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.

Bug Triage

Let’s define the word “Triage”

tri-age
noun

  1. The process of assigning a level of urgency to wounded victims in order to determine the order in which they are treated.
  2. The calculation of priorities which need to be actioned.

What is Bug Triaging?

Swap the word “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 categories/prioritize bugs. The following three categories are often used:

  1. We’re going to fix this now.
  2. We’re going to fix this later.
  3. We’re never going to fix this.

The process of triaging a bug also involves making sure the bug is filed correctly. It’s important to log good bug reports up front, but if a bug report is incomplete or incorrect, the bug triage meeting is a good time to address that.

Why is Bug Triaging Important?

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. There are other benefits of triaging bugs too. 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. The bug triage process is also directly related to backlog grooming, as triaging bugs keeps 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 bug triage meetings regularly.

Tips for Triaging Bugs

Bug triaging takes time and resources, but it’s a necessary part of software development. Here are several tips for 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 the problem can be replicated. If it doesn’t seem rational, it might not be a bug, it 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.

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 variety 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. A product manager will have a good understanding 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. And a QA or support representative is the customer champion, bringing insights into the specific impact and experience of the bug.

Conclusion

There are always bugs to be fixed. Having regular bug triage meetings keeps high priority bugs at the forefront and ensures those bugs get 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.