Note: This article was updated on 2/11/2014
I get a lot of questions about how to use LiquidPlanner for (or in addition to) bug tracking software. We have LiquidPlanner customers doing both, depending on the nature of their team, the systems that are already in place, their workflows and collaboration processes, etc. Several customers are using our API to integrate with GitHub, Jira, and Bugzilla. Internally, we use LiquidPlanner and only LiquidPlanner for filing, tracking, collaborating on, and verifying issues, including bugs, feature requests and other items.
Why? At the end of the day we want to track these items along with the rest of our work, in our schedule. Issues need to be assigned, estimated, and prioritized alongside our project work, based on their impact and severity. We address bugs and feature requests (new and existing) in every release of LiquidPlanner, and since LiquidPlanner is the one system we all look at every day, it doesn’t make sense for us to track them in a separate system.
But how, you might ask, does it actually work? Here are the gory details.
First, we have a single place to collect new bugs. They all get sent to the standard INBOX package which is the central holding place for new bugs, feature requests and tasks until we can process them. The INBOX has a high priority position in the Projects page of LiquidPlanner, above all other packages.
Issues and bugs come to our attention in a variety of ways. They might be reported by a customer via email, found during our internal testing or daily use of LiquidPlanner, or sent to us by our operations monitoring systems.
To get these items into LiquidPlanner, most of us use email integration. The INBOX package has its own email address, which we’ve all added to our email address books. When we email a bug into LiquidPlanner a new task item is automatically created for tracking. Using the subject line of the email, we can provide bug title, assignee and an estimate of effort.
Attachments and email message body (including screenshots, repro steps and any error messages) are saved to the Details of the LiquidPlanner task, ensuring that all relevant information stays with the item as it goes through our workflow.
Next, we have twice-weekly triage meetings to process INBOX items. In those meetings we review every new item, and adjust assignment, estimate and priority as needed. Depending on priority, severity and impact, some items are moved into the current sprint, while others are assigned to later project or deferred to our backlog. Assignees are automatically notified via email for new items assigned to them and the items now show up in their personal tasklists.
We typically structure the work in each release into several major categories, one of which is “Bugs.” This allows us to view, analyze, and report on them as a group, separate from other tasks like new features or tech debt. However, the amount of work associated with bugs is not trivial – hence our interest in tracking them in conjunction with our other project work!
All comments, collaboration, updates and files associated with bug can be accessed in the Details panel. This includes references to specific customers who may have been affected. Sometimes this information can pile up, but with the most-recent comments, documents and links added to the top of the list in the appropriate sections, it’s easy to stay on top of the latest updates for each item. We also have LiquidPlanner integrated with our source control system (Mercurial), and applicable references and commit notifications are automatically added as comments to bugs.
Finally, once a bug has been fixed, we assign it back to the creator or to QA for verification. By simply switching ownership of the task we quickly move items through a lightweight workflow that doesn’t bog us down in process (the person who created the item is also notified by email on the reassignment). Once items are verified they are marked done and become part of our fully searchable archive for later reference. Voilà!
We also support user-definable custom fields that allow us to track bugs even more effectively. We’ve created a custom field for an item Type, including “bug”, “feature request” and “fit-and-finish”. When new bugs are reported, the creator simply assigns the appropriate Type. This is great for filtering in the plan and for reporting purposes!
Of course, you can argue LiquidPlanner lacks some of the features of a dedicated bug management system. I’ll give you that. But what it lacks in dedicated features it makes up for in ease of use, simplicity and easy integration with the rest of our workflow and systems!
To learn more about Inbox, read our Help Guide article here.