Agile Teams and Bug Analysis

Have you ever asked the question, ‘When are we planning to do bug analysis?’ in a Sprint retrospective? This is one of those questions that is thought about but not asked during the initial iterations of Agile projects. Also, unfortunately, this question is forgotten over several subsequent iterations and asked during the end of projects when it becomes too late. By ‘bug analysis’ I mean the analysis of a group of bugs to study factors such as distribution of defects on priority, severity or application module as well as other aspects such as reproducibility or dependencies.

Several years ago, I became cognizant of asking this question. It was never an ideal situation for us to deliver bug free production ready software at the end of iteration. I am sure, even these days delivering production ready software at the end of iteration is not very common across projects. It is a tough goal. If you have achieved this goal, I should say you belong to a high performance team. In all general circumstances, bugs do accumulate, get prioritized, and fixed. Is this an adequate approach to execute projects? Don’t we need to identify the right time to initiate bug analysis and have a consensus on the frequency of performing bug analysis?

The first time when I asked this question the answer was, ‘The product is not stable enough to perform bug analysis.’ That took me by surprise and triggered additional thoughts. I asked further, ‘Should we wait for the product to become stable to do bug analysis? Or should we perform bug analysis in order to find ways to make the product stable? Also, shouldn’t we use visual boards to display bug trends and analysis so that the team understand not only the progress of user stories but also trends on product quality?.’ That’s when our approach matured to the next level.

Essentially, it makes sense to have a sizeable number of bugs to perform bug analysis and it depends on your project. Also, how detailed you perform bug analysis depends on your project as well. Bug analysis can reveal variety of useful information such as distribution of bugs across modules, distribution in terms of bug priority or severity, distribution of bugs in terms of bug status etc., The earlier we analyze and understand these parameters, the better it is for us to improve product quality.

Thinking of bug analysis late in the game seldom yields efficient measures to improve product quality. Next time when you talk to your Agile team try to trigger this question. Am sure you will come across interesting responses.

All said and done, bug analysis is a practice that can yield results in Agile projects. Do you use a visual board that displays bug analysis results and trends in your work area? What has been your experience in performing bug analysis? How frequently you do it? Is it beneficial?

Raja Bavani is Technical Director of MindTree’s Product Engineering Services (PES) group and plays the role of Product Engineering Evangelist and Agile Coach.

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