Friday, August 22, 2008

Bug Tracking Revisited: The trials and tribulations of "Fogbugz"

I started using Fogbugz, a web based project management system for work about 4 months ago. I'd previously used a hacked version of a PHP and MySQL program called Mantis, which I found to be adequate.

Fogbugz was hyped up as being the simple "be all and end all" solution to project management that would work out of the box, handle enquiries by magic automatically responding to email enquiries and help solve data duplication and a whole bunch of other problems. Certainly the sales pitches on the Fog creek website are pretty slick.

The interface, I was told, was so uber Web 2.0 and friendly that even a baby could use the thing.
In reality I was given a 1-2 hour second hand walkthrough.

The reality is far from easy. It certainly is different. In fact, personally I've found it to be one of the most complex and awkward tools I've ever used. After my walkthrough session I had absolutely no idea how to use the thing and a mountain of questions a mile high.

Well I guess I was always told that it wasn't like the many CRMs with bug tracking added on, and it wasn't a bug tracker trying to be a CRM, but many times you do need both.

I got sold the solution saying that it was going to be something that the programmers would use and it would have all sorts of poweful and useful reports like discrepancies in estimates, overdue cases and the like. But in reality, everything ended up getting pushed through the system, so reluctantly, I had to learn to work its way. And most of the reports turn out to be pretty useless.

I'm just now getting used to circumstances when I should use my own email and its email.

Then there is setting signatures. I was told that it was easy. So rather than ask for help (I'd rather use "user friendliness and initiative), I searched and searched my user settings and all sorts of other things. Nothing. So I did some Googling. By a couple of hours later I'd found that you can use some sort of thing called "Snippets". But further reading only discovered what they could do and not really how to use them. (If only I had a manual). Finally only after stuffing around for literally ages, I discovered that my laptop keyboard doesn't have the default snippet character ... great, so if only someone had told me I could change it from my options, I'd be a step further from smashing something. ...

Fogbugz also uses a whole lot of filters and reports and uses cookies to save queries. Which is fine until you want to do something and then spend whole minutes deactivating filters and trying to work out which filters have been set.

Then there are timesheets. Unless you're one of those people who works using "What am I doing now" style of worker with minimum distractions, the system is clumsy. I constantly find myself entering times for the wrong days, then entering a time only to find that I don't have the case number and guess what, those funky AJAX style floating box consistently sits smack bang on top of that case number and guess what, it won't move, so I have to close the whole thing off, remember the case number and start over.

Then there is the way that the system categorises things and of course being an email based system when you get bounce backs and spam, you have to deal with them too. As a project management tool I have to get used to this whole process of projects and releases and release candidates. But at the same time, its no web based project management tool either ...

So we're also at the point where we're again hacking it (not always progammatically though) just to try to get it to work the way we want. What was supposed to save time has, at least for me, become a huge time waster. And there is more duplication of data then ever.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm not saying that Fogbugz is bad, just to scratch the surface of the slick sales pitch. Maybe I should have read the manual afterall ...

No comments: