Big Brother Is Tracking You: Task Trackers and Time Trackers for Developers’ and Customers’ Benefit
What is a task tracker?
A task tracking system or issue-tracking system (ITS), as it is often called, is generally a software application that manages and maintains lists of issues. It is similar to a bug tracker, and often, such systems can combine the functions of both bug trackers and issue trackers. Modern issue tracking systems provide a much wider range of functions beyond simple task tracking, making these products capable of tracking projects from concept to completion.
When using an issue tracking system, you can plan your projects, assign tasks to your employees, communicate effectively to organize work efficiently for every aspect of the software team, and view detailed reports on their progress. It can also provide statistical analysis of workflows and results.
A typically ITS can:
report an issue and assign a priority for the problem (based on the importance of the issue, customer, and date of submission)
assign the issue to someone (a single developer and to groups)
track the progression (milestone tracking)
customize the tracking procedure to prevent creating unnecessary paperwork
analyze your teamwork on the project (e.g., Gantt charts)
exchange messages between the members of work group
create reports both for software developers and customers
The most advanced systems also have modules for
Testing / QA management
Time & expense tracking
Time and expense tracking can also be a separate piece of software, a so-called time tracker. A time tracker is a software application that can record the time spent on various tasks to ensure correct invoicing (based on the time spent on the customer’s issues) and workforce management.
Who uses issue trackers and what are their benefits for software developers and their customers?
ITS applications are used by many kinds of companies, including software developers, manufacturers, IT help desks, and other service providers. Issue tracking is a win-win strategy for employers and employees – every one in the company hierarchy can work faster and better because there is a single dashboard for everything.
As a rule, project managers benefit the most from issue and time tracking, as they can assign work, monitor its progress, and review their individual employees. HR teams also benefit from ITS as they can monitor the workload and find out which specialists they have to look for. The employees dealing with the code itself can save time thanks to:
Sharing workload and eliminating duplication of tasks
Customers benefit from ITS applications by eliminating geographical barriers when working with foreign, outsourcing IT companies, have access to information any place, any time, give their requests and recommendations concerning the product being developed, and realize how much time and effort is spent on their project, allowing them to monitor how much money they are spending on it.
As a rule, any tracking system can make your team more efficient if they know how to use them, i.e. you have stand workflow systems. If you don’t, your time tracking system should be developed either in-house, or by a company that has extensive experience in this field. If you are looking for a stable system and workflow don’t hesitate to contact Archer-soft.
What are the main issue and time tracking software solutions that are worth using?
Issue-tracking and time-tracking systems can be divided into proprietary and open-source solutions. There are also web-based and installed applications. Often, software developers use the ITS their customers are used to. Some software development companies create their own issue tracking systems that are customized for their particular business processes and needs. Here is a review of some of the systems frequently used by our IT company.
Jira is a proprietary ITS, free community licenses are provided for open source and academic projects. The developer of this system, Atlassian, positions it as a project management tool for capturing and organizing issues, assigning work, and following team activity.
The key functions of Jira are:
Collaboration and file sharing
Milestone tracking and percent-complete tracking
Testing / QA management
Pros of this ITS: It is a solid, professional application having plenty of functionalities for Agile projects. There is a dashboard with reporting widgets (Open Social) Excel, Word, and customizable charts. Also the system has documentation integration/generation, and a reporting option, test planning integration option, customizable workflow, custom fields, and is capable of managing multiple projects. In our company, we use it for multiple projects when customers want to use the ITS they are most-acquainted with.
Cons of this ITS: The configuration and implementation phase takes time and should be addressed as a prerequisite part of a project, the amount of customizable fields could be larger. Not very useful for HR and financial departments.
Redmine is a flexible project management web application. It is cross-platform and cross-database. It is open source and released under the terms of the GNU General Public License.
Some of the main features of Redmine are:
Multiple project support
Flexible role based access control
Flexible issue tracking system
Gantt chart and calendar
Custom fields for issues, time-entries, projects and users
SCM integration (SVN, CVS, Git, Mercurial, Bazaar and Darcs)
Multiple databases support
We use this ITS for approximately 1% of the projects when our customers prefer using this system.
Pros of this ITS: It is free, which makes it popular with small and large organizations, and easy to use (once it's been customized), flexible (can be customized to your needs), multi-purposed (serves different roles at the same time). The tool can also be used to track projects and to "chunk" projects into smaller sub-projects that increase productivity and help members of teams keep up with the progress of projects.
Cons: The system requires someone to administer it. It also requires installation, but a cloud based version is available. You may need a person to install and maintain Redmine. The main issue is the interface, which is difficult for new-comers.
A web-based software facilitating communication and collaboration on projects suitable both for freelancers and companies. It is a proprietary system with an average price of $29 per user per month. There is a web version and mobile version of the tracker.
The system allows:
Pros of this tracker: It is a quite easy system for a team and a good tool for sharing information – serves as a repository. It is good for to-do lists and due dates. Can replace communication by email.
Cons: Good for simple task lists, but not enough to track a whole project. This software requires training to use it, e.g. correct project creation and naming.
The system was developed by Archer-soft primarily for managing its own projects. It is a powerful professional tracking system combined with project management tools. Web and installed versions of Producer™ are available. It is useful for PMs, HRs, and financial department as it can not only track issue workflow, but also other aspects of software company operations.
The system allows:
Time & expense tracking
Employee efficiency analysis
Pros of this ITS: Powerful tool for managing a whole project. Several levels of access to information. Very convenient for testing / QA employees management.
Cons of this ITS: Web version is not fully functional, some options still need to be added. Reports can only be exported to Excel files. More targeted at inventory management than at issue tracking.