[Tool Review] – Pivotal Tracker – Build Better Software, Faster

There are a lot of free Agile tools out there for Agile teams. Some are good, some are great, some just stand out from the crowd. If you’ve been doing some sort of Agile work, you’ve probably heard of this tool before, and there is a reason you have: It’s one of the best. Period.

*EDIT – This tool is now a freemium-paid tool. Find out the news here.

[Enter]: Pivotal TrackerBuild better software, faster.

Make no mistake. There is a reason it’s on top. It’s free, it’s light, it’s effective. Ok ok. Does it sound like I’m biased? Well, to be completely honest (as the reviewer), I’ve not only built training around Pivotal Tracker for clients, but I’ve created process documents, control documents, and sold several of my clients on Pivotal Tracker, or “Tracker” as the development team calls it.

As Joe Moore (@joem), a Pivotal Tracker developer, or “Pivot,” I met up with recently can attest, YES, I’m sold on Pivotal Tracker’s ability to manage Agile teams and their workflow with ease. I even showed him the documentation I built out for clients (which I’ll share here).

Does this sound like an unfair review already? Not really. Just because I’ve used it extensively doesn’t mean it’s a 10/10. Ready? Let’s dive in.

[Agile Scout reviews Agile Tools like this one. See more here]

They’ve recently revamped the site, and it looks prettier. Now with a black top and smoother lines, it’s now a sleeker app than ever. Once you jump in you’ll be faced with a dashboard. No worries here. Start a new project and begin.

The newer interface is below:

When you see the dashboard you’ll notice all of the projects that you’re working on as well as status updates on what people have been working on, changing, and commenting on. As you can see in the above example, this guy has added a ton of BUGS to the system.

A fully built out project looks like the one above. Easy to navigate, easy to see what’s in the queue.

To enter a story you click “Add Story” button and you’ll come up with a popup:

It’s pretty straight forward.

  1. Enter in a name
  2. Enter if it’s a feature, bug, or chore
  3. Estimate the size of the work
  4. Add a label (Greatly encouraged for tracking)
  5. See who wrote the story and see who the story should be assigned to
  6. Add a description
  7. And comment as necessary
  8. You can also add attachments (only AFTER you’ve saved) [-1 on UI]

Save it and you’re ready to go. The story gets dropped into the ICEBOX and you can begin start the story.

What we especially like about this format is that the stories are all written, managed, and seen on the same dashboard. This makes it easy to prioritize a product backlog, groom it, click-and-drag it up or down on the list.

Below you can click and drag or press the buttons to move it through the system:

Specific options show you when it’s:

  • Done – Developer complete
  • Deliver – Ready for QA
  • Accept/Reject – QA passed

What is apparent, though, is that the metrics section of Pivotal Tracker isn’t where I would immediately think to look. When I think of reports, I’m looking at the project level or project tab. What is interesting (and good) is that the reports open up another swimlane and you can see the information right next to your icebox. This is a big win in the UX area [+1 on UX].

Pivotal Tracker has a laundry list of integrations and 3rd party tools and extra features for developers. Just make sure you check out Pivotal Tracker Help and see what they have.

3rd Party Tools - Need A Wall?

  • Need API connectivity? Check.
  • Need to see your projects on iPhone? Check.
  • Need some awesome 3rd party apps to connect to and try out? Check.

I’ve been asked before about Pivotal Tracker as a collaboration tool. My answer? “Excellent.” While not like a Yammer or Campfire for basecamp, the collaboration is real time. Any changes made are sent to the users via an email and it is very easy (as a developer) to see an extra swimlane of just YOUR work. I like this because it’s unobtrusive. The swimlane can be collapsed and hidden, but also can be opened to track work. you have Pivotal Tracker open, you can see all changes being made in real time.

Many Integrations Available!

For many developers, this is crucial. It allows changes and comments to be seen and to be addressed instantly.

Bottom line?

Pivotal Tracker is a winner in our books.

Plus, it’s daggum FREE to boot.

One word of caution would be when using it for many multiple projects. It can be crazy to manage, but if you’re true Agilist, hopefully you’re not working on too many projects at once.

If you’re looking for an Agile tool, this may be your one stop shop. It’s not perfect, and it doesn’t fit every enterprises’ needs, and doesn’t have a local install option (yet), but if you’re ok with you stuff all up on the cloud, this may just work for you.

Like this tool and need help implementing it? I have you covered.

Pivotal Tracker Walkthrough for DEVELOPMENT TEAM

PT Development

Pivotal Tracker Walkthrough for CUSTOMER SERVICE TEAM

PT Customer Service

Pivotal Tracker Cheat Sheet

Pivotal Tracker Cheat Sheet for Customer Service

Pivotal Tracker Visio Workflow

Pivotal Tracker CONTROL MATRIX (For security / audit / etc)

Pivotal Tracker Control Matrix
Below is an introduction video by Pivotal Tracker:

Oh, by the way. We review other tools tool. Check them out here.

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16 Responses to “[Tool Review] – Pivotal Tracker – Build Better Software, Faster”

  1. Joe Moore
    December 22, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Epic review and materials! Of course, as someone who has been a developer of Pivotal Tracker off and on for 5 years I’m biased. BTW: if anybody out there would like a remote demo of Pivotal Tracker let me know by emailing joe@[the name of my blog] or hit me up on Twitter: @joem.

    • peter
      December 23, 2010 at 10:57 am #

      Joe is an excellent resource. I would highly recommend anyone with further questions about Pivotal Tracker to email him or look him up. Great guy too!

  2. Andy Darnell
    December 22, 2010 at 11:53 pm #

    Wow. Did you write this after our meet up :)

    • peter
      December 23, 2010 at 9:52 am #

      Yep. Pushing content!

    • Frotto
      November 16, 2012 at 6:57 am #

      Aaron,We are thinking of adndig the field mapping capability that we have for Zendesk and Salesforce to Pivotal Tracker. This would let you customize the title with any SnapABug data or JavaScript variables from your application.Stay tuned Jerome.

  3. Hinnerk
    December 23, 2010 at 5:16 am #

    really great stuff, thanks!

    Btw: Some of the videos seem broken — embedit.in stops delivering after a few kBytes.

    • peter
      December 23, 2010 at 9:53 am #

      Really? Thanks for the heads up. Maybe I should change it. Let me check

    • peter
      December 23, 2010 at 10:03 am #

      There you go. Updated!

  4. vijay goel
    March 8, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    Seems like a nice agile software workflow.

    As the review states, it really breaks down at an executive level, where I need to be able to manage multiple parallel projects and have different functions working on different elements of them. An intermediate tier, with the ability to assign tasks to specific team members would be much better for that kind of thing. Maybe it’s not agile, but that creates accountability for a distributed team.

    • peter
      March 8, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

      It can do that. You can utilize Pivotal for many different projects simultaneously.

  5. Jeremy
    January 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    A good complement to Pivotal Tracker is a third party add-on called Burndown-charts. It gives you good insight on how your team progression. You can generate burn-down charts by story points or by tasks.

    The website is located at: http://www.burndown-charts.com.

    IMO, they deliver better reporting and analytic than PT.

    • peter
      January 26, 2013 at 6:01 am #

      Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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