Why Trello doesn’t work for bug tracking
In my post on Trello I briefly mentioned how the software doesn’t work well for bug tracking. I wanted to dig into that issue a little deeper.
Bug tracking and bug fixing require much more process automation compared to feature development. This is primarily because of the large number of cases that will be open at any moment in the development cycle. For our company, we churn through between 40-60 bugs in a given week when we are focused on bug fixing. By comparison, when we are really cranking on features, we might do somewhere around 4-8 in a week. That is a fairly significant difference and the core reason that Trello doesn’t fit well for bug tracking. The overhead associated with managing the workflow of those thirty extra cases becomes a nightmare without a more rigid process.
Our process is fairly simple, we have a triage list where all new bugs go. We have a working list which contains the bugs we intend to fix in the upcoming iteration (an iteration is usually a week long). We also have a backlog list for bugs we intend to fix “someday” but not right now. We will periodically we go through the triage list and move bugs into either the working list or the backlog list. Bugs are fixed, developers resolve the bugs and they go to QA. QA validates the fix and closes the bug. Test automation will then decide whether to add this bug to their list of automated tests.
We use Fogbugz and find it works great for this workflow. It has enough process automation to make sure that cases flow smoothly through the system, but it isn’t so heavy handed that we can’t tweak the process when necessary.
Why Trello doesn’t work for bug fixing:
First is it’s lack of bulk editing features. If I want to take all my critical/show stopper bugs and move them into the working release, I will need to move all of them over by hand. Since moving by hand in Trello is literally moving by hand (via the mouse) this is actually a large amount of work.
Trello is at it’s best when you only have 6-8 items in each “active” list. When lists grow larger, they are very quickly pushed off the screen, making scanning and locating cards difficult. Some weeks we will ignore the bug list while development is working on a new feature and QA is testing something that was just handed off. If we were using Trello to manage these tasks, the “bug” list would grow quite large and very quickly become unmanageable.
Trello doesn’t have great categorization and search features. We categorize our bugs pretty heavily by priority and area. So for a given product and milestone we may have 100+ bugs we intend to fix across a variety of functional areas and at various priorities. Also, when we start working on features in certain areas of the product we will also look for any outstanding bugs or feature requests in that area to see if we can lump them into the upcoming enhancements.
Trello doesn’t have good screen capture integration. While it does support attachments, these aren’t enough. Fogbugz integration with snagit and their own desktop screen capture tool are great accellerators for entering bugs. Sometimes a picture is worth a 1000 word bug description.
How Trello could be made to work with fogbugz:
Don’t get me wrong, Trello and fogbugz integration would be awesome. I would love to be able to turn features into cards and then mark the cards as “finished”, automatically resolving the corresponding features in fogbugz. This would likely necessitate a stricter board setup, but being able to visualize feature requests this way would be a nice addition. We are essentially doing this process manually today anyway.
The ability to grab all of the bugs in a given milestone or assigned to a certain person and create a card that has those bugs as checklist items would be an nice way to help developers prioritize and manage the list of bugs they are working on. As a manager I could highlighter 7 or 8 critical bugs that need to be addressed and make sure the visibility is raised through the creation of a card. This would let me do away a little bit with our “working” list in fogbugz and instead replace it with cards in the current iteration. Not a blindingly brilliant enhancement, but again, we are doing something similar now. We make the card in trello “Fix the bugs on the list” but I have to check 2 places daily to know how the developers are progressing on their tasks.
I can only presume that Fogcreek is working on ways to integrate Trello with Fogbugz in the future and I look forward to seeing what they come up with.