There is one application that a development team depend a lot on — to the point that it is accessed almost every hour: the Issue Tracker.
Before we go on the nitty gritty details of an issue tracker, let’s first discuss what an issue is.
What is an issue?
There is no simple answer, because every organization has its own definition. However, depending on your company’s methodologies, development cycle, and culture, an issue can be any (or all) of the following:
- a bug
- a feature
- a change order
- a requirement
In our organization, we define issue as a bug or an approved change order.
This has raised eyebrows from the most conservative project managers (PMs). However, we believe that this is necessary to provide a healthy balance between speed & process. Think about it: during crunch time, would you really expect the programmers & the QA team to constantly refer two tracking tools at the same time? Having one tool which keeps all to-do lists provides a simple yet workable system for a team.
What is an issue tracker?
From the name itself, an Issue Tracker is a system which lets you track the status of an issue. Its status can either resolved, closed, needs feedback, assigned, etc.
How does it work?
The workflow starts with a person entering an issue — he can be the project manager, a QA staff, the customer, or even one of the programmers.
The project manager or the QA then confirms it: Is really a bug, or a change order? If it is a bug, was he able to replicate it? Is the issue too vague that more information is needed?
After confirming the issue, it now has to be assigned — to designate the person responsible for it (usually the programmer). The project manager, QA, or even the programmer can assign an issue.
As soon as it is assigned, it is now included in the list of tasks of that person (“assignee”). It will keep on appearing in his to-do list, until he marks it resolved.
If an issue has been marked resolved, it is verified by the QA or the PM, and then is tagged closed.
Uses of the issue tracker
From this workflow alone, you can already guess the numerous uses of an issue tracker. It can be used to:
- generate status reports
- provide metrics on the rate of resolution
- provide a basis for work breakdown structures for future projects
Numerous issue trackers are available, both commercial and freeware. If you want to go thru the open source route, there is Bugzilla, Mantis, dotProject, etc. Almost all project management applications already have an issue tracker built-in.
Things to keep in mind
In selecting an issue tracker, workability & acceptance is key. The tool must be something that your team is willing to work with. I handled an enterprise level project wherein we simply used Excel — because that was what the team wants to work with.
The biggest mistake of most PMs (this author included) is forcing a system she thinks is “cool” to the other team members. If, after a few weeks of using the tool, you sense reluctance from your team, take the hint. Reevaluate the different options available until you find one which works best for your team.