As projects grow in size and complexity, the limits of an Excel sheet for tracking issues begin to show very quickly.
When that happens, it’s time to look into issue tracking systems to ensure that all issues in a web development company are resolved in a timely manner.
What is an Issue Tracking System (ITS)?
Issue tracking systems, commonly referred to as ITS, are software applications that provide a ticketing system to record and follow the progress of every issue identified by a computer user until the issue is resolved.
An issue can be anything from a bug report to customer question to development inquiry. Issues are often confused with bugs because all bugs are issues, but not all issues are bugs. A typical bug is a defect in the codebase, and a single bug can manifest in many different ways.
When ten different customers report ten different issues caused by the same bug, ten tickets are opened in an ITS and are tracked until they are resolved, usually by applying a patch and verifying with the affected customers that they’re no longer experiencing any problems.
Features of Issue Tracking Systems
Each issue in an ITS typically has several details associated with it. Some issues may have greater urgency than others, perhaps because they affect the most customers or because they represent a serious roadblock that needs to be solved for the project to continue smoothly.
Likewise, issues can also have low or zero urgency to indicate that they should be resolved as time permits.
Other details include everything from the customer experiencing the issue to detailed descriptions of the issue being experienced to attempted solutions and other relevant information.
Most ITS solutions also make it possible to assign issues to various persons in charge, monitor how they are being handled and how much time is being spent on them, ensure the compliance with internal workflows, perform statistical analysis, and automatically generate tickets based on customer inquiries, just to give a few examples.
Compared with more traditional issue tracking methods, modern ITS solutions provide accountability and the necessary measures to ensure that issues are resolved in a satisfactory manner, and they are often integrated with other project development tools.
We have selected five of the best issues tracking systems, making sure to include both popular powerhouse solutions as wells as smaller open source projects created to satisfy the needs of independent developers and budget-minded agencies alike.
JIRA from Atlassian is a proprietary project management tool with extensive issue tracking capabilities. It was first released in 2002, making it one of the oldest issue tracking systems in the world, and it’s currently used by over 75,000 customers around the globe.
JIRA is a very comprehensive tool, which is why some of the largest organizations in the world, including Twitter, Skype, and NASA, have used it at some point in time. For the exact same reason, JIRA can feel confusing and overwhelming, not to mention that it costs thousands of dollars per year for very large teams.
That said, JIRA’s on-premise version for small teams is a great deal, and we wholeheartedly recommend anyone who’s looking for a capable issue tracking system to give it a try.
Backlog is an all-in-one project and code management tool. It combines the organizational benefits of task management with the power of bug tracking and version control. Assign, track, and release code right alongside regular project work with built-in Git and SVN repositories.
Kanban-style boards for each project make it easy to view every task as they move through the workflow. With features like Wikis, file sharing, Gantt charts, burndown charts, and custom statuses, you can visually manage your entire project from beginning to end.
Not much younger than JIRA, Trac is an open source project management and an issue tracking system that has been adopted by a number of organizations, including WordPress, OpenStreetMap, and Django. It uses a minimalistic approach to web-based software project management and has an integrated wiki and convenient reporting facilities.
Issues in Trac are referred to as “tickets,” and Trac’s ticket management system can be adopted for defect management as well. Trac is available on all major operating systems and also on various cloud hosting services. While Trac’s documentation is very comprehensive, its support leaves a lot to be desired when compared with commercial products such as JIRA.
Redmine was first released two years after Trac, in 2006, and it’s clear that Trac significantly influenced its design. While not as polished as JIRA when it comes to issue tracking, Redmine is still a very capable open source project management tool that features per-project wikis and forums, time tracking, document and file management, and, of course, comes with an issue tracking system.
Redmine is available in 34 languages, available across all popular platforms, and is written using the Ruby on Rails framework. You can easily test Redmine by accessing its online demo, which has been set up to give registered users the ability to create their own projects.
WebIssues is an open source client/server-based issue tracking system that can be used to store, share, track, and otherwise manage issues with various attributes, description, comments, and file attachments.
The WebIssues Server requires PHP 5.2.1 or newer and a MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQL Server database, and its installation doesn’t take much time or effort, which is something that can’t be said about many commercial issue tracking systems.
The WebIssues desktop client requires Windows 7 or newer, and versions for Linux and MacOS are available as well. WebIssues is highly customizable and perfect for smaller teams that are not yet ready to invest in a comprehensive project management solution but would love to use some of the best productivity apps out there to achieve greater results.
Asana was created in 2008 by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-Google-and-Facebook engineer Justin Rosenstein to simplify team-based work management, and it achieved its goal with flying colors.
Despite its approachable design and overall simplicity, Asana includes everything teams need to manage team projects and tasks. It makes it possible to assign work to teammates, specify deadlines, and communicate about tasks, and it also includes reporting tools, file attachments, calendars, and other useful features.
Although Asana lacks all the bells and whistles of purpose-built issue trackers, it provides the benefit of displaying issues with all other tasks, which can be incredibly beneficial from a time management perspective. To learn how to use Asana as an issue tracker, we recommend you read this guide.
Issue Tracking Systems – Conclusion
Issue tracking systems offer salvation to developers who have tried to manage issues using spreadsheets, email messages, and sticky notes, only to fail desperately and realize that’s not the way to go.
When selecting an issue tracking software, you need to carefully evaluate your needs and pick one that can improve your workflow without burdening you with too much complexity or draining you of your financial resources.