by Josh Yeager, Swift Software
Our development team uses an “agile” software process, which means that we work in a series of two-week plan->code->test->polish iterations. As we complete each iteration, we install a small new feature set on our internal production server for alpha testing. Each iteration completes a small portion of the overall development plan. After two to ten iterations, a whole set of features that have passed QA are designated as complete, and we build a final release and announce it to our customers.
Our JobTraQ system manages this process for us in several ways. First, it manages our feature wishlist and roadmap. We have a parent project called “Future”, which contains subprojects that stage all of our feature ideas, enhancements, and strategic goals that are not on our immediate roadmap. A second project is called “Planning Queue”, and that project contains all of the tasks and projects that we plan to complete in the next two releases. We simply drag and drop the appropriate features into this “Planning Queue” project as we approach the iteration they will be developed in. Over time, our product management team prioritizes these items, plans their details, and reviews them with the development team to ensure they are technically sound. We work together to refine the time estimates and identify possible problems, so that all the basic details are decided by the time we’re ready to start working on each task.
Second, JobTraQ manages our iterations. At the start of each iteration, the development team sits down and pulls the top items from the planning queue into a new project for the iteration. They select a set of tasks that can be completed within a two-week iteration, and then they plan those tasks in detail. All of the decisions and designs that they create are recorded in the JobTraQ tasks. Then, throughout the iteration, they track their progress and time spent in those tasks, record notes about their designs and code, and close the tasks when they are complete. To help usall stay coordinated, JobTraQ sends email notifications to the team when tasks are updated and closed, and we have a “burn-up” chart report that is sent to the team every day to compare our closed tasks to our goal.
Example Burn Up Chart
The third thing that JobTraQ manages is customer support. When a new email request comes in, we use the new beta version of our two-way email processing feature to automatically create a task for the request and log the time that it came in. Then, as our support team and the customer reply to each email, all of the replies are logged in that task. Screenshots or attached files are also extracted from the emails and attached to the task. When the issue is resolved, the task is closed. Along the way, JobTraQ email notifications inform the team about the state of the active support cases, and the support task list reminds us about support requests that have not been resolved and questions that the customer has not replied to in a while. These tools help us ensure that no customer request is forgotten or mishandled. We use the same process for support phone calls, although we have to update JobTraQ manually after each call.
The common thread among all three of these processes is that JobTraQ holds all of the information about our plans and our current work, as well as the status and progress of the tasks that we are working on. As a result, we almost never lose track of a project or request. We don’t forget about our bigger plans while we’re working on the details. And we can predict and evaluate our development timelines, support responsiveness, and team productivity. All these benefits are extremely helpful to me as the product leader and to the individuals and teams that work on our product.
In future posts, we will be discussing the ways that we use JobTraQ to manage other parts of our business, and we may even highlight some of our customers’ processes if anyone is interested in sharing. As always, if you have any questions, please comment below.
If you are in need of a full-featured Task Management software tool - I recommend you check out JobTraQ. Take a tour of the product or request a demo. Trust me - it will be time well spent. - Brad Egeland