How do we manage bugs?

We had one of our Client Managers complaining recently that their urgent bugs hadn’t been fixed, and so a meeting was called to discuss it.

There were various opinions expressed:

  • “We should fix these particular bugs more quickly”
  • “We should get each team to take more bugs in during sprint planning”
  • “We should set up a special bug fix team for this client manager”
  • “We should have a Support Person of the Week rota set up”
  • “We should work out a way to tag these bugs for special treatment”
  • “We should allocate more time for bugs during quarterly planning”

I grew exasperated that I thought we weren’t getting the the heart of the issue.

Most of the suggestions seemed to be about giving this Client Manager special treatment because they had made a complaint, but the real issue seemed to be that the existing bug management process wasn’t working.

Nobody was actively managing bugs that get raised, and there was no shared expectation about when they will get fixed.

I asked about an SLA (Service Level Agreement) and found that we don’t have one. So while the Client Manager had the realistic expectation that a critical bug would we fixed quickly in a day or two, the development team in contrast were dealing with it by adding it to the backlog and bringing it into the next sprint.

We have a bug triage meeting where we review new bugs, but that only takes place once a week. And so an urgent bug may sit for days or even weeks before someone even looks at it for the first time.

No wonder the Client Manager was upset!

So instead of a special team, or a way of tagging bugs, or a discussion about capacity allocation, we should maybe just actively manage bugs – all bugs – and not put special arrangements in place for this person. Because if it’s broken for this Client Manager then it’s broken for everyone!

Maybe we need someone to check on bugs raised every day instead of once a week. And maybe we need to define and agree an SLA so that, for example:

  • Critical bugs are fixed within 48 hours
  • Urgent bugs are fixed within 7 days
  • Non-urgent bugs are fixed within 2 sprints

The SLA will give the development teams the direction about the urgency for delivering bug fixes, and it’ll also inform the business about when they should expect things to be fixed.

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