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The Bug Workflow
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Bugs and test cases comprise two of the largest repositories of artifacts created by almost any test team. In the simplest terms, test cases describe the intent of the test process, and bugs describe much of the
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result of those test cases. Of course, many other factors make up the full definition of these two terms, and in this chapter, I hope to expand on these thoughts. The bug workflow describes the process, participants, and path of a bug report as it proceeds from creation to closure. Figure 9-1 shows the many paths and decisions included in the lifetime of a bug.
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Figure 9-1: Bug workflow.
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Bug Tracking
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One of the biggest artifacts created by testers is bugs. More accurately put, programmers create the bugs, but it is the testers who examine the code and application to discover the exact sequence or combination of steps that turns up an error. Over the course of testing a product, test teams can discover thousands of bugs. Some of these bugs relate to each other, and some might even be the same issue reported by different people. The steps to determine a resolution to a bug can go through many changes and have a number of owners. A vital practice that any test team must use is a bug tracking system, along with a pragmatic and common set of guidelines for using the system.
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A Bug's Life
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A software bug begins its "life" as code or design or some other artifact of the development process. Similar to the riddle "If a tree falls in the forest with no one around, does it make a sound " no one might know the bug exists until the code or design is exercised by someone, usually a customer, developer, or tester. A bug can be found or recorded in a variety of ways, but if a tester runs a test case that finds a bug, the tester usually enters a bug report directly into the tracking system. The triage team regularly reviews all bugs, prioritizes them, and assigns them to the appropriate person to investigate or fix the issue. After the bug is fixed or the design is modified, the triage team might review the change before it is accepted and either allow the change or reject it for additional rework. On occasion, some changes might be determined to be too risky and are postponed to a later release. It is not uncommon for a fix that seems like it "should be trivial" to end up as a huge work item that can destabilize the entire feature area. Having a central group of people who review both bugs and the fixes for those bugs ensures that bug fixes are implemented with the appropriate priority. Some bugs can be resolved as "won't fix" meaning that the bug is acknowledged but will not be fixed or postponed meaning that the bug will
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be fixed in a future release. Sustained engineering and product support teams review bugs resolved in this manner. Many "won't fix" and postponed bugs end up as subjects in Microsoft Knowledge Base articles. Product support teams also have access to bug data for the products they support and often refer to this information. After a bug fix is approved, the developer makes the appropriate changes and integrates them into the application. At this point, the original bug is resolved in the bug database, and it is the tester's job to verify that the change fixes the original problem. If the bug still occurs (that is, the fix didn't work), the bug is reactivated and assigned back to the developer. Otherwise, the tester closes the bug but the bug's life does not end at this point. Fixed bugs are regularly analyzed for root cause or other relationships. Bug data remains relevant and useful for years beyond the day the bug is found. Although from one angle bugs can be viewed as "something that went wrong," the bug life cycle regularly functions as the pulse of the engineering process. Bug reports provide information on the remaining work, risk, and the overall status of the project. In fact, many companies (and groups in Microsoft, for that matter) use the bug tracking system as a project management system, including work items right alongside the defects. The advantage of using a bug tracking system in this way is that it is simple to see all work (both feature development and bug fixing) needed in a specific area or to see all work assigned to a specific developer or group of developers. Table 9-1 and Table 9-2 show examples of the different ways a team can view bugs. As with any system containing large amounts of data, the ability to view the data in different ways is advantageous to good product and workflow planning. Seeing, for example, the number of bugs assigned to each developer on the team along with the bugs in each feature area can aid managing bugs in the development team. Table 9-1: Bugs by Assignment Open table as spreadsheet Number of active Number of resolved 7 2 0 0 3 7 4 2 9 Table 9-2: Bugs by Area Open table as spreadsheet
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