All software has bugs. But not all bugs get fixed. Software teams must decide which bugs to fix, and when, and this is where the bug triage process comes in to play.
Let’s define the word “Triage”
- The process of assigning a level of urgency to wounded victims in order to determine the order in which they are treated.
- The calculation of priorities that need to be actioned.
What is Bug Triaging?
Referencing the definition above, let’s swap “wounded victims” for “bugs” or “defects.” Bug triaging is the process of determining the priority of bugs/defects. During bug triage meetings, software teams decide how to categorize/prioritize bugs. The following three categories are often used:
- We’re going to fix this now.
- We’re going to fix this later.
- We’re never going to fix this.
Your team might have a need for additional categories, but this is a good place to start if you’re just starting to build your bug triaging process.
The process of triaging a bug also involves making sure the bug is filed correctly. It’s important to log good bug reports upfront, but if a bug report is incomplete or incorrect, the bug triage meeting is a good time to improve it so that it’s useful for anyone who reads it.
The Importance of Triaging Bugs
It aligns teams on priorities
Bug triaging helps make sure the development team knows which defects to work on first. It also sets them up for success by ensuring the necessary information is recorded on the bug report.
It gives customers transparency
When customers contact your support team about a known bug, your support team is able to speak intelligently about the bug, and they’re able to set expectations as to when (if at all) the bug will be fixed.
It keeps your backlog looking neat
The bug triage process is also directly related to backlog refinement because it can keep your backlog in better shape. Without triaging bugs, your team could be missing out on easy wins and critical items. This is why it’s important to conduct these meetings regularly.
By implementing a bug triaging process, your software will be more reliable, you’ll fix important issues faster, and your customers will be happier.
10 Tips for Triaging Bugs
Bug triaging takes time and resources, but it is a necessary part of software development. These ten tips can help with successfully triaging bugs.
- Be consistent; set regular times to triage bugs (weekly, monthly, each sprint).
- Verify enough information is provided so that the developer who is assigned to fix the bug can effectively and efficiently fix it. Don’t make assumptions.
- Add a label such as “triaged” to the ticket to help sort your backlog.
- If it’s a duplicate bug, link it to the original ticket and/or close it as a duplicate.
- Verify that the problem can be replicated. If it doesn’t seem rational, it might not be a bug and might be a misunderstanding by the bug reporter.
- Set a priority; most defect management tools have a priority field. Use this to set low/medium/high priority, so the rest of the team knows.
- Verify the summary and description are correct. If they aren’t correct, fix them.
- Verify the issue type (bug, feature request, task, improvement) is correct.
- Include someone from QA or customer support in the triage meeting to add color to the issue.
- Implement the use of templates so that the necessary information is always collected in a bug report.
Who Should Attend Bug Triage Meetings?
It really depends on how your team is structured, but a bug triage meeting should involve a development lead, product/project manager, and a QA tester or customer support rep (whoever typically reports the bugs).
Having a representative from each department will make sure a range of opinions are brought to the table in order to land on the best decision. A development lead will have a strong understanding of how difficult it will be to fix the bug and any technical hurdles the team may face.
A product manager will have a good understanding of whether or not the bug is indeed a bug or if it’s a feature request/improvement – they will also have a strong say as to the priority the bug gets assigned.
The QA or support representative is the customer champion, bringing insights into the specific impact and experience of the bug. They’re often the ones who encountered the bug first.
There are always bugs to be fixed. Having regular bug triage meetings keeps high-priority bugs at the forefront and ensures they are fixed faster. A consistent bug triage process leads to a more organized backlog and helps set expectations with the rest of the team and your customers.