The Art of Producing A Quality Bug Report

Whether we speak of manual or automated testing, the goal of software QA is to minimize bugs. Bugs are an integral part of a software code, and in order to fix these bugs early on, they need to be identified and communicated clearly and well in time to the development teams. This is done via bug reports. Fixing these bugs, however, largely depends on how effectively these bugs are reported.

Bug writing is a skill, and a well-written bug report is objective, concise, clear and contextual. The significant details are not lost along the way, nor is a good report biased by the judgment of the person writing it. Bug reports serve as the main communication link between testers, developers and project management teams, and must be written with a perspective to offer each bug the best chance to get fixed.

Before we understand how to effectively fill different fields in a bug report, there are heuristics to abide by:

  • Assign a unique number to each bug report for easy identification of the bug record.
  • Keep a track of the exact steps to reproduce the bug.
  • Be precise, concise and contextual when reporting the bug.
  • Produce different reports for different bugs.

These steps lay down the foundation for a quality bug report document.

Significant Bug Report Fields And How to Effectively Fill Them

Title: Short, simple and precise, a good title should provide enough context to let the reader understand what the bug is all about.

Environment: Bugs tend to appear in specific environments, hence it is advisable to mention the OS and browser details along with hardware and software versions being used.

Severity: Priority of bugs in a backlog is an important piece of information but this should be considered in the context of the end user besides the business’s decision to mark its priority relative to other work.

Expected Behavior: To get a clear understanding of the actual bug, it should be written in a way that the person reading the bug report is able to understand the context and the desired/expected behavior of the program.

Actual Behavior: This is the crux- the real matter. So, take the liberty to provide details, and if there are a number of things that are not working as expected, consider creating multiple bugs (or maybe a parent bug with sub-bugs).

Steps to Reproduce the Bug: Clearly specifying the step by step process to reproduce the bug usually makes things clear- what was expected, what actually happened, and the environment used. If a bug is not reproducible, it’s either a user error and if not, the likelihood of getting it fixed is quite low.

In addition to effectively filling up the above fields, it is equally important to proofread your bug report before submission. Incorrect or confusing language may cause unnecessary delays and lower chances of bugs getting fixed. Also, avoid opinions, use constructive language and be precise and factual. Besides, make sure that the bug has not been reported earlier- duplicity can create chaos. Finally, the bug report should provide sufficient data for an informed business decision, which may even be to not to fix the bug at all.

Need to Report the Bugs Formally

No doubt, testers are in the business of reporting bugs, but why to keep a record of each and every bug? To say the least, it’s better to be proactive and reach out to developers directly when required and to keep a record of all the bugs because this will ultimately lead to a best possible product outcome. Even bugs that are unrelated to what testers should be concerned with offers customers a chance to evaluate their pros and cons if reported. Hence, even if this isn’t the time to fix an error or if the bug requires further investigation, testers should simply post a sticky note to the board within the sprint to keep the team aware. Regular conversation with Product Owner can also help clarify whether the bugs found need to be resolved or are insignificant. Reporting a bug formally is, therefore, a good practice leading to a better end product.

Conclusion

Writing a high-quality bug report is a skill, and hence, it’s important to spend appropriate time on this task to offer a concise, correct, complete, courteous and constructive bug report. The report fields should be filled in effectively and should contain enough information to enable an informed business decision.

However, even when a bug report is written cautiously, there are factors that can reduce the effectiveness of the report like communication barriers across time zones, cultural and language issues, inexperienced testers and pressure to deliver the product fast. These issues can be resolved through proper management and training, and can significantly impact the bug reporting mechanism and ultimately the end product when left unsettled.

So, take care of all the above and you are on the journey leading to a high-quality end product. Happy bug hunting and reporting!!

Exploring the Business Value of QA

Transformative technologies are disrupting businesses as usual. Companies that fail to adapt and transform are likely to go out of business soon. Changes in regulatory policies and the technology landscape, globalization, rapidly evolving business needs, and dynamic customer demands have all necessitated the inclusion of robust testing programs across the application development ecosystem. As such, QA and testing services providers must offer testing services that can scale to support diverse application portfolios, and can quickly adapt to changing business needs. This has lead to a big shift in the testing realm, and in the role of QA.

The criticality of QA in ensuring the readiness of a product to go LIVE is well recognized by IT organizations. Traditionally, the role of QA was merely restricted to serve as a safety net that catches bugs at the bottom of the waterfall; but the introduction of Agile methodologies completely changed the scenario, whereby QA teams are involved throughout the SDLC process. Now, QA gets involved early on in the project, and largely influences the business metrics.

The value that QA brings to businesses can be summarized as follows:

Articulating Business Value in the Entire Testing Process

QA teams comprehend business objectives by involving all the stakeholders in the process. They play a vital role by asking relevant questions and getting the requisite clarity about the project requirements. They then map these project objectives to the business metrics or KPIs. These KPIs are then standardized and stakeholder feedback is imbibed by means of constant dialogue with the stakeholders. Based on the KPIs, a guideline for business process data is established. This lays a solid foundation for the work to be done in future, against which data captured from the actual project is reviewed and measured.

Overall, this ensures that KPIs are oriented towards the business goals, and business goals are tied to the testing process all the time.

Delivering Fast Business Value

Speed to market, high quality and reliability are mandatory to meet the expectations of a digitally empowered consumer.

To fulfill this objective, business driven QA teams work towards achieving maximum test coverage in optimal time with risk-based testing. Wherever feasible, the test artifacts from a previous release are reused. Additionally, historical data and pattern analysis is done to precisely and timely predict defects. Finally, with the adoption of Agile testing methodologies, CI, CD and DevOps; the overall delivery time has reduced, leading to a competitive edge for businesses.

