Tools

Better project management (and greater client happiness) with Pivotal Tracker

Managing feature requests, bugs, and all of the other details of a development project requires tools that make a complex and often painful process easier ... Pivotal Tracker is just such a tool

project management
Credit: VFS Digital Design / Flickr

I’ve recently been advising a startup and we’ve just managed to launch their new Web site. An interesting part of this launch was that we used a Web service recommended by our developers called Pivotal Tracker, an agile-style project tracker, to log bugs, issues, changes, and all the other stuff that goes into a project and track progress.

When you have a project that involves more than two people, keeping track of what needs to be done becomes a huge problem very quickly. At first, there’s usually not that much to track but as problems arise and get handed out to different people keeping track of when and whether each issue is handled can’t practically be done by either email, phone calls, or any kind of meeting.

Now there are many software products and Web services that address the mechanics of project tracking but many of these solutions are, in and of themselves, often complex and introduce significant “drag” in the process because they were designed by techies for techies rather than for clients. The result is that the extra mental effort required to deal with using the solution on top of tracking the actual project issues becomes overwhelming and exhausting so the people involved in the project who aren’t technical wind up using the solution either poorly or not at all.

Pivotal Tracker user interface Pivotal Tracker

Pivotal Tracker user interface

Pivotal Tracker takes a different approach from most of its competitors by providing a user interface design that is clean and easily understood. I won’t go into the details of how Pivotal Tracker is used as the company’s video describes the concepts and workflow very clearly.

What’s really cool about Pivotal Tracker is that it correlates how long your organization took to complete tasks against your original estimates of how difficult each task would be and uses that to figure out how long the workload will take. This makes project planning much easier and provide clients and developers a clear understanding of loads, constraints, and tradeoffs.

With Pivotal Tracker it’s really easy to understand what’s happening within a project as well as across multiple projects but if there’s a downside to Pivotal it’s that it may not be best choice for really complex projects. Even then, as a tool to streamline feature requests and bug resolution communications between developers and their clients, it’s pretty much the ideal tool.

Pivotal Tracker also integrates with a number of other project management tools such as ProjectLocker (a cloud-based Subversion and Git hosting service for private projects), Google Calendar, Zapier, and Dash of Agile (“an agile dashboard for your boss. It creates beautiful dashboards that answers all of those questions you’re asked. Every. Single. Day. It syncs Pivotal Tracker data automatically and shows progress, effort, realistic delivery dates for stories and epics, and a whole-heckuv-a-lot more.”).

A free subscription to Pivotal Tracker is available for up to 3 collaborators and unlimited viewers with 2 private projects and 2GB of file storage. Premium plans start with up to 5 collaborators and unlimited viewers with 5 private projects and 5GB of storage for $15 per month and above that there are 10, 15, 25, and 50 collaborator plans. Pricing for enterprise plans for 50+ collaborators is on request.

My experiences with Pivotal Tracker were great. We had a self-imposed deadline to meet and while we used Pivotal Tracker in a rather simplistic manner it really helped to clarify which issues were crucial and which could be shelved until post-launch. And we did it! We hit our target. If you try Pivotal Tracker let me know how it works for you.

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