How to Apply Root Cause Analysis to Enhance Software Quality


If you want to understand where your product delivery process is going wrong and improve the quality of the software that you develop, then Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a useful mechanism. It’s easy to get caught in a firefighting pattern where your focus is on treating symptoms. But, if you can identify the cause of the defects, there’s scope to fix the problem at source and turn out better software much more efficiently.

When properly handled, RCA can be applied to defects, or even user feedback, to reveal potential improvements that could be made throughout your organization. It can polish processes, reduce frustration, improve quality, and boost customer satisfaction.

Where to use RCA

As soon as a serious issue starts to cause revenue loss or block workflows, you should be ready to act. If it’s high-severity, then the problem must be flagged immediately and automatically. You’ll need a system in place to catch problems and categorize them for business impact correctly. You need to fix the visible symptoms, but also be ready to investigate the cause.

Act fast with a two-pronged approach to lessen the impact and aim to complete fixes and initial assessments within the first 24 hours.

How to use RCA

The specific format, software, or template that you employ to gather information isn’t important, as long as it works for the team. What is important is that you capture the data you need:

  • Problem statement – Explain the symptoms, how they were noticed, what impacts did they have, and describe the defect in detail.
  • Root cause – Find the root of the issue and explore how it was missed during testing. Look for a gap where changes are being missed or testing efforts are inadequate.
  • Mitigation plan – You must decide what you’re going to do to fix the problem, both at root and the symptom. Look for changes you can make to prevent this kind of problem arising in the future. Be careful that you don’t cause another problem by applying a rapid fix without fully thinking its impact through.
  • Look for trends – It’s important to categorize problems and collect measurements so that you can collate data and filter it for useful insights. Look for broad trends and identify ways you can tweak your strategy to improve your processes.

Finding business benefits

Ultimately, the aim of RCA is to find where problems originated and eradicate them. You can realize broad business benefits and increase customer satisfaction by tracking defects and user feedback and applying RCA to both. A collaborative approach to rooting out problems builds a greater understanding between departments. If you can eliminate breakdowns in communication, bottlenecks, and blind spots, you will smooth the path to producing great software.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, then perhaps it’s time to apply RCA and take tangible action to improve your software development and testing processes and achieve better results.


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