Sunday, March 29, 2015

Goodbye SonicAgile

Looking for agile project tracking online

A while back I was looking for a hosted solution for tracking some personal projects I'm working on, trying to get organized and all that. In the office I'm in a world of Jira, so I was looking for something that, at least superficially, worked in a similar manner...I believe in tool consistency so as to avoid getting confused...
I also wanted something hosted because the less I have to maintain myself, the better (one of the reasons I'm sold on Chromebooks).
I also wanted something free. Until I have to pay for something, I'm not willing to pay for something. I'm cheap.
In my research one name that kept popping up was Trello. Check it out. It's totally awesome. It's totally simple. It totally didn't give me all the features I was looking for. It's great, but it's not what I was after. 
I also had the opportunity to try out Visual Studio online for project tracking, and loved it. The problem there was after the 90 day trial they shut off features, and I was left with only two types of tasks, a bug and a story (I think). No more epics, no custom task types, just a totally stripped down tool. I might as well use a spreadsheet.


Along comes SonicAgile. With a growing list of features, they gave me epics, stories, tasks, bugs, a kanban style task board, release tracking, velocity and other graphs, all sorts of stuff. Easy to use, super intuitive. My only complain has ever really been that I couldn't spread epics across releases. A single epic had to exist in a single release. I could live with that. 
Then, at some point last week I noticed an email saying that they were shutting down because they hadn't been able to make enough money to keep the doors open. This is my sad face: :(
Totally bummed, I find myself on the hunt for a new, free, and fully featured free agile project tracking application that is hosted on someone else's servers. 

Along comes Yodiz

I went through a handful of tools. Some I knew, some I didn't, all were good in varying ways. I finally settled on Yodiz (I'm not liking the name because I can't remember it), but so far I'm pretty happy with it. It only allows 3 users on the free account, but since I basically work by myself that's not an issue, and they've got a great set of features. Not as intuitive as SonicAgile was, but simple enough to figure out. 

Release Tracking

Got it. Releases are not tied to epics, epics are not tied to releases. This was a little weird when I tried to put an epic in a release, but this also means that I can create epics that span any number of releases because they're not tied to it...nor should they be.

Sprint Tracking

The sprint works in a card view that allows a great deal of layout freedom. I'm working in one of the canned layouts, a sprint, which gives the basic not started, in progress, resolved and closed. Bugs and stories are tracked in this view separately by default. I like the separation rather than relying on some little card icon that's hard for me to see. What I thought was odd, and quite cool, was modifying a bug to tie it to a task removes it from the bug section of the board, and automatically makes it a part of the associated task. Awesome idea.


Yes, it does. I admit I've gotten used to the Jira layout which puts the backlog and sprints on the same page for planning, where the Yodiz backlog is a standalone page without the context of the sprints. I suppose this makes sense, but you get used to things and things that fall out of the normal pattern seem odd and scary.

Defect Tracker

This is a board completely separate from the backlog. I like this because it actually gives me a bug container that keeps my backlog clean. You can pull the bugs in to a sprint, or associate them with a task, which treats them as part of the task rather than a different work item. Another very nice feature. 


As I mentioned, the epics are not tied to a release. It allows them to exist and evolve as I need to use them without cluttering up the system with duplicate feature sets to try to conform to my release planning.


Well, of course stories. What's nice here is that I can tie a story to both a release and an epic, keeping the epic independent of the release while keeping the story contained. 


Of course you can add tasks to stories. The tasks, like any other tool, allow you to add details, tags, descriptions, comments, all the good stuff. A particularly cool feature are commit notes. Yodiz integrates with a pile of external tools. In my case I use BitBucket. Yodis sets up a git hook that, when used with the right tagging, inserts your git commit notes in to your associated bug or task. I love this feature. 


You can log bugs in the sprint or via the defect tracker. Once logged, you can associate it with a task and make it a part of the same work item, and there's the previously mentioned integration with git. It's not limited to git, but I use Visual Studio for my build tool, and BitBucket is my source repo of choice, so there you go.

I really dig the Yodiz tool. It's got more features that I'll be needing any time soon, and while I had to go down to 3 users on the free account from 5, my little operation is so small that it won't matter anyway. This is a tool to check out if you're looking for a small project.
I can't speak to the viability of using Yodiz for a big project. That's on you to investigate, but they advertise an impressive set of clients.
Anyway, the problem of a lost scrum project management tool is solved. On to the next thing.