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The Ultimate Feedback Loop: Learning From Customer Reported Defects

by emanuil

Published April 28, 2017 in Technology

“In God we trust; all others bring data.” W. Edwards Deming

A defect reported by your customers is the most expensive one. Everyone in the developercustomer chain is getting paid for rework, and wastes time for something that should have beed done right in the first place. Beyond pure money loss, those defects are an embarrassment for any organization. They passed all the quality gates. But the greatest cost that cannot be measured easily is the loss of reputation.

It comes as a great surprise then, that almost no company investigates the defects reported by its customers. The companies try to quickly patch the problem and move forward. It’s a shame as a great deal knowledge can be gained about the system that produced the defect in the first place.

We’ve analyzed more than two years of customer reported defects data. Even though we thought that each defect is unique snowflake, some obvious patterns emerged quickly. We were able to debunk some widely believed software dogmas that were not working for us. We figured out which of the techniques listed were helping us or not to lower the defects count:

Following the software testing pyramid guidelines?
Switching the backend from PHP to Java?
Writing a simple unit test, where there was none?
Writing a simple integration test, where there was none?
Focusing test engineers to use specific techniques?
Using static code analysis?
Determining the typical profile of a method thats likely to contain an error?
What are MTBF, MTTD, MTTR and do they matter?

Each company is different, what works in one situation will not work in another. But we all need to learn from the most expensive kind of defects. This is very powerful feedback mechanism that should not be wasted. We’ll share our experience in building a simple framework for analyzing such defects and well as tips and trick so that you can build a similar program in your organization.