Defect Backlog

Yesterday a couple of things happened that got me thinking about defect correction. One was a conversation in the hall with the director for another development group, and the other was an email sent by our business unit VP.

First the conversation in the hall. I stopped to chat with the other director as I like to do on a regular basis. During the conversation the question of whether the focus on defect correction was going to continue now that the sponsor of the initiative was moving on. My immediate response was “absolutely”.

Over the past several years, for the product team I lead, we focused on defect backlog reduction. Our work completed last summer when we reached the point where the outstanding bugs will likely remain unaddressed because they don’t impact our customers in any significant way. Why did we do this? Free time! Over the twenty years of development, bugs crept in and were not addressed. Correcting bugs was lower priority than adding new features. Of course, each new feature also added new defects that were not addressed. It got to the point where 60% (back of the napkin metrics) of our time was spent fighting the fires the defects were generating.

So what is life like now that the backlog is gone? Fantastic! We have a “zero new defects” policy which is enforced. If a defect is introduced it is corrected before the release goes out. If an “in the field” defect is reported we schedule its correction immediately. So what do we do most of our time doing now? We spend our time adding value to our products for our customers to enjoy. And the team is a whole lot happier not having to spend all their time on defects.

And the note from our business unit VP was one of congratulations to the product team. In the monthly report on defect backlog, our group has reduced our defect backlog by more than 40% in the last 6 months. That is awesome. The teams are really focused on eliminating defects and soon they will reap the benefits of the free time. And ultimately the customer wins because the product works, and the teams can focus on delivering more value.

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