How to Conduct an Effective Root Cause Analysis for Software Testing

By  //  January 7, 2022

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The process of finding and identifying the root causes of one or more problems is called root cause analysis or RCA. It is usually performed to be able to determine effective solutions to different issues. The main motive behind carrying out a root cause analysis is to prevent a flaw or bug from wreaking havoc rather than having to put out the fire it causes.

The root causes of different trends or one-time events can be identified by following a set of methodologies and principles. Ignoring the face cause and effect to dig deeper, RCA enables developers to pinpoint the reasons that caused failure in the first place.

The four major questions that constitute the root cause analysis are:

 What is the main problem?

Why did it happen?

When did it occur?

How can it be avoided in the future?

Without the first step, developers cannot move forward with the process of identifying the root cause, as you cannot determine how something happened if you do not know what that ‘something’ is. After identifying the issue or problem, you need to identify the reason for it happening.

You need to determine the issue that caused the lag in order to be able to answer further questions. Some of the most common factors that cause defects in production are:

Ineffective data for testing

Ineffective coverage of test case

Inappropriate or inefficient environment

Issue during the deployment phase

Gaps in the design

Incorrect assumption


Gap in communication

Lack of or inefficient unit testing

Inadequate requirements

After you have pinpointed the cause, you need to find out the point during the production lifecycle at which it was initiated. This allows developers to not only focus on the issue at hand but provide them valuable information about the weaknesses of a particular phase in the software development lifecycle as well.

If issues have frequently been arising at a particular stage during the production, the overall production efficiency can be improved by catering to and improving the operations and activities of that specific phase. By evaluating the root cause analysis processes, past experiences can be utilized in the walk-through sessions, formal reviews, and other diverse methodologies of software testing to prevent future failures in the production systems. 

Determining and devising a strategy to not only solve the current problem but to avoid it in the future as well is the last step of the analysis.

Benefits of Performing Root Cause Analysis

Software development can extract several benefits from a root cause analysis. These benefits include, but are not limited to:

Improvement and enhancement of performance management

Improvement and enhancement of project management

Early, easy, and agile identification of risks and threats

Continuous improvement of production processes

Reinforcement of quality assurance and control

Analysis and evaluation of near-misses

Solutions to Perform Root Cause Analysis

FMEA or Failure Mode and Effects Analysis

It is an approach that utilizes risk analysis to determine areas that have the potential of getting subjected to failure.

Impact Analysis

It analyzes the impact of change, both positive and negative, that different points of applications experience.

Kaizen or Continuous Improvement

This process makes the identification of areas for improvement easy and smooth. The production efficiency can be enhanced with the application of different solutions or changes.

Identification of Defect Injected / Detected Phase

Two major components and requirements of software testing are defect detected phase and defect injected phase, which are the point of identification of the defect and the point of injection of the defect, respectively. The identification of these two aspects is vital along with that of defect age, which is the found and rectified defect.

Root cause analysis is highly effective for the software development process. The production of software and applications becomes much smoother and secure when developers have identified the root causes of issues. It enhances production efficiency and makes the processes simpler and more effective.