Can a Defect Management Tool Make You a Better Tester?
I am not a big fan of tools that are single-purpose. Whether the tool in question is a kitchen gadget or a work management software, you want it to serve you multiple ways.
The benefit of a defect tracking tool is not just effective management but, did you know that defect tracking tools could help you be a better tester?
Firstly, Why to Use a Defect Tracking Tool?
In the absence of a Bug Tracking Tool, teams use spreadsheets to report, track and transport their bugs. While this might be a good temporary solution for small sized teams and projects, this is not a sustainable method.
Here is why.
Spreadsheets/Excel sheets pose a ton of challenges when you use them as your primary method of defect tracking and management.
To name a few of them listed below:
1) Too many bulky emails: Does this ring a bell? Excel sheets with screenshot attachments are sometimes over a few MB.
I often had these spreadsheet attached emails sitting in my outbox waiting to be sent or receiving a mailbox full alert as soon as I got one.
2) Lack of real-time visibility into bug discovery and progress/status: We don’t hear of an issue as soon as it is found. We also don’t know if an issue has been retested or returned, etc. real time.
Since there is no automatic alerting system, defects do not call for any attention to them unless someone is deliberately looking.
3) Work assignment issues: We don’t know who has what issue and what they are doing. If it has been picked up for resolution, what priority is set, etc. is never as easily visible as you would like it to be.
You might have to call or email or send an IM to find out what is happening.
4) Lack of a central repository: Too many folders, release-wise, module-wise or something-else-wise.
If you want to get back to a defect that was reported in the previous release or maybe a few releases behind, which was commented on by the developer in a certain way- you are simply playing a guessing game as to where the defect might be.
Even if you did find it, you might not have all the comments on it, all the history of it, etc.
5) Manual gathering and consolidation of defect statistics for insights into Quality of the product.
Imagine collecting raw defect data from each team member, entering into an excel template, organizing it to show a pattern or trend, and finally plotting a chart or graph. This process is time and labor intensive. And also, rigid.
Say if your team wants to view a new kind of report, you are looking at the additional effort and creating new templates, etc. So you are really limited your choices of what defect trends you can and will see.
Teams will no longer be inclined to invest time in monitoring and measuring and this means lack of visibility and confidence about the quality of the product.
Some problems could be solved with the use of a shared document on a remote/network drive, but not all. So, most test teams use a defect tracking tool to handle this process effectively.
Defect management/bug tracking tools offer a single point of truth for all your defects, provide real-time updates, aid collaboration with the team members, trace the defects back to the requirements and generate real-time reports.
Everyone knows about this, what’s new?
Here are some great ways you can make your bug tracking tool multi-task.
3 intangible benefits of using Bug Tracking Systems
I guarantee you that the defects in your report will be superior, valid, and easier to understand and will have a higher ‘picked-for-resolution’ rate.
#1) Understand defect trends
We are not talking defect density or defects per requirement, etc. We are talking about getting a deeper understanding of the system under test.
Let’s say you are new to testing an application. When you are in the process of understanding the system, check out your bug tracking tool for the kind of bugs previously reported.
Pay attention to some of the following points.
- Is there a component/module/functional area of the application that recorded more bugs that the others?
- Are there platform/compatibility related issues before?
- Are testing teams allowed to make enhancement suggestion? Check if testers before you did this?
- Were there environment problems and are they treated as typical defects by this team?
- What was the defect turn around? How much did take between defect reporting and fixing/closing?
- What is the average age of the defects?
#2) Understand defect reporting standards
Now, every company, every project, every team and every individual are different. So, even though a few common guidelines on how to write defect reports exist, nothing prepares you like your own in-house research does.
How do you do that?
Check your defect tracking tool for the following:
- What defect reports got returned as “Not enough information”?
- What defects were outright rejected by developers as ‘Not a defect’ or ‘works as intended’. And, why?
- What enhancement suggestions were considered?
- What defects are still open?
- Did reports with screenshots have a higher rate of being fixed?
- For a defect, if the developers changed the severity, check out why? This might let you know what is ‘serious’ for the team and what is not.
#3) Prevent duplicates and invalid suggestions
Once you know your application, your team’s work style, your development team better you are automatically a better tester.
This way you will know what is already reported or what has already been suggested and rejected.
You can now focus your energies on uncovering new bugs, exploring the application deeper and tailor your reports in a way that you get through to your development team better.
Defect Management system, when used right – as a tester, you understand your ecosystem better and as a team, it will improve the overall efficiency.
Therefore, if you are still using the primitive spreadsheet method for bug tracking, it’s time to change.
The choices for bug tracking tools are many.
- If using a test management tool you are going to have access to defect tracking as well. You are good to go!
- Some companies create in-house bug tracking tools. They are similar to the commercial ones available. So, they do the job just fine.
- Commercial, yet affordable tools. E.g. JIRA or FogBugz
- Finally, if all your team needs is a tool for defect tracking and if the entire testing is still maintained manually, your best option is to go with an open source defect management/bug tracking system.
I hope this article has persuaded you into thinking beyond your defect management tool as a spreadsheet alternative and treating it as a huge historical data asset.