An Agile View on Escaped Defects

When I searched for “Escaped Defect” the first article on the list was one written in 2003. The general perception is that an escaped defect is one that your customer has found. Although technically a correct statement, it confines the definition to a waterfall mentality. Speaking with my clients and colleagues I have found that a majority of people still have that perception.

That needs to change.

According to the latest State of Agile™ survey we, as an industry, are executing in some form of an Agile framework. In this Agile development world we work within today (almost 70% of respondents are in a form of Scrum) the feedback loop is much shorter than it was 13 years ago when the above mentioned article was penned. With the change to rapid design, develop, test, deploy cycles the way we define defect escapement must change also.

An iterative development model has the expectation that at the end of the iteration the team has working, tested software. Take into account that very few organizations leverage a true continuous delivery process. Without that type of process that working, tested piece of incremental functionality is sitting inside some internal server. Generally, this is an integrated testing environment. This scenario is extremely prevalent in the organizations I have worked with recently.

Since the event horizon for design, develop, and test is whatever time box you have set for an iteration, the horizon for escapement becomes that iteration.

If a defect is found after the Product Owner (or whatever title your organization uses for this role) accepts the functionality as being done, it has escaped. That is the point of view we must have. If it is found outside of the iteration in which it was accepted as done, it has escaped. It is an escaped defect. By that definition, if anyone finds a problem after the iteration but before it reaches the customer it is an escaped defect. It’s that simple.

There are many benefits to this way of viewing escaped defects. I will delve more deeply into that in a future rambling. Stay tuned!