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Home Guide 7 Root Causes for Software Defects and How to Overcome them

7 Root Causes for Software Defects and How to Overcome them

By Sandra Felice, Community Contributor -

In today’s ever-changing digital world, for a Business to run smoothly, there is a need to develop software that delivers a good end-user experience without any potential defects and delivers the desired outcomes. Therefore, before the software gets released into the market, they need to be tested efficiently. While there are numerous phases to creating great software, testing is still the most crucial step before it is released.

What are Software Defects?

From a Software Development perspective, Software Defects are any deviation between an actual and expected result where the software works perfectly but doesn’t work as per the user’s expectations. Defects can be any fault, error, flaw, or failure in the computer program causing an unexpected or incorrect result. They can also occur in the live software when pre-production tests fail to detect any functional or performance problems disrupting end users’ experience. With applications’ changing nature and dynamics, the range of software defects has become more extensive.

So, when there are defects that need analysis to find resolution, a team of devs and QAs use root cause analysis tools to identify the underlying cause of these defects so that the systems and processes can be repaired, addressing the problems with a permanent solution rather than a temporary fix.

What is Root Cause Analysis?

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a technique used in software testing to identify the root causes of defects or problems using tools and address them instead of treating only the symptoms. Once root cause analysis discovers the underlying issue, the team can remediate the defect at its source and prevent it from future occurrences. For example, if the defect resulted from a design error, developers can review the design and the related requirements documents to make corrections, or if a testing mistake caused the defect, testers could update the test cases and metrics. 

When software professionals perform the RCA process properly, they can use RCA results insights to improve product design, testing, and overall quality, thereby giving the end user a much better experience.

Why Root Cause Analysis for Software Defects is important?

Root cause analysis can save an organization or business money and time by helping to find and address problems earlier in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).

Finding Defects and fixing them earlier in the development cycle can help enterprises create better-quality software in a faster, more cost-effective way. This also promotes customer satisfaction and protects the company’s reputation. RCA’s key benefits in software development include the following:

  • Improved Software Quality: By identifying the defect source, the problem-solving process becomes more seamless, ensuring superior software quality. This, in turn, leads to the overall improvement of the software and the entire organizational systems.
  • Accelerated time to market: Identifying the root causes at the earlier stages of development helps to implement corrective actions appropriately. Thus, the product requires lesser time in testing. Therefore, it reaches the market sooner with fewer issues. This way, companies gain a competitive advantage.
  • Improved User Experience: As RCA helps to reduce the defect rate exponentially, it helps ensure optimal user experiences. With efficient RCA, the potential defects in future releases of the software can be controlled effectively, which proves beneficial to companies where the safety and reliability of the software are critical.
  • Reduced Cost: The cost of defect fixing increases significantly in the later stages of the development process. Hence, effective RCA can help companies avoid detrimental financial losses and win client trust.

7 Root Causes of Software Defects

Here are some of the root causes of Software Defects that disrupt user experience:

1. Lack of Collaboration

Business requirements may not reach the development/testing team sometimes due to a lack of communication. The customer will have an understanding of how they want their finished product to work or look. Since defects are introduced in the development stage, if the exact requirements are not communicated correctly to the development team, it may lead to defects in the software.

2. Lack of Code Coverage

Code Coverage measures the number of lines of the source code that have been tested, which helps in determining how thoroughly the software was tested. Some software defects can occur due to poor Code Coverage. This can be caused if the code base is not maintained properly to support code scalability or the dead, unused codes are not discovered due to bad code writing.

3. Poor Test Coverage

Test Coverage determines the percentage of application code that a test case covers and how much code is exercised when those test cases are executed. Poor Test coverage is often a result of very few tests written for each user story that lacks visibility into the code that was changed unexpectedly. Also, an unclear understanding of the features being delivered in the release leads to Inadequate Testing.

4. Choosing a wrong Testing Framework

A testing framework provides an execution environment for automating test scripts. Hence, to leverage all the benefits of automation testing, the right Testing Framework should be in place. An inappropriate Testing Framework leads to defects in the software. Often test data present in one framework is different than another framework. Therefore, some of the defects go undetected.

5. Not having a proper Test Reporting System in place

A software test report consists of a combined summary of testing objectives, activities, and results. It is generated to help the developers and project managers decide whether to release the software or not. Not having a proper system for Test reporting in place can burden the business with an excessive amount of undistinguishable testing data – What is valuable and what is noise.

