Manage Your Projects Simply Yet Efficiently With Pivotal Tracker

Anyone who works in a business will know how important collaboration is on a project. It allows you to work more effectively by knowing exactly who is doing what and can save business time and, most importantly, money. In today’s world, which revolves around technology and the Internet, project management has moved from those old-fashioned paper Gantt charts pinned up on the noticeboard around work to the virtual world of silicon chips and cloud-based computing.

There’s so many project managers, and yet most seem to be the same old system with a slightly different design. Then there’s Pivotal Tracker, an app that takes a fully unique approach to managing projects the agile way.

Introduction

With the advent of working from home or from another office, project management nowadays has to be accessible from wherever you are. However, implementing such a system can often be time-consuming and expensive, and especially so if you have to buy a number of licenses for the project management software you are using.

MS Project 2000

Microsoft Project was (and still is in some cases) a popular project management tool

It’s therefore good to know that the Internet offers quite a few solutions, and Pivotal Tracker is one of these. It is a simple, yet powerful and effective cloud-based project management utility that can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection. This is not only a convenient solution if you’ve got a lot of remote workers but can also offer a price-effective solution by avoiding remote access and multiple user licences.

Let’s take a look at Pivotal Tracker in a bit more detail.

Diving Into Pivotal Tracker

Pivotal Tracker can be accessed from any web browser and signing up takes only a minute or so (you can even sign in using your Google account). There are a number of different pricing plans based on your business requirements, and each plan offers a range of different features and collaborators. The plans range from $7 per month for 3 collaborators and 1 GB of storage to $175 per month for 50 collaborators and unlimited storage.

Pivotal Pricing

The various pricing plans available for Pivotal Tracker

For this review, we are going to look at the basic version, which is free for individual projects and offers 200 MB of storage and only one collaborator (i.e. you!). Once you have signed in, you are greeted with the Dashboard which gives you an overview of your current projects as well as an RSS feed showing current activity in your projects.

Pivotal Dashboard

Your dashboard, showing the projects you are currently working along as well as an RSS activity feed

Features

Pivotal Tracker is so full of features that the ones mentioned in this review are just the tip of the iceberg and to really experience the full might of Pivotal Tracker, it’s best to sign up for a free, personal account.

Project Overview

Your project overview is split into three columns, Current, Backlog and Icebox. The Current view shows all tasks on the project that need to be completed. The Backlog shows any tasks that are overdue and need to be completed and the Icebox shows any ideas that are “on ice” – i.e. ideas that have yet to be prioritised.

Pivotal column

An overview of your project with the various columns (this view can also be customised)

The column view makes it very easy to view the various aspects of your project, and you can customise the main page as required, for example by adding further columns (such as completed tasks, work assigned specifically to you and charts to view your progress).

Tasks

Adding a task to a project (or story as it is called in Pivotal Tracker) is quick and simple and also presents you with a wide range of customisation options. After entering the title, you can choose the type of story, of which there are four types:

  1. A feature is a story that provides business value to the team’s customer is usually requested by the customer himself.
  2. A chore is a story that usually doesn’t provide business value but is needed to progress further in the project.
  3. A bug is a defect in a particular story which needs looking at.
  4. A release marker shows that a particular part of the project is complete and can be released.

You can also rank each story according to its workload and this information is used to calculate the team’s velocity – a vital feature for estimating and tracking internal productivity. Stories can also have attached files to them (such as pictures and documents) and they can be marked with tags. This allows for better communication, easier searching for particular stories and more accurate results. Each story is also allocated a unique story ID, making searching even easier.

Comments

Any team member working on a particular task can add comments so as to help other team members working on the project keep track of progress. Comments can also avoid the need for endless phone calls and e-mails back and forth!

Pivotal comments

Adding comments to particular tasks is extremely easy and allows other team members to keep up-to-date

Story Workflow

Pivotal Tracker helps you keep track of the actual workflow of a particular story by using a simple, colour-coded system.

When a particular task pops up, then the story developer can click on Start. This therefore assigns this particular story to him. When the task is finished, then the developer clicks on Finish, then a Deliver button appears. This indicates that the particular task is ready for testing and/or evaluation, and once the team member responsible for testing has clicked it,  the story developer is alerted both via the app and via e-mail.

The story developer can either Accept or Reject the story. Accepting the story places it in the Done column; rejecting the story means that it can be restarted again. When the developer clicks on Reject, Pivotal Tracker will prompt for a reason, which then appears in the comments. All other team members can then see why it was rejected, thereby allowing room for improvement the second time round.

Pivotal reject

When you reject a particular story, Pivotal Tracker will prompt you for a reason, which can be seen by all other team members

Conclusion

If I were to describe all the features of Pivotal Tracker, I’d be here for days. The best way to see them all is to sign up for a free plan and have an explore yourself. As I mentioned above, the features described here in this review are just a small part of what Pivotal Tracker is capable of, and there are plenty of features lurking behind its deceitfully simple user interface.

For web-based project management, I cannot envision a more feature-rich and well-designed program. Although it is primarily meant for businesses, Pivotal Tracker can also be used for personal use. It may be a little feature-rich for some people’s liking – the major advantage, though, is that it’s free for personal use.

Pivotal Tracker will, of course, feel most at home in businesses. It will save you time and money and the fact it is web-based and accessible from everywhere (there is even an iOS version for the iPhone and iPad) will appeal to any business, no matter how big or small. It’s a unique tool for managing your workflow, and if you’ve never found a project tool that worked great for your team, be sure to give it a try.


Summary

A simple yet powerful web-based project management utility.

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