Mastering the Art of Bug Advocacy

Feb 19, 2020 | Best Practices

software testing exploratory session

Testers find defects and raise awareness about quality. What happens after the bugs are found can be any tester’s guess, though. Bugs may get delayed, postponed, go unnoticed or linger on due to lack of information.

Testers need to champion the cause of their bugs in order to avoid unneeded delays in fixing defects that are important. At the same time, testers should maintain a distance to make it an impersonal and impartial experience. Testers need to master the art of bug advocacy.

Why is advocacy important?

Advocacy is basically pleading the case for a bug to be fixed. The testers who find the bugs are the ones who need to advocate for their bugs. It is important that they take a stand and voice their opinions.

Some bugs may not be deemed important from a business perspective, as they seem too small. But in reality, they may be blocking an important feature for a particular user group. On the other hand, some bugs may seem more critical than they truly are, and while fixing them may be important, it may not be the highest of priority.

Whatever the case, testers must aim to present the facts and data in such a way that decision-makers are able to make well-informed resolutions about the issue.

Communication is key

Advocating for anything is not a one-way street. It takes discussion, debate and reaching a consensus on key points to make a collective decision. This is where testers’ communication skill plays a key role. Testers need to have good communication, both verbal and written.

When writing bug reports, testers need to focus on providing every possible piece of information that can help the team in understanding and triaging the issue. Missing, incorrect or ambiguous details make the bug look less relevant and important and may lead to the issue being ignored or deferred. To stress the importance of the issue, testers should mark the correct bug severity and use a good, descriptive title.

Beyond this, if you observe that the bug you reported is being postponed or not looked at, you must be able to initiate a discussion or raise a point during a triage meeting. Good verbal communication skills include being able to present your argument, discuss the repercussions and reach a conclusion with the team in a professional manner.

How and when to advocate

Since more and more teams are following agile development methods, communication is mostly verbal, and triages are quick discussions of bugs found in a day or week within a sprint. A short, live demonstration of the issue is the best way to present the bug if the agile team is not using detailed bug reports.

Testers can also collaborate and pair with developers for short test sessions and showcase, resolve and retest the issue together in the least possible amount of time. But to do this, testers must understand that in order to work on resolving issues, developers need to switch context from the development of new features. Testers should find the appropriate time to discuss an issue so that it makes sense for everyone.

It’s not personal!

Bug advocacy is not about finger-pointing or blame games. Advocating for an issue does not mean testers criticize developers’ work or take the opportunity to blame people for their errors. It is simply putting forth the assessment of the bug, its impact and the consequence of not fixing it.

Once that is done, testers need to learn to disassociate themselves from the issue on a personal level. If the decision-makers choose to still defer or not fix the issue, it is not personal!

Testers need to remember that it is not up to them to decide whether a bug gets fixed. The business makes the decision based on multiple factors, like the risk it poses, time constraints and budget. Testers can keep track of postponed or deferred issues and raise flags when the list grows beyond an expected number in order to escalate more bug fixes.

The important things to focus on are bringing forth the facts, presenting them in an understandable and relevant fashion, and then leaving the decision to the business.

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