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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Emergency defect fixing: Giving local fixes for quick verification

During the process of defect fixing and verification, there is a standard process whereby a build process is created and defect fixes checked into this build. What this does is to ensure that every day (the builds typically come every day) the defects which were fixed the previous day are available for testing in a proper installer which can be used by the testing team similar to the product that is available to the customer.
This process works pretty well, as long as everybody involved knows the process well, and there are people in the process who have responsibilities for the different parts of the process (for example, somebody who ensures that the build stability systems are in place, others who do a quick smoke testing to ensure that the build is usable), and so on.
However, such a system cannot protect against a case where a defect has not been fixed, either fully, or partially. In the normal case of operations, it is normal to have defects that are not fixed and are rejected by the testing team, or some part of the defect not being fixed well, and a new defect being filed for the same.
When does this process not work ? Consider the case where the product development process is nearing the end of the schedule. In such a case, the defects that are to be fixed are restricted, and only those defects that are being allocated for fixing are passed onto the development team and the list given to the testing team for verification. However, the cost of a failed defect fix can be fairly high.
A defect fix that has failed would mean that the build for that day is not ready for use, and this can be very expensive.
When such parts of the schedules have been reached, there is the need for much closer interaction between the specific developer and the tester(s) for that defect fix. When the developer has made the fix, he/she would work with the tester and provide the fix in a local build, made on the developer's machine, which could be quickly tested by the tester to ensure that the fix has been made to the satisfaction of both the developer and the tester. This goes a long way to help that the build that comes the next day is usable and important fixes are not failing.
There are some problems that can still happen in this process. The local build may not be incorporating changes made by the other developers, and this can cause a dependency problem that may still cause the defect fix to fail. However, the chance of this happening is low (or can be monitored by the developer to reduce the failure rate) and goes a long way to ensure that the development process has reduced risk near the end of the cycle.
However, this requires close collaboration between the tester and the developer, and is not really required to be done in the regular part of the development cycle, since there is an overhead involved in the process.

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