Dan Podsedly, VP and General ManagerProject management software plays a crucial role in software development and the majority of these tools fall into two camps. On the one side there are the do-everything, feature-rich, highly customizable solutions that allow you to create the ultimate PM tool. Then there are the very simple tools that require little setup, have minimal structure, and are used by people to manage everything from software projects to weddings. With each type of tool, how you structure your project is up to you. When you stop to think about it, however, you begin to realize that they aren't really PM tools at all, but rather tools that allow you to create a PM tool.
What's novel about Pivotal Tracker is that it works right out of the box. “This is one of Tracker’s unique strengths,” says Dan Podsedly, VP and General Manager of Pivotal Tracker. “We firmly believe that there’s a wrong and right way to build software and Tracker is imbued with just enough of the right structure to keep modern software teams focused and on track.” This structure is one of three core tenets that Tracker adheres to when considering new features and functionality. The two others are visibility and simplicity.
“Our first—and ongoing—challenge with Tracker is to keep the interface simple and fun to use, so that all members of the team use it, not just PMs,” says Podsedly. “That’s extremely important because if your team is not using your PM tool, the app can’t possibly reflect the true status of your project; then what good is it?”
On a basic level, Tracker is a onepage, shared to-do list for the entire team; a living requirements doc. Work is broken down and chopped into manageable chunks called stories that are prioritized by dragging and dropping them into the backlog. Then, team members simply work their way down the list. As stories are started and finished, they change color and the app’s UI becomes an up-to-the-minute infographic radiating the project’s status.
Teams need to get to a place where they operate at a steady, predictable pace. Tracker helps them do just that
This simplicity of design and shared ownership translates into an unprecedented level of project transparency. If everyone can see what’s happening all the time, urgent requests and sudden changes are easily absorbed and taken care of. “This is the way modern software teams develop,” says Podsedly. “Requirements change constantly and the ability to communicate change and execute on it rapidly is a business necessity. Your PM tool needs to be a source of truth.”
Part of their secret sauce is the structured workflow that Tracker provides. Stories are assigned points by the team based on their collective determination of how complex each given requirement will be to execute on. After a short while, teams become accurate at doing this and Tracker is then able to predict how much work the team will execute on a weekly basis. “The work dictates the timeline. That’s one of the fundamental principles of the new software culture,” says Podsedly. “Teams need to get to a place where they operate at a steady, predictable pace. Tracker helps them do just that and subsequently communicate and set honest expectations.”
Tracker is currently working on further enhancing its analytics and reporting as well as adding features that will facilitate large organizations to manage cross-team communications and dependencies. “Tracker is definitely not for everyone,” Dan points out. “However, if an organization is ready to embrace modern software development practices, we feel they will be pleasantly surprised at how transformative this experience is and how well Tracker is suited to support them.”