Three weeks ago we asked why we would bother with Root Cause Analysis. We asked some questions and provided some answers. However that analysis concentrated on a single defect and the use of Root Cause Analysis in that case. The power of Root Cause Analysis really applies when we can solve a whole class of defects.

There is a good chance that a problem that occurs in one place in the code has been repeated elsewhere. Errors have a tendency to be repeated! This came up recently when we were asked to look into a fix that had been implemented 20 years ago. It seemed to be unravelling. This is what is sometimes called a latent defect (one out in production code that suddenly appears). Suffice to say it was the same fix throughout the code and that Root Cause Analysis at the time it originally occurred would have been very helpful. It would have stopped the expensive and time consuming fix required recently. Root cause analysis would have paid for itself multiple times over.

So the next time you have an error, take a look at it and see if you can put something down in the defect description indicating where it might have originated. Some classification will go a long way to describing where we need to concentrate more resources.

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