What’s the Most Efficient Way to Alert a Developer to a Problem?

May 17, 2019

3 mins

What’s the Most Efficient Way to Alert a Developer to a Problem?
Anne-Laure Civeyrac

Tech Editor @ WTTJ

So you’re showing a prospective client a new feature on your company website when you notice a “problem”! Your knee-jerk reaction is to alert a developer via internal messaging with the classic cry for help, “It’s not working!” But is this the most efficient way to proceed? Spoiler alert: Of course it isn’t. In this article, we outline the best way to inform the technical teams of the errors you encounter with the tools you’re using.

Differentiate between anomalies and features

The first question you should ask yourself before reporting a “problem” is “Does the error I’ve encountered relate to an anomaly or a new feature?” That is to say, does the “problem” relate to something that should function differently, to something that is not working as per the initial request the development team received? Or is what you’re seeing as a problem actually something new that the developers haven’t been asked to work on yet? In the first case, it’s an anomaly, aka a bug. But in the second situation, it’s a question of a new functionality, a request for further development, or a new feature.

This is a distinction that is far from easy to make, so our advice is to keep in regular contact with your product manager, product owners, or project managers before reporting any “problems.” Consulting them will also help to avoid any unnecessary back-and-forth with the developers if the anomaly is already being fixed or if a new feature is in the pipeline.

But why is it so important to differentiate between an anomaly and a new function? Simply put, the development team won’t deal with them in the same way. While a bug can be fixed within an hour if it’s holding up proper usage, a request for development needs to be priced up and planned out using, for example, the Agile method.

Take time with your request

Whether it’s a bug or a new feature, you’ll need to spend time setting out your request clearly.

Give the maximum amount of information

With a bug, for example, you have to indicate the date and time you experienced the error; give precise technical information, such as the version number of the software, phone application, or the internet browser; describe all the steps that were taken prior to encountering the error; and sometimes even take screenshots displaying the error and its urgency. Just writing, “It doesn’t work,” obviously won’t be enough! But why give so much information? Simply so that the developer who is going to deal with the bug can replicate the error, a necessary step in order to get the anticipated fix done. Don’t hesitate to ask your technical team for a template that lays out all the information that’s needed—this could save you a lot of time.

Describe your needs in detail

If you’re submitting a development request, you will have to describe your functional need in detail. What issue are you hoping to address with this new feature and what will it bring to the users in question? The developer will then have all the necessary information to deal with the request and may even be able to offer solutions you wouldn’t have thought of. Keep in mind that the more detailed you are, the less chance there will be of any misunderstandings arising and the quicker the issue can be resolved. And yes, we do acknowledge that this is not an easy exercise!

In any case, be sure to follow the procedure and use the tools that have been put in place by the project team. The reporting process can vary according to whether it’s a bug or a new feature, so find out beforehand!

Don’t look to set a deadline

The first mistake many make is to seek to set a deadline. Product managers and product owners are in charge of the project and have an overview of it. Therefore, working with the developers, they’re better placed to prioritize the different anomalies or features. However, you are entitled to ask to follow the progress of your request, which can be done using a Jira or Trello dashboard, for example, or even simply on Excel.

Consulting the project team will also help them to coordinate requests coming from different teams. Occasionally, they might find that, rather than developing two features, it would be better to try to develop a single one that addresses both needs.

The only exception to this rule is if the anomaly encountered is keeping users from using the application or the website, for example, a bug on the payment page of an e-commerce site. In this case, check with your technical team what procedures they have in place, as there is usually a process for this kind of anomaly.

So now you know everything! All that’s left to do is get in touch with your company’s technical teams to learn about the processes used in your company. By following our advice, you’re not only helping to increase the efficiency of the project, but ultimately the processing of requests!

Translated by Kalin Linsberg

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