Defect Management: Setting Up Your Repository

Defect Management

How Do You Set Up Your Defect Repository?

If you’ve read the first blog in my series on Defect Management, you will know that the first thing you will need to do is ensure that your Defect Repository is set up in a manner that allows ease of entry, tracking, and reporting of the defects. At a high level this may seem easy but, there are many moving parts to a repository that need to be addressed.


You may be coming into an organization with an existing repository or setting up one from scratch, but either way you need to make sure that it is set up the way you need it for several areas of interest: defect entry, defect updates, and defect reporting. Believe it or not, the latter- defect reporting – is the least important (for this blog’s purposes at least), so we will focus mainly on the other two and catch reporting in a future blog.


1. Fields and Lists

First, you will need to review any default fields that come with your repository tool. There are usually the basics: Summary or Title, Description (detailed step by step to reproduce and other information), Status or State, Severity, Date Opened/Closed, Detected By, Assigned To, and many more that you may or may not need for additional categorization purposes.


So, now you have wracked your brain on fields you think you might need, and it is now time for you (if you haven’t already) to talk to the business owners and other Senior Management to ask them what they want to see, the data they want to capture, and what reports and charts will be of interest and use for them. This may be department specific, specific to the company, or simply a need from the department head. I would suggest having a list of tables/charts ready, so you can give examples of metrics you can deliver and what they would look like. This may guide them into selecting metrics that you know are valuable and may also spark ideas in their heads on other metrics they might want to see.


Now, you have a list of default, your own, and the rest of the business owners’ required fields. Are they numbers? Strings? Memos (really big strings)? Lists? For each of these, you will want to make sure than they are configured correctly.


If this field is a number, should it be restricted? If it is a salary, it can’t be less than zero. If it is a ranking value, it might be limited to between 1 and 10. If it is a quantity of an item, you might not want to allow decimals (1.7 years might be okay, but not 1.7 cars). For each numerical field, you will want to consider those restrictions.


If the field is a string, what is the maximum length of the string? The minimum length? For a city name, you might think that a minimum length of 4 is okay, but then you would be missing Rye, CO, Opp, AL and Eek, AK. In fact, internationally, you would be excluding Á, Norway, the name of 6 different villages there. So, it’s best to leave the minimum to 1 letter. And how about the maximum? Well, you might want to say, 25 characters, you will be able to cover “Chevy Chase Section Three” in Maryland, but you would miss out on “Village of Grosse Pointe Shores,” in Michigan. So, push it to 31 characters, and you cover every town in the US. HOWEVER, internationally, you have “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch”, in Wales, to worry about (as well as a lot of other places). Strings are generally 256 characters long, so in some cases, you should probably just use the default, unless there is a specific reason not to.


If it is a string like a telephone number, a Social Security Number, or a ZIP code, you may want to do some masking (if your tool allows), and make sure that a US phone number always has a 3-3-4 format (312-555-1432), and a ZIP code has either a 5 or a 5-4 format, with the SSN always having a 3-2-4 format. Of course, internationally, these all change.


For lists, this is where you should put some focus. For each list to be displayed as a drop-down list on your defect entry form, you need to make sure you have all the available options correctly spelled and in alphabetical order (if the tool does not do that automatically). Be consistent. Don’t capitalize some words and not others. Don’t use “Deferred – December” for one, and “Deferred-June” for another (spaces around the dash), or “Def – May” (shortened “deferred”). Think about having to use these values in searches, and you need to (using the above example) separate out everything that starts with “Deferred”.


2. Roles, Restrictions, and Requirements

Now that you have all the fields that you think you will need in order to fill out and report on defects, you will need to address each of them as follows:


1. Who can SEE each field (is it visible on the form for them)?

2. Who can MODIFY each field (is it read-only on the form for them)?

3. Which fields MUST be filled in (required before saving the defect)?

4. Are there fields that should be hidden on defect creation, but visible afterwards for updates?


The “Who” in the above questions, deals with the ROLE that the individual has. That might be Tester, Developer, Business Analyst, Project Manager, Admin, etc. Each member of the project will have a role like this. You need to think about if you want a Tester to set a Priority (usually a business function), or if there is a reason for them to see what the next release this defect is scheduled for. Should a developer be able to close out a defect or only the tester who is tasked with testing it after the fix? Should the initial opening of the defect be able to be saved if there is not Summary/Title, no Severity, or no indication of the location in the application the defect was found, or in what environment the test was being run in? Should the date it was detected or closed be able to be modified by anyone who is NOT the system? Should you be able to Close a defect that was just entered without a comment as to why it was moved directly from New to Closed, without any intermediate steps?


These and many other questions need to be considered not only by you, the users, business owners, and Sr. Management, but possibly by the Audit department. What rules and regulations might they need to have in place for the process to pass audit at the end of the project?


3. Laying out the Defect Entry Form

After understanding the needs of the users regarding each of the necessary fields and the layout of the form that will be used to enter the defect, it’s review. Although you can reduce the initial form for a new defect to the required fields only, I would advise against it as other non-required information may well be known by the tester entering the defect, and you would lose that information. Likewise, I would not display a different layout of fields for each role. If some fields should not be seen by everyone, tuck them in at the bottom where making them not visible to some users will not change the remaining upper portion of the form. One of the key reasons for this is during triage meetings, or while two people with different roles review the defect together, if the layout of the fields on the form is very different, effort is expended (and frustration increased) when one of the users is trying to find the field that they knew to be in one location, and it now it is over in a totally different location. If everyone is used to seeing the exact same screen, that confusion is removed. As for the layout in general, be logical and group fields and data that are related to each other near each other on the Defect Entry form.


Note that this might take some trial and error, but you it can be mostly accomplished before going live with the Defect Entry form by running through a Triage Meeting in your head and following the flow of the make-believe discussion. You can also play the part of the tester entering the defect and seeing if the layout of the form is conducive to the flow of entry of the defect information.


Defect Management


So, there it is: Setting up your Defect Repository in a nutshell.

Understand what data you and all other entities in the organization need to gather, what that data needs to look like, who needs to see that data (or not see it), who has editing capabilities, what is required or not, and then make sure that the entry and review of the data is clean and intuitive to use.


That’s it for this blog. The next one will combine two steps and look at training users and then verifying that they are entering the defect correctly into the repository.


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Philip “Flip” Nehrt    

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