agile defect handling

January 28, 2010

Here’s an article (and accompanying process diagram) from James Pipe at EMC about constructing a defect-handling process that fits well with your Agile development approach. A few things to consider:

1. How does information get collected? Is it possible for product feedback (especially bugs) to be reported seamlessly from within your product? Keep in mind that people reporting defects are likely to be frustrated – make their lives as easy as possible.

2. Is there an information bottleneck? Do all defects, feature requests and usability questions get directed to a single person for processing and prioritization? Is there a way to architect the process so that issues are routed more directly to those who can solve them? For instance, you might consider having some or all IT/performance issues routed directly to your IT organization to be fixed directly instead of having them enter your product management process where they need to be clarified, sized, prioritized, etc.

For each segment of your process, try to play a few alternative approaches forward in your head and count the total number of clarification/handoff e-mails each one would spawn. Pick the option with the smallest number.

3. Let the users know what is going on as frequently as is practical. Depending on how your end-users like to consume information, this could take the form of a weekly e-mail (here is what you suggested/submitted, and here is where it stands!), a blog post, or even in-product notifications. In order for your users to trust that you and your system are responsive to feedback and serious about improving their product experience, they need to be kept in the loop in a reliable but non-intrusive way.

Clear communication with users on defects ensures that people will keep submitting issues as the product evolves. While having users find and report product issues can be painful, it is ultimately much more painful for the organization to have users lose confidence in the product organization and stop reporting issues in the first place.

Chief Technology Officer

Teddy is the CTO at <a href="">Flocabulary</a>. Previously, he was a Technology Investment Analyst at OpenView.