June 12, 2008

A Bug's a Bug, No Matter How Small

Issue Management
So you are using an industrial grade defect tracker and you’ve been following the good practice advice of writing up all issues reported about your software. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, "a bug's a bug, no matter how small." Congratulations! You know that all of the issues that could potentially hurt your project are safely stored in one place. Pat yourself on the back and take a moment to enjoy the peace of mind that following this good practice can bring. You have removed a non-trivial source of anxiety related to your efforts to deliver high quality software. The fear that bugs are lurking, waiting to appear right after you ship can be a big source of stress. And while worrying about bugs that haven’t been discovered yet is bad enough, it’s particularly galling to have a project schedule slip at the last minute or have an embarrassing (and costly) glitch at a customer site due to a bug that someone had already identified — but failed to mention. You know the scenario. Your team is gathered at one end of the table in the big conference room with the sales guy and executive managers at the other end. Exec (wearing a suit and a frown): “How could we ship and not know about this bug?” Someone from your end of the table: “But we did know about it. I saw the problem on my machine two months ago. I was sure someone would fix it.” Grrrrr… I believe there is a special place reserved for people who discover bugs and don’t write them up. And that place is really, really hot, has no central air, internet access, or pizza delivery service. Talk to your team at the next project meeting. Send out a reminder in a Project_All email. Make it a game (award bonus points and chocolate for reporting defects — double points for the most critical bug found this week). However you do it, make sure your project culture values identifying anddocumenting issues. You know your team has embraced this good practice when you overhear one of the developers say to the tester who wrote up the bug report, “Hey, thanks for finding this one before a customer did.”