5 Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Tools to Help You Improve Testing and QA

Hello, Habr! As part of the recruitment of students for the course “QA Lead” prepared a translation of the article.

We also invite everyone to register for the open webinar. “Organization of the testing process in agile and non-agile teams.” At the webinar, participants, together with an expert, will consider the following questions:
1. Organization of the work process in the waterfall project.
2. Organization of the testing process in the scrum team.
3. Organization of the work process in scalable agile approaches.
4. Organization of the testing process in a team using the kanban method.

When a problem arises that requires analysis, a company needs to use Root Cause Analysis (RCA) tools to look at more than “some of the symptoms that have formed.”

An RCA report is needed to find the actual cause of the problem, this will help restore major systems and processes and fix the problem with a permanent solution, not a temporary solution.

What is RCA?

RCA is a technique used to find answers to the question of why a problem occurred. It works to determine the origin of the problem, using tools to perform a series of steps that identify possible causes and then the root cause of the problem.

It is a quality control measure that allows you to figure out what happened, understand why it happened, and then start adjusting the process to reduce the likelihood of repeating the same problem.

RCA works on the basis that all systems and events are interconnected. Something one in a certain area triggers something else in another area. The ability to track these interrelated triggers allows a person to see where the problem started and how it became the system that is now the main problem. RCA searches for patterns, finds errors that are hidden within the system itself. It effectively shows the root cause or multiple causes of existing problems.

RCA determines whether the defect was caused by a test bug, a design bug, or possibly a requirement or design bug.

Moreover, it is imperative to find out that later releases are defect-free. A design flaw allows anyone to review the design documentation and make corrections as if the defect was caused by a testing bug. This is an example of factor analysis of causation.

RCA instruments

Having the right RCA tools can help you track the process by systematically investigating the factors that are driving the underlying problems.

Finding the true root cause of problems with a good analysis tool means that you are not just trying to “put out the fire from the initial symptoms.”

Here are five RCA methods that can be used as tools to help identify the root cause of a problem.


The 8D (8 Disciplines or Steps) problem-solving methodology was developed by the car company Ford as a Team Oriented Problem Solving (TOPS) solution in the 1980s. It is a methodology using a root cause analysis process. It is used to find a problem, fix an iterable (intermediate period), and create a long-term answer so that problems do not recur. This methodology is used to continuously improve reliability and quality.

This process aims to find potential root causes. It narrows down the causes to the factual, then creates containment processes and uses corrective measures to prevent recurrence of problems. It promotes systematic change and solves the immediate problem along with others that might arise from systematic failure. The process is consistent, easy for the team to learn, and very detailed to apply.

Focusing on the team rather than the individual is also beneficial. This methodology improves quality and reliability and works on potential future problems before they destroy the product. It should be used to evaluate:

  • Security and Regular Issues Discovered

  • Incoming customer complaints

  • Situations where warranty problems show higher failure rates than expected.

  • Unacceptable levels of internal scrap and poor performance or complete failures in testing.

Ishikawa instrument for RCA

Ishikawa Tool – Ishikawa diagram or fishbone diagram.

As strange as the name sounds, it describes the appearance of the analysis on paper. In its simplest form, it is just a cause and effect diagram. It is also called the “Ishikawa Diagram”.

This tool helps with brainstorming as part of the analysis process in an attempt to identify the elements that are causing the problem. In essence, it is a tree of root causes in the opposite direction. The tree diagram is used to narrow the list of causes, and the fishbone expands it. Fish bone diagram used to study cause and effect. The problem is placed on the “head of a fish,” and then potential causes are recorded on small bones of various categories.

It allows you to look at potential causes that might otherwise be overlooked. Once the problem has been clearly identified by the team, categories such as supplies, equipment, personnel, etc. are created. Then you brainstorm about why a particular event happened. The fishbone diagram focuses on the cause rather than the “symptoms.” The value of a diagram is that it allows team members to dig deeply and understand the problem so that it can be adequately addressed in the present and future.

RCA Technique 5 – Why

This tool is another reliable way to find the root cause of a problem and prevent it from reoccurring. This system was created by Sakichi Toyoda and is part of the Lean Manufacturing philosophy. The point is to ask why five times when a problem arises. This is done to make the decision clear. This will help you find and fix the root cause of the problem to avoid repeated failures.

This process is carried out by forming a cross-functional team to have a variety of unique perspectives. You need to clearly define the problem so that there is no doubt about what is being investigated. Have someone lead the team and focus on the problem. Start asking “why?” and analyze the answers until you find the root cause of the problem.

Be open to the possibility that there may be more than one reason. That you may need to take some corrective action as soon as the cause is found. Check if the problem has been fixed and if not, start the process over.

5m, 6m, and E RCA Analysis

These root cause analysis tools are very similar. All of these analyzes: 5M, 6M, and E have similar categories for analysis: People, Instruments, Measurements, Materials, Methods, and Environment. These elements provide answers in case of a problem or a change in the process.

There are questions that need to be asked, that need to be answered and evaluated in order to narrow down the area in which the root cause may be. This can be applied to software testing, as problems can not only come from an internal program. Is this a user problem? Programming? Analysts? Human error? Method or is it just a glitch that somehow became part of the software from an external source?

These 5-6 points are structured to name and relate the relationship between events, users, and problems that led to the failure or incident.

As with other RCA protocols, this protocol is used to find out and fix the problem that caused a particular problem. This protocol helps to reduce labor and economic waste by identifying the root cause, and thus relieving the “symptoms” that signaled a problem. This, in turn, helps prevent repeated failures.

RCA Software

Various RCA programs are available for analyzing and solving problems. These programs collect data and use it to help teams perform various analyzes, which contributes to effective quality management. Analysis data:

  • Ishikawa (fishbone diagram)

  • Analysis 5 – Why

  • Gap analysis (gap analysis)

  • Analysis of changes

  • Accident analysis

  • Failure Cause and Effect Analysis (FMEA)

The benefits of RCA software are that it can greatly simplify root cause analysis by recording any and all incidents and root cause analysis data in one place in the web so that it can be shared in an accessible way.

Examples of RCA software include both incident management programand many quality assurance automation toolswhich have RCA modules.

Once the software has identified the root cause, corrective action can be taken to fix the underlying problem and reduce the risk.

Employees can be assigned to work on specific tasks to make sure everything is fixed and redone. The software can help reduce the number of such incidents, as well as reduce the cost and frequency of incidents by addressing the root cause.


Using any of the above RCA tools can provide better testing and reliable QA (Quality Assurance) support when a team is faced with “symptoms of a problem” and needs to determine the root cause to fix the problem.

All of these tools are easy to understand and logical in how they solve various problem situations.

It is very important to know how to use one or all of the above RCA tools when it comes to building a team that can not only create, but also eliminate, and also minimize the consequences. Using these tools, along with peer support as part of the RCA process, opens the door to accurate answers, process improvements, and overall product quality improvements.

Learn more about the course “QA Lead”

Watch an open webinar “Organization of the testing process in agile and non-agile teams.”

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