Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Defect tracking workflow

Lately I was involved in creating yet another defects tracking workflow for a big outsourcing company. The goal was to define a standard way of tracking defects keeping in mind the support for defect analysis and prevention.

The task per se does not look too difficult. In most of cases, the standard workflow that your DTS has embedded will do the job four you. But it does not in our case. The workflow for defects defined as default in JIRA is too minimalistic. We used to have additional states and transitions that we want to be noticed and filed by the system.

So we have come up with several additional states. Some default states were renamed. Some transition rules were added and permissions changed. But I do not want to get into a boring description of how we were doing it. I want to outline what I think is most important in building workflows:

1. Keep it simple, stupid!

The all times rule of thumb is more than just applicable here. We can ideate dozens of states and hundreds of names for transitions in pursue for the perfection. But do we really need to get perfect in this case? get back to the intention that you had starting all this. The intentions were: have means to automate defect tracking to make sure nothing is wasted or lost; have data records to support learning from mistakes; have means to control the project effectively. That's it! So, if you have enough states and transitions to satisfy those requirements - stop right there, don't go any further.

2. More flexibility, more problems

If you allow to much flexibility in sense of who does what in the DTS you lend yourself and your colleagues for numerous mistakes. This is always better to let people do only those actions that they are supposed to, no more. In terms of defining workflows it gets down to defining user groups and assigning permitted actions for those groups. Once you've done it you are sure that no issue will go a wrong path.

3. Self explanatory, intuitive names

States, transitions, priority and severity of issues - all this must not require additional explanation. Name "Deferred" or "Postponed" is better than "Not for fixing" or "Not important".

4. Test it twice before going live!

Have somebody else to go through the workflow before letting others use it. I did for my last installment and I wasn't surprised to fix 6 critical issues in it despite I was sure I passed it through myself.

Happy workflow engineering! :)

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