You’re not an IT guy — what do you care? Of course, you’ve heard the term “bug” as it relates to technology, cell phones, and pretty much anything that contains a microchip. So why pay attention to how to track bugs? The beauty of bugs are that they are deeply and innately human – and they are pervasive to our being. It’s who we are…and in terms of your business operation, you’ve got bugs EVERYWHERE! So why ignore them or simply accept them? Why not try to track them so you can address them?
What’s a Bug Tracking System? Wikipedia defines it simply as, “a software application that is designed to help quality assurance and programmers keep track of reported software bugs in their work.” They have names like, Bugzilla, FogBugz, and GNATS. Those that take the higher road try a different branding approach, such as, Zentrack or Team Foundation Server (this one is classic Microsoft branding – does it get less inspiring?)
So you fumble with the TV remote and aside from tapping on an iPad or thumbing your way on a Blackberry, you have no clue when it comes to tech – so why the interest in bugs? Look at your entire business environment or even simply your department — hell just look at yourself – and see what types of bugs you can find when it comes to tracking, managing, missing, fixing or simply improving how things are done (or not done).
Clearly, bug tracking applications (often described as “issue tracking”) are pervasive in an IT environment, but how our society is learning to accept the existence of bugs is a bit creepy (sorry, couldn’t resist). Do you remember how shocked you were years ago playing Atari or Nintendo or even if a calculator or VCR didn’t work properly – it was a “glitch” – just shake it off and try again. Nowadays, it’s not IF there are bugs, but rather how to avoid being exposed to too many of them (simple example can be seen here related to early adopters – link to “Pig” article on EFA). So instead of ignoring them or simply accepting their existence – embrace them and take an outside-in view by realizing that EVERYTHING has bugs – and if a human was involved anywhere along the line, bugs will feed more bugs, and so on, and so on. Starting to sound like you’re in The Matrix? Let’s not go there (but yes, you are).
Bugzilla (popular bug tracking application) often displays the following response when searching for bugs in its software:
Zarro Boogs Found
No kidding, if you don’t believe it, check it out here (scroll to the bottom) in the Bugzilla Glossary and you will see the following:
This is just a goofy way of saying that there were no bugs found matching your query. When asked to explain this message, Terry Weissman (an early Bugzilla developer) had the following to say:
I’ve been asked to explain this … way back when, when Netscape released version 4.0 of its browser, we had a release party. Naturally, there had been a big push to try and fix every known bug before the release. Naturally, that hadn’t actually happened. (This is not unique to Netscape or to 4.0; the same thing has happened with every software project I’ve ever seen.) Anyway, at the release party, T-shirts were handed out that said something like “Netscape 4.0: Zarro Boogs”. Just like the software, the T-shirt had no known bugs. Uh-huh. So, when you query for a list of bugs, and it gets no results, you can think of this as a friendly reminder. Of *course* there are bugs matching your query, they just aren’t in the bugsystem yet…
The ability to understand why and how bugs come about, and can never be abolished, is a discussion best left for late-night with multiple cold beverages at your side, but understanding and embracing how to acknowledge our own imperfections, regardless of environment, platform or process, is an inspiring and productive movement.
The fact is that bugs are core to our existence and we need them as much as they need us (not that either has a choice). That being said, let’s go quickly from philosophical to practical and see how adopting bug tracking into your business will only yield positive results. Look at any of the different facets of your business in any capacity and start to quantify it using a bug tracking approach. I’m sure you already have a laundry list of issues, problems, “to do” tasks and punch lists to improve (or hope to) your operation in terms of sales, marketing, customer service, support, etc. But take everything to the next level and start to track issues as if they were bugs (or possibly bugs). Start to apply the following process to issues both large and small (prioritization is obviously one key component of highly effective bug tracking and resolution):
Acknowledge (admit you have bugs – if your ego can’t, then the bankruptcy court judge may point them out later)
Quantify + Define – you have this in many forms currently, but get it down in writing and get others involved. Small, workable, bite-sized pieces.
Identify Bugs – ain’t always easy, but you have to start somewhere. Think simply, “what’s wrong?” “what can be improved?” Make a list of problems/issues that you continuously see surface at your organization.
Track Bugs (or your customers will do it for you) – software such as project management apps are a huge help here.
Fix / Change How You Do Things – this isn’t always easy to do and here you deal with personalities, management styles, skill-sets (or limitations), etc. – so this is clearly one of the most difficult steps in the process, but also the most beneficial to master.
Test, Test, Test and Re-Test (while re-evaluating along the way)
Assess Results (measurement)
Confirm Solved (but there are always bugs, even in any solution so no issue ever goes away for long)
Go Back and Start Over
So where do you start? Start out small and simple, if you need to, but just get started. What do you need to start? Not much, all it takes is a basic set of tools (skills), but the most important being the courage to think outside the box. You have no excuse because the tools to harness the power of bug tracking and issue management are everywhere. Even CRM’s are embracing bug and issue tracking — Microsoft Dynamics addresses it, SalesForce.com, and even smaller cloud applications such as Zoho.
We all hear cynicism and negativity every day – and often that keeps potentially monumental ideas and concepts buried beneath us. When was the last time you heard what you thought to be a phenomenal idea, only to have one or more “experts” around you put it down quickly for many seemingly practical reasons such as, “We don’t have the money or resources for that type of investment.” Another one of my favorites is, “But they [ one of your competitors ] are already doing something like that, we’ll never catch up!”
Bug Tracking is not only about identifying, tracking, fixing and making sure that a bug doesn’t return. It’s about the process utilized to maximize and maintain the highest level of quality control possible, given the available resources. It’s clearly about maximizing your return on investment.
So embrace your bugs and fix’m. Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty more to follow. And remember, there is no spoon.
POST: If the spoon comment isn’t clear, script cut from the movie, The Matrix may help:
Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Boy: Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.