PivotalTracker — A Fascinating Software Project Management Tool

An interesting tool/technology I encountered in preparation for Bootcamp

Software Project Management is the practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific desirable goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time. Pivotal Tracker is one of the most interesting too I encountered in preparation for Bootcamp at Andela.

Pivotal Tracker is a story-based project planning tool that takes its inspiration from agile software methods. Every application that is created follows some discernible process that can be connected to the set of steps that collectively define Software Project Management. One of the main challenges in software project management as highlighted by Wikiversity(https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Software_project_management) is the balance of the “triple constraint” (scope of software, time required to implement, and development cost). Scope is the set of specific objectives that a define the problems a piece of software should address. Time required is a numeric figure that is definable based on the work needed to achieve the scope. Development cost is a monetary figure that is calculated based on the time required, as well as other planned and unforeseeable, expenses. Any of these three factors could be the most important, or there could be more than one mutually important constraint, in the context of a specific software development project. An increase, or decrease, in any of the three would have ramifications for the values of the other two. A successfully managed project will deliver the scope, while achieving time and monetary budgets. PivotalTracker comes in very handy to management the Software project to maximize output while minimizing constraints employing the agile methodology.

Using Pivotal Tracker

Basically, to use Pivotal Tracker, you start by brainstorming in the Icebox, which is a special group for unpublished stories. You can use this to get used to the system and to learn its basic functionality before you start to assign tasks to your employees.

On Pivotal Tracker, your tasks are called ‘stories’ and they’re estimated in points, not in hours. The system will guide you through the process from when you start a story to when you finish it and deliver it. You can even deliver it to the customer and allow them to either accept or reject a story there and then through the software.

PivotalTracker — An interesting tool for agile developers

Unique functions of Pivotal Tracker

There are two main functions that fascinate me about Pivotal Tracker.

Velocity

Think of this as like having a speedometer for your business that can monitor its speed and its trajectory. I am frankly amazed by how much information is there for the taking, and it’s worth placing a particular focus on how quickly your team is completing stories. Instead of miles and kilometers per hour, your virtual speedometer will measure the number of points completed per iteration.

The good thing about this is that the software provides a running total of the number of accepted stories, and the backlog is broken up into estimated iterations based upon current velocity. The idea is to give you an idea of when features will be finished, automatically calculating timelines based upon the latest data. A team in Andela can use this information to get a realistic idea of members workloads over time, thus, allowing you to plan ahead and to bring in extra resources if needed.

Essentially, Pivotal Tracker can automatically identify when you’re likely to deliver individual projects, and it’s all based on previous progress. This means you can identify potential trends without inconveniencing yourself. For example, if productivity falls then it suggests that something is wrong, and you can take steps to reverse the trend.

Different task types

I have already mentioned that Pivotal Tracker uses ‘Stories’ to help one to track his progress, and one of its key advantages is the number of different story types that are available. It basically allows you to customize the story you’ve created depending upon what it’s for, with categories including:

  • FEATURE: A specific subroutine that runs within a piece of software and allows you to do something. For example, the ability to add a table is a feature of Microsoft Word.
  • BUG: This classification is for the fixes you roll out when a user reports an issue with the software.
  • CHORE: Think of this as like cleaning the bathroom or changing to winter tires. These stories might not be as glamorous as new features, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less important.
  • RELEASE: This is typically the holy grail of software development teams. New releases are far more common when you’re using the agile methodology because it’s all about little and often. That’s why the release categorization comes in so handy.

I need not over emphasize how important PivotalTracker is to an Agile, Epic Developer. To find-out more, signup and start using PivotalTracker today!

Software Engineer