“We are using Pivotal Tracker to manage all of our new web apps under development, this thing rocks.”

Ezra Zygmuntowicz, Founder, Engine Yard

“It’s a relief to open Tracker at the start of the day and focus on the next most important task.”

Aaron Peckham, Founder, Urban Dictionary

No matter what you’re using for project management, take a close look at Pivotal Tracker. I’ve tried Bugzilla, Trac, Basecamp, FogBugz, Microsoft Project, and Lighthouse—and Tracker is the best for my needs. I’ve shown Tracker to many startups and many have made the switch.

10 reasons I like Tracker.

  1. It’s free.
  2. It’s hosted.
  3. It’s a joy to use. It’s the iPod of project management software. It’s all drag-and-drop and clickity-clack and it just works.
  4. It’s multi-user. Your co-founder in North Korea can make changes in Tracker and you will see them instantly. No page reloads.
  5. It’s for lean startups. The building block in Tracker is a story: an increment of customer value that you deliver with minimal waste.
  6. It’s about completing your next most important task—not maintaining mile-long to-do lists, Gantt charts, and lists of bugs.
  7. It’s transparent. Everybody on the team knows what everybody else is working on, their priorities, and their accomplishments.
  8. It’s in sync with reality. It doesn’t take time to keep your requirements and schedule in sync with reality, even if your business priorities change daily.
  9. It doesn’t do much. No, it doesn’t do dependencies and critical paths. It just keeps you focused on delivering value to customers.
  10. It’s powerful as hell. Tracker hides a lot of technology under a simple interface. It’s a serious Javascript-intensive web application that’s in the same league as Gmail and Google Maps.
  11. Bonus reason: Everything is on one page—there’s no need to navigate around (unlike other project management tools). More Gmail, less Hotmail.

If it isn’t clear by now, Tracker isn’t a bug manager posing as project management software.

If you’re already lean, Tracker is a no-brainer. If you’re not lean, Tracker is a good way to start getting lean.

What do other folks say about Tracker?

Read the testimonials from people who are using Tracker. I particularly like this one from Aaron Peckham, the founder of Urban Dictionary:

“I leave Tracker open all day. I use it for documenting, estimating and prioritizing things that need to be done. It’s a relief to open Tracker at the start of the day and focus on the next most important task. It keeps me from getting distracted and having too many things going at the same time. It also serves as documentation of what I’ve completed in the past—to show that I’m making good use of my time.”

Want more opinions? See what people are saying about Pivotal Tracker on Twitter.

What do you think about Tracker?

If you give Tracker a try, please let us know what you think!

Topics Lean · Tools

30 comments · Show

  • PM Hut

    Haven’t heard about Pivotal Tracker before, and I know a lot of PM tools. They should probably provide a demo account in case someone wants to take a look (a lot of people don’t want to give their information before trying something out).

  • dz

    I’ve been using PT for the best part of 4 months now, it’s extremely useful and works great. They recently updated some UI elements and it’s even snappier than before.

    I highly recommend it.

  • Edward Betts

    One reason not to use: EULA.

    • schwally

      Does Pivotal even post a EULA? Trying to find it on their site. Concern about having critical IP info hosted with an unknown entity. What was your concern specifically about the EULA?

  • Josh P.

    i couldn’t tell from the marketing — is this a personal productivity tool or a broader project management tool . . . or both?

  • Pelle

    We’ve used it for Agree2 for over a year. For us as a 2 person team in disparate parts of the world it’s perfect.

    We have daily skype “stand up” meetings where we use Tracker add new stories and move them around. The changes pop up immediately on the the other users computer.

    I’ve also been evangelizing it to various of my clients. Several of which have moved over to it.

    The real killer feature of it though is that it automatically calculates how much work it thinks you can do in a week.

    This is in particularly great when working with non technical clients. They can move stories around and automatically see the effect on the outcome of the project.

  • Andrew Goodrich

    Wow, I’m pretty sure this just changed my life. Definitely beats basecamp for simplicity and practicality.

  • adam

    Project management … but online-only?

    OK, sure, if I bin the laptop, and never do any work except when sitting in the office or at home. Never do any work on a trip, on a plane, in a hotel, in a cafe, on a train.

    Unfortunately, that makes this a “fail” for me, and I suspect a lot of other people. Nice idea, but until internet becomes fully ubiquitous, and AT&T etc stop charging insanely high prices for roaming data, I cannot afford to stop working each time I leave the house :(.

    One day, I hope someone will make a free simple library that converts any DB-based web-app into a replicating, distributed, DB-based web-app. And then all these “net connection required” webapps can catch up to software development circa 1995, and start working from *anywhere*. :)

  • Erik B.

    I like on that tool:
    – easy usage
    – fast
    – funny
    – get nearly 50% more work done since I use it
    – it makes you think how effective your work was and how much effective work you’ve done the last days and weeks

    I don’t like on that tool:
    – online only
    – someone else has my PM in his DB without any encription
    – with a little effort I can do 95% of that with trac too and trac does not have the same contras

    I think I will use it for not critical data and try to work out how I can get trac to do the same for me.

