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Are defect tracking systems really needed in Agile environments?

In every software development project I’ve ever worked on over the past 27 years, we used defect tracking tools to help us manage the bugs that were found in the system. Not only did these tools help us manage what we needed to work on, but they provided metrics so that we could look for quality trends. Defect tracking systems (DTS’s) were an integral part of our tool set. The first time I heard that some Agile teams were not using them, my immediate reaction was that Agile was not for me. I was all for collaboration, but somebody better be tracking and documenting the bugs!

Over time, as I became more familiar with Agile methodologies, I realized that there are alternative ways to track and manage defects. This week, Agile expert and SSQ contributor Lisa Crispin will be presenting at STAREAST 2011: Limbo Lower Now: An Agile Approach to Dealing with Defects. Crispin highlights her presentation in one of our STAREAST previews: Agile testing and defect tracking.

While there is no “rule” on how Agile teams track bugs, Crispin lists several alternatives including self-documenting automation tests:

Some Agile teams, especially those that embrace lean development, take a different approach to defects. Anytime a bug is identified, an automated test is written to reproduce it, the bug is fixed, and both the code fix and the test are checked in. The test documents the bug, and will alert the team in case that same problem occurs again. This enables teams to “fix and forget” bugs.

Crispin also talks about the use of wikis, story boards, and other techniques used by Agile teams to ensure defects are being addressed and documented. While defect tracking systems are still used by some Agile development teams, they are not the only means for tracking and managing bugs.

I’ll be meeting with Lisa Crispin and other industry experts this week at STAREAST 2011. For more conference interviews and conference coverage, check out STAREAST2011: News and interviews from

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