6. Lack of a proper Defect Management Process

Defect Management is a process where most organizations manage Defect Discovery, Defect Removal, and then Process Improvement. If it is not performed appropriately, i.e., if the QAs are unable to manage and resolve at an early stage, then these defects might lead to greater damage and higher costs to fix at a later stage. This can potentially lead to loss of customers and revenue while damaging the brand’s reputation.

7. Not considering real user conditions when testing

Testing in real user conditions allows you to study the user experience down to the smallest details, for example, loading times and connectivity with the wifi and network, the accuracy of the map, etc. Inadequate real-user stimulation in testing may lead to an increase in errors not anticipated in test conditions. This majorly happens when the applications are tested on Emulators or Simulators, where the native environment conditions cannot be replicated.

Solutions to prevent Common Software Defects

While the previous section covers the basic root causes of software defects, here are some solutions that can be used to overcome them:

1. Test-Driven Development (TDD)

Test-Driven Development is a powerful technique for preventing issues caused by insufficient testing. TDD encourages creating failed tests for a feature/product even before it is developed. As the development of the feature shows some progress, the test cases begin to pass, verifying the expected behavior of the feature. If tests are created before the feature or product itself, then the likelihood of the product reaching its end-users untested is greatly reduced.

2. Behaviour-Driven Development (BDD)

BDD Testing combats issues derived from ill-defined requirement specifications by bringing business and QA professionals on the same page. BDD also promotes frequent conversations among the key stakeholders (Business Analysts, Devs, and QAs), also known as ‘The Three Amigos” to avoid miscommunication. keeping everyone on the same page. 

BDD tests are written in plain English, which makes the participation of team members easier at different stages of test reviews without having to learn the code syntax. This flexibility and transparency in the creation and review of test cases help in reducing bugs caused due to communication gaps between the teams.

3. Continuous Integration Continuous Testing (CICT)

Continuous Integration and Continuous Testing ensure that every change of code that is integrated into the central code repository should be automatically tested by predefining test cases. Continuous Testing is only possible when test automation is implemented and seamlessly integrated with the CI/CD pipeline. It helps to assess the quality of software developed at each stage, thereby leading to the early discovery of critical bugs and saving time and costs. Moreover, CI CT delivers the product faster, giving more time to market with a viable product and continuous feedback mechanism.

But to maximize the benefits of CI CT, it is essential to implement a strong Continuous Testing Strategy for DevOps.

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4. Effective Communication

Clear and open communication between team members can help in highlighting missing or conflicting scenarios in the specifications. At every stage, from finding requirements to defect tracking, if the team members discuss the different use cases or scenarios that they think are missing/conflicting, then such issues can be identified earlier and much more quickly.

Also, a large number of bugs arise out of assumptions made during implementation. This can be reduced by encouraging teams to seek inputs from relevant stakeholders and brainstorm external constraints to gauge the possible expected behaviors in cases of missing/conflicting specifications.

5. Perform Regression Testing

Regression testing is a powerful way to find defects that occur due to any changes or updates in the code. Regression testing can also be run once you’ve identified defects in the first cycle and implemented the changes to fix them. It helps QAs to see whether the defect is fully resolved or has resurfaced. It also highlights if the devs may have broken something else accidentally while fixing a defect.

So regression testing identifies areas that can potentially be affected by defect fixes and reruns the test cases for that area to ensure no new defects have been introduced.

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6. Testing on Real Devices and Browsers

Testing under real user conditions is a great way to catch defects before they make it to the real user environment. This can mitigate the risk of missing production defects that don’t show up in a more controlled testing environment. 

Using cloud-based real device infrastructure for running functional tests can help identify defects that could occur due to a real user condition acting as a trigger. Tools like BrowserStack allow access to 3000+ real devices and browsers on its cloud ranging from the legacy to the latest versions for comprehensive testing.

Features like Geolocation Testing, Network Simulation, QR Code Testing, Barcode Testing, Biometric Authentication, help in finding those unidentified bugs that can easily escape through the testing cycles over controlled environments like Emulators and Simulators.

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7. Production Specifications Review and Management

As the scope of the company changes, the product’s specifications related to it also changes. Reviewing and tracking the changes in specifications may require a dedicated effort. Early detection of any changes in the specifications that might cause a potential conflict can help in preventing bugs in the product’s implementation.

On a Closing Note, 

Software defects are almost unavoidable. Nonetheless, efficient RCA can help developers or testers build/test and deliver flawless software products and deliver optimal experiences to customers. By identifying the root causes of underlying performance and functional issues in applications, software companies can ensure high-quality software and speed up the time to market, leading to an overall enhancement of brand values and customer loyalty.

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