How to deal with Scrum Team defects

Agile projects are designed to be fast paced so that the product can be delivered quickly, particularly if beating competition plays a vital part of the release. However, too much velocity without adequate testing can mean an increase in technical debt. This compromises the quality of your project, and can also impact on the velocity that your team works at and how quickly they can deliver the final product. An eye on quality is necessary. Tracking the quality of your Agile project requires keeping track of the number of defects found and how much technical debt is accrued. Streamlining the process of identifying and resolving defects will help your team to continually improve.


It is inevitable that at some point in every software development project, your team will begin to detect defects. Also commonly referred to as ‘bugs’ or ‘faults’, they all signify the same thing – that there is unwanted behavior in the program. It is important for any Agile team to be realistic about the likelihood of defects as this will enable them to identify and resolve them much more quickly and before they negatively impact on the spring.

Technical Debt

Defects that aren’t detected and corrected before the team delivers at the end of a sprint become what is known as ‘technical debt’. If multiple defects are found at this stage, the level of technical debt begins to accrue. The trouble is, different defects can have different effects. Some may be minor, and may not have any impact on the work the team are currently doing. However, some defects can cause significant impediments on the progress of the team. This means that they need to be dealt with as soon as possible, so that the team can continue with their work and meet their sprint commitments.

Putting defects on the backlog

In order to address defects, teams should turn them into backlog items. This way the effort required to resolve them can be estimated, and they can be incorporated into the sprint. However, it is worth noting that it tends to be much harder to estimate the effort required for a defect backlog item than a regular user story. Defects that block the team from progressing should be classified as high priority, while minor bugs can be classified as low priority. By prioritizing the defects in the backlog, you can try and fit resolving them in with the other work that needs to be completed, and there shouldn’t be a huge impact on velocity.

What happens when there are too many high-priority defects?

Too many high priority defects are an indication that something in the team is not working as it should and requires attention to increase the quality of the sprint.  I recommend working as many as possible in a sprint.  But, if the number keeps increasing, the team must evaluate what the cause maybe.  Perhaps it is isolated to one team member.  Or perhaps the team is not unit testing at all. By implementing testing continually throughout each sprint, you can help to eliminate as many defects as possible before delivering work at the end of the increment. [optin-monster-shortcode id="fjdxrzpbpm4zayymauhb"]

Tracking defects

The easiest way to follow what defects are outstanding is visually. This ensures that all team members have the same knowledge about what the defects are, which need to be worked on and which have been addressed. Some teams choose to visually represent their defects by using a ‘swim lane’ on their scrum chart. These are horizontal rows used to group and categorize tasks on the project board and help teams to know which tasks are high priority. Another simple way is by placing on a white board total defects, defects found within sprint, defects fixed and defects carried over.  What ever you choose, make sure to keep it current at all times.

While Agile teams may be under pressure to produce a working product as quickly as possible, effective QA testing must still form a large part of the equation. Tracking the quality of your Agile project will allow you to identify where improvements can be made and help you to deliver effective, high value projects time after time. Now is your turn.  How do you track defects? Does your team unit test?  
It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea.” – John Ciardi