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Keeping the Bugs Out (of Production)

Shivani More | June 23rd, 2021

Bugs are inevitable. Despite all the impeccable planning and execution, every software application has bugs. It is the bitter truth of the IT industry. But the most important thing here is to make sure these bugs are found sooner in the process rather than later – in the dev or test environment and not in production.

Preventing bugs from entering the production environment can save costs associated with fixing bugs, save time needed to fix them, and it will retain customers trust and confidence in both the product and the team. In this article, we will be looking at what type of bugs are considered high priority, Some common causes of bugs and ways you can prevent them. Let’s start with understanding what is considered a bug.

What is a Software bug?

According to Wikipedia, “A software bug is an error, flaw or fault in a computer program or system that causes it to produce an incorrect or unexpected result, or to behave in unintended ways.”

It is very important to know that not all bugs are high priority. Bugs can be categorized by the following types based on their severity and they should be prioritized accordingly.

  1. Critical – These are also considered Showstoppers or Blockers since, with these bugs, the core functionality doesn’t work. These critical bugs can lead to a complete shut-down of the system or data loss. They are highest priority and should be deployed as a hotfix.
  2. Major – These are high priority bugs that collapse certain features which cause the system to not work as designed.
  3. Moderate – These are medium priority bugs that do not meet the requirements which cause the system to generate incorrect, inconsistent, or incomplete results.
  4. Minor – They are low priority bugs that only affect minor features. The impact of these bugs is negligible to some extent to the application.
  5. Cosmetic – These are lowest priority bugs that affect only the UI. No impact on the functionality.

Ideally, we should strive to prevent any of these bugs from getting into production, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. Does that mean we are doing something wrong? No, it could simply be factors that are out of our control. Here are some external factors that make it challenging to prevent certain types of bugs and internal factors that are easily preventable using specific strategies.

Reasons bugs may get into production.

Software development is a complex process where major pieces of work depend on, and can be affected by, the simplest factor.

  • Complex Software/Architecture – The more technology advances the more complex the software and architecture becomes. Due to the amount of complex code and logic that is going on behind the scenes, some functions stop working as expected.
  • Unexpected Updates - Devices, browsers and operating systems get updated frequently. Some of these updates change certain things that might cause the application to stop working as intended. To stay on par with technology, to solve technical issues or to improve user experience, companies are constantly changing and updating their applications which, in turn, opens the door to bugs.
  • Compatibility & Consistency Issues - Due to the number of versions, devices, and operating systems out there, sometimes there are issues with compatibility and consistency throughout the application. It is very difficult to control the end users’ execution environment and its device compatibility.
  • Integration Issues - Many a times while integrating multiple components together issues might arise. Even though it has been tested through various environments some bugs still appear if the configuration is different for the end users.
  • Third Party Tools - If your product uses certain third-party tools or API’s and if they get updated your application may need to be adjusted to still function as expected.
  • Human Error and Misinterpretations - Sometimes due to unclear, missing or misinterpreted requirements, changing requirements, programming errors, miscommunication/no communication within the team, insufficient testing, lack of skilled members, poor planning & architecture, rework, etc. bugs get introduced in the software.
  • Unexpected Usage - Apart from the requirements or business rules, if the end user performs some unexpected actions which was not accounted for, bugs can get discovered.
  • Insufficient Time - Lack of adequate time and unrealistic deadlines may result in errors due to hasty work. The team also tends to skip steps or glaze over processes when such a scenario arises.
  • Adding Functionality or Regression - Bugs found after new code is introduced to existing code or when the system regresses.

Now that we know some ways in which bugs are created let’s look at some strategies to either prevent them from occurring or finding them sooner and eliminating them entirely to have a bug-free production environment.

How to prevent bugs from getting into production?

Even though some factors might seem to be out of our control, there are some measures we can take to help eliminate or reduce bugs in the software.

  • Plan - Before you start anything new having a plan makes the journey easier. Set realistic goals, identify scope, set achievable timelines, select the right resources, plan the budget, select right tools, define high level features/requirements. All the setup and planning should be done before the design concepting and development phase begins.
  • Clarify - Every team member should have clarity about the goals of the project, expectation of the users, technical and functional specifications, timelines, roadmap, test plan and any other important details related to the product. Any gaps in these opens the gate for bugs.
  • Be Thorough – Making sure requirements are detailed and thoroughly documented, then reviewed and approved by the clients/business stakeholders. The requirements should be analyzed and tracked by the team members. Requirements should be broken down into doable features and stories with the aim to not miss any detail. Avoid any last-minute changes or rework.
  • Simplify - The code should be simple and easy to understand. Developers should perform unit testing frequently. Code should also be easy to test by the QA team. Improved code quality will help to reduce bugs in production. The goal is to avoid any programming errors.
  • Review – The developers should ensure thorough code reviews are performed. This will help check the code before its added to codebase and reduce bugs that can get accidently introduced due to a programming error.
  • Test, then test some more - Testing is the most crucial phase that should be performed with extreme efficiency. Each scenario must be planned and tested thoroughly. It is imperative to provide testers enough time to run through their test plan, execute all the test cases and perform aggressive regression testing in small iterations as this is the phase where most or all bugs should be caught. This phase should never be skipped or rushed. Along with manual testing, running automated test suites periodically for key features and functionalities is important. Also make sure the test cases are updated as needed, obsolete test cases are archived, add new and important ones.
  • Bring the A-team - Everyone is responsible for quality, so it is crucial to have knowledgeable, experienced, and highly motivated resources on the team. The team needs to strive for quality to minimize bugs right from the beginning.
  • Communicate - Communication is key. Strong and clear communication within the team members can help identify missing requirements, scenarios or use cases. This ensures high quality work.
  • Perform Defect Analysis - If a bug manages to find its way into production, then the team should perform defect analysis. Reproduce the issue, test all related and affected areas, analyze the cause, and take actions to prevent the bug from occurring in the future.

While bugs and defects are inherent during development, they can be identified and fixed or prevented entirely long before they reach the production environment. This can be done by starting small and introducing continuous improvement standards in your organization. It is said that nothing is perfect so instead of aiming for perfection we should strive for quality which would lead to a bug free product and high customer satisfaction.