On my current project we have two or three engineers who are tagged as Tier 2 or Tier 3 support. We often work directly with customers to gather detailed information about bug and issue reports.

Frequently we get cross-talk in the email threads and conversations about issues. While discussing Issue #1, someone pipes up "Oh by the way we found Issue #2". Or having resolved Issue #1 we get asked "Thanks for fixing that. Where are you with Issue #3".

I find this incredibly annoying and it can make it tricky to unravel threads when reviewing the history of a bug report because the threads are all mixed up.

Can anyone suggest any strategies to manage this communication? Is there a polite way to address this and keep things single task focused? Is there a disadvantage to a single issue focus?

  • 1
    What bug tracking tool are you using? Specifically, why are you not keeping all communication about the defect in that tool?
    – Thomas Owens
    Oct 4 '11 at 13:31
  • We do have bug tracking tools as well as a Tier 1 support team. How do I bridge the gap between cross-talk in email threads to that tool?
    – Freiheit
    Oct 4 '11 at 13:52
  • Give some access to that tool to your customers.
    – deadalnix
    Oct 4 '11 at 15:32
  • @deadalnix I'm not sure that's necessary. Do customers know how to use the tool? It would be better to have defects reported via some other means and then have internal staff search the bug database and manage adding and updating defects as additional reports come in.
    – Thomas Owens
    Oct 4 '11 at 15:49
  • @Thomas Owens : Customer conatacts you by email or phone call or whatever. You register the problem in the bugtracker and send them back the link to the given problem. You can explain them that further comment/request/explainations about this problem will be managed by this tool with the people in charge of solving the issue. This will create a specific discution area about that issue with people involved in finding the solution. Which what everybody generally want.
    – deadalnix
    Oct 4 '11 at 16:03

My suggestion is to simply stop using email to communicate about defects.

Once a defect is reported, either by a customer/user or by an internal testing team, it should be entered into a bug tracking tool of some kind. From that point on, all discussion regarding the bug is done only through the bug tracking tool. Once entered, it's prioritized and assigned based on your internal process.

I'm not sure what tools you use, but I've used both Trac and ClearQuest for issue tracking, and both support email notifications of changes to issues, which would enable people to follow defects that they are interested in (by product, by severity, or because they are involved in finding and fixing them) as they are changed.

  • 1
    +1 and in general, email are not a good way to communicate in most cases, even if it's predominant.
    – deadalnix
    Oct 4 '11 at 15:31

You need a bug tracking tool : http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000029.html

This article explain pretty much everything so I let you read. But basically, it will help you to get good bug repports and follow them during the whole duration of the fix's dev.

A plus is to add unittest to avoid regression in the future. But this is off topic here.

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