Reduced Cost and Faster ROI

Businesses look for fast and scalable solutions while trying to keep cost to a minimum.. Early Lifecycle Validation or Shift Left testing performed by the QA team focuses on validation of the deliverables of upstream life cycle processes. This results in reduced effort and cost of fixing the bugs as compared to doing it at a later stage, ultimately leading to reduced time to market and a good quality end-product. Moreover,  progressive automation is assisting in further streamlining the release processes by initiating automation at an early stage, thus optimizing QA efforts, and leading to a faster end-product and hence quicker ROI.

Incorporating changing Business Priorities

The role of QA is critical in dealing with changing business priorities because the business impact of releasing a buggy or obsolete software is immense. Continuous Improvement in a timely demeanor is vital for responding to business changes, and QA is responsible to ensure these changes are imbibed via continuous communication with the stakeholders. QA also verifies that significant quality parameters are analyzed precisely to measure the outcome of key business strategies.

This provides us with an overview of the value that QA bring to the businesses. This value can be further increased when a company employs high-quality skilled testers who are also risk-aware. The future-businesses need testers that can help fuel innovation, are open to learning new techniques, and believe in customer-centric testing.

Investing in strong QA teams will ultimately strengthen business’ credibility in the market, as they are able to deliver high quality reliable products with lower costs and faster time to market. According to World Quality Report, there is an overall prediction that QA and testing budgets will soar to 40% of development costs by 2019,  and 52% of IT teams site higher amounts of releases as the reason for higher QA budgets.

Strategically investing in building a team of skilled testers will definitely help set high-performing companies apart from competition by enhancing user experience and engagement. Companies that neglect the role of QA will likely perish.

Kanban for Software Teams

Highly competitive contemporary businesses focus on effective, efficient, robust and speedy solutions that can deliver quality products. And the application of the concept of Kanban is helping businesses achieve this objective.

Kanban, as a concept, was initially developed and applied by Toyota in the 1940s as a method that helped their project team to visualize the entire process workflow, thus enabling better communication and collaboration among team members. Further, it also assisted in standardizing cues and refining the process, resulting in reduced wastage and enhanced value.

Given these obvious benefits, the core principles of Kanban have since moved into industries beyond manufacturing. And currently, in Software Development and Testing sphere, application of the principles of Kanban has become almost inevitable.

Kanban ensures faster release of quality software by enabling better team collaboration. Using Kanban, the entire software development and testing process are divided into different stages, with tasks being transferred from one stage to another as the process moves forward. And a Kanban board is created to visualize and share this entire process, and the ongoing work-progress, with all the stakeholders.

Typically, a Kanban board consists of the following essential elements:

Columns And Swimlanes: The Vertical Columns reflect the phases of the process the task must pass through before being finally considered as complete. The FIFO principle is followed with tasks being pulled from the top and added at the bottom.

And there are Horizontal Swimlanes that divide the Kanban board into cells. Swimlanes denote the horizontal categorisation of issues in the active Kanban board and may contain tasks or indicate priority, person, classes of work and so on.

Individual Kanban Cards: They bear the complete information and details about a given task- type of task, task requirements, task deadlines, people responsible, and all affiliated docs. These cards are post-its when it’s a physical board, while for online boards, they are digital elements to open, update, and move across the board through simple click and drag.

WIP(Work In Progress) Limits: These are limits that stand for maximum amount of work items a given phase or the whole workflow can hold. These limits are set to ensure that the team is focusing on limited tasks, and not working on too many things at the same time. This saves the team from work overload and undue delays.

Card Blocking: They represent the tasks that pose challenges for the team working on the board. And further indicates that the team needs to resolve the problem before pulling in new work. Even though this slows down the cycle time but it saves your potential inventory of in-progress work that can grow and become stressful over time. Hence, its better to clear the blockers as soon as possible.

Source: Maltem

Using these elements, Kanban ensures a lean software development methodology that focuses on just-in-time delivery of functionality through managing the work in progress (WIP).

Benefits of Kanban

The biggest benefit of Kanban is waste minimization through right prioritization and application of WIP limits, thus leading to an overall improvement in throughput. And moreover, Kanban is an easy fit-in. You don’t have to alter your current procedures to imbibe Kanban, rather you may work the way you do, and Kanban can act as an overlay on top of your current work processes.

The method is also quite useful in contexts with frequent priority shifts and change requests by getting rid of time-framed fixed-length iterations, and setting up WIP limits. Kanban optimizes and prioritizes User Stories by sizing and decomposing requirements into Minimal Marketing Features thus delivering value to customers more rapidly and frequently.

Kanban also positively influences the overall working style of the team by embracing the philosophy to complete the projects timely and encourages leadership across organizational structure. In Kanban, as the entire work-chain is visible to everyone, hence, whenever there are any jams or bottlenecks, everyone knows where they occur, and are collectively responsible to ensure work-flow continuity thus encouraging the team spirit. Kanban thus assists in securing high-level transparency and real-time communication of capacity.

Moreover, having limited tasks to spread and focus upon assists the team to achieve an optimal level of performance along with making them visualize the broader organizational goals.

Thus Kanban assists teams to deliver software services more efficiently, more frequently, and at an optimized flow and throughput levels.

To ensure that our clients receive these benefits, we at Astegic have developed a dedicated Kanban Driven Engagement Framework for Testing (KDEFT) that addresses the critical concerns of speed, agility and communication throughout the SDLC, and across time zones. Our methodology involves complete transparency of work and real-time communication and we offer near 24×7 rapid service from both Astegic’s US and India based testing operations.