Bug free or Free Bugs

Bug free or Free Bugs

Paul Pagel

April 26, 2009

I will not charge a client for a bug fix. Not a penny. If I make a mistake, it is my professional obligation to fix it.

If something doesn’t work with my car, there could be catastrophic consequences, I would be mad unless the company has a solution and offers to fix it for free. As a car owner, I expect nothing less.

If a doctor makes a mistake, the patient has the right to sue the doctor for malpractice. Why is it if I make a mistake, I get off scot free? Or worse, I get paid to fix my own mistakes.

I know sometimes the devil is in the details. What is a bug? This is not an easy question to answer, but if there are customer written acceptance tests for the system, the items that fall through are fewer. These are general rules I go by when deciding if something is a bug or not:

  1. I made a mistake. These are usually easy to notice, due to the redness in my face when the bug is reported. It is clear to me, I made a mistake, and it is clear I need to fix the bug. It shouldn’t cost any money and the process should be transparent.

  2. There is a mistake that both development and the customer team should have caught. A scenario the customer should have specified and during development I should have noticed and brought to their attention. The fault goes on both parties and can be fixed at some version of half price (i.e. every other or a half price story).

  3. The application doesn’t behave correctly due to a missed specification. a scenario that the customer missed or a piece of the business logic that wasn’t fully correct. Almost everyone makes some mistakes. This is not a bug to me, but a feature enhancement. It can be written up as a story and completed.

I think it is important to build faith with the customer that there is a team of developers that are accountable. When you create the culture of accountability, it spreads. The customer team is willing to be accountable when they make a mistake.

When no one is afraid to make or admit to a mistake, the projects quality is positively affected. Finally, by taking financial ownership of a bug, I build a trust with my stakeholders of the project.

Paul Pagel

Chairman, Founder, and President

Paul Pagel founded 8th Light in 2006, and has been a driving force in the software development community ever since. He has grown 8th Light from a small consultancy into a brand that is recognized by software developers worldwide.