of spreadsheets. Due to the complex and incoherent records of the reported issues, they become very difficult to track and control. This hampers the overall quality of the software application.

The above situation has become a serious challenge for companies today as the release cycles and time between sprints are getting shorter and there is pressure on teams to release products faster 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 product, and so the fundamental goal of the developers and testers is to identify and mitigate all major 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 technical issues are all different forms of defects which are most likely to occur during the development and production process.

However, the typical testing and quality assurance approach for eliminating defects in the application is not sufficient as it usually comes as an afterthought and is not embedded in the initial phases of the development and production. Focus is on discovering defects and then resolving them, instead of preventing the defects from occurring during the production stage with the use of effective issue tracking tools.

Importance of Defect Escape Rate for Project Managers

The defect escape rate is used to measure the number of bugs and issues that have escaped the quality assurance test in the development and production phase and still 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.

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, which is preferably closer to zero, is indicative of a high-quality defect tracking system or testing tool that facilitates the organizations in achieving their goals. The best way to calculate the defect escape rate is to utilize the issue tracking tools which keep track of defects without having to worry about organizing defects.

Steps and strategies for defect prevention

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

Software requirements analysis

According to Crosstalk, the Journal of Defense Software Engineering, around 64% of software failures are caused by defects in software requirements and design as opposed to the source code. 

Requirements management is actually quality management. Precisely, pre-defined requirements reduce rework and situations of deadlock in the software lifecycle. 

Project managers must process, analyze, document, and validate software requirements for errors before they become harder to resolve. Front-end errors are not detected in the design and requirements through the normal testing process, and, therefore, require pre-test reviews and analysis.

Code review sessions

You, as a project manager, should conduct these sessions invariably for self-reviews and peer-reviews as they are effective pre-testing activities that facilitate the developers in uncovering errors, especially in terms of incorrect logic or certain missing conditions in the code. 

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Source: HackerRank Developer Skills Report 2019

Thus, in-depth code reviews are one of the safest procedures to reduce production defects. These review sessions also guarantee that the process your organization plans to establish is examined and practiced.

Document the defects

With the help of the systematic process of logging and documentation, a structured defect tracking 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. 

Root-cause analysis

Once the defects have been logged in the system and documented, the next step for project managers is the determination of preventive measures for defects and root cause analysis. 

The root-cause analysis is based on three main principles: 

  1. Reduction in the size and frequency of defects to improve the overall quality;
  2. Application of local expertise–especially the members who were present when the defect occurred;
  3. Targeting systematic errors found in a typical software application.

Quality Assurance Plan 

As a project manager, putting the right Quality Assurance (QA) Plan or Software Testing Strategy in the onset sets puts the team on a strong footing in terms of setting expectations and then delivering. Some of the main things that go in that plan include: 

  • Understanding the product and the quality expectations of end-users;
  • Type of testing required (e.g. functional, performance, etc.);
  • Setting up a time and budget estimate;
  • Estimating required resources;
  • Planning for tools and environment.

Read more on how to make a test plan.