  • Anonymous

    Looks like this is only for software dev.

  • Bruce

    For a more advanced programme and project management solution have a look at e-LM.com.

  • John

    I’ve used Pivotal Tracker before. It’s nothing like an iPod. PT does have lots of cool features, but it was slow and had so much javascript going on in the background that it crashed my browser half the time.

  • John Philip Green

    We are very extensive users of Lighthouse. (Its got fantastic email integration, and the fact that its so tied in with GitHub is cool too).

    This is not a direct replacement of Lighthouse, and would require us to change our daily routines.

    Why is pivotal giving this away for free? Do you know if they are going to start charging, once people get locked in?

    • Nivi

      Good questions that you should ask Pivotal. =)

      I realized another huge benefit of Tracker yesterday. Everything is on one page. No clicking around and navigating like in Lighthouse, Basecamp, Bugzilla, etc.

      More Gmail, less Hotmail.

  • Nandini

    Interesting, I’ve not used PT. Will definitely try it out. But Deskaway (www.deskaway.com) is what I use currently. I work with various remote teams, people with multiple skill sets and varying complexities. With Deskaway, managing all these projects / accounts seems easy. Their UI is simple, user friendly – does not confuse you – I used basecamp and thought that it was rather complex and my challenge was to get all people I work with to use Basecamp… but with Deskaway, its intuitive nature made it rather easy for everyone to get onto this PM tool.

  • Mike

    I started using Pivotal Tracker, and think it has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, it is intuitive, has an easy interface, and is free. I certainly have not found another project management software out there for free!

    On the minus side is that you can not set Precedents or Dependents. I planned to use PT for the launch of a website, and all of the technical and business areas around this launch. Without the use of precedents, how can my team know when a task needs to be taken care of (as it relates to the other tasks that the group must do)?

    Any suggestions?

    • Nivi

      Put the precedents higher on the list. Put the dependents lower on the list.

      Also, try to break dependencies as much as possible. Dependencies lead to inventory. Inventory is waste.

  • Lee Graham

    I’ve used Basecamp and several others, but nothing comes close to Pivot Tracker. Its amazing! We are only a two-man shop right now, but this app really helps with our dev productivity and organizes tasks and releases into manageable chunks.

    Our second iPhone app is coming within a week…

  • Matthew Ogston

    Thanks, Nivi, for highlighting Pivotal Tracker. I have to admit that I did originally see this post about a year ago but didn’t have an immediate need for such a tool. I’ve just gone through their video tutorial and it seems rather good so far. Easy to use, has all of the core functionality one would expect from a lean-centric PM tool.

    I would like to point out that I’ve also been using Assembla as they have integrated ticketing, SVN hosting, and a rather nifty SCRUM-based planning tool rolled into one solution. I can’t say I’ll be leaving Assembla (as their service is rather good), but I’m hoping Pivotal will fill in any gaps in our workflow.

  • Martin D.

    Hey Nivi,

    Your post is 2 yrs old now, but the comment thread still shows activity so I thought I’d chime in :)

    If you like PT, I think you’d find a lot of value in using Planio.com . It’s still in Beta but I think it delivers on very important features that Pivotal does not cover:
    - Sorting and filtering of stories (see stories that matter to you and hide the ones that don’t)
    - Progress indicators (know where you, your team and co-workers stand with respect to the schedule)
    - Integrated feedback management (embed our feedback widget in your site and feedback is added to Planio automagically)
    - Drag and drop file attachments in stories

    You can even import a project from Pivotal Tracker, and can export your data any time…

    Give it a try and let me know what you think! We’d love to build a tool that VH and its readership would find useful.

  • Alexandre Gauthier

    I’ll chime in myself and add to Martin’s comment. Planio has been renamed Planbox and we are out of the beta.

    I also think Pivotal tracker is a great tool and gets the job done. If you want a little more from an Agile tool, then alternatives may be required.

  • shelley

    I am using project management software which is compatible and easily understandable. ProofHub helps a lot in handling multiple projects.

  • Chris

    Been using PT for I don’t know how long anymore, and it’s gold.

    I’ve used it to:

    * manage website development projects with workers in different parts of the country.

    * manage client orders for my retail/import online-only business where my staff work from different locations

    * organise and manage my home improvement projects

    * co-ordinate a team of 5 people migrating hundreds of pages of web content during a website replacement project

    To Martin: read the docs on using the search box to work out how to filter, then save your searches. As for sorting, the order of stories is intentionally fixed and correlates to priority. Tracker will automatically indicate the dates by which your team’s work is expected to complete. The charts help visualise this too. I believe you can link Tracker to other systems in order to incorporate bug reports from elsewhere. But as for drag and drop file attachments.. no answer there.

    The things I like most: FAST and EASY to use! Clone a list of stories, open as many stories simultaneously as you like, copy and paste info between them – no page refreshes, no endless clicking just to navigate (one screen, remember) and all users online around the world are updated in real-time each time a change is committed, with a friendly notice popping up at the top of the screen and the story being momentarily highlighted. Also, practically zero time to estimate a task and the thing works out your velocity like a breeze.

    You can host Tracker yourself if you’ve got 50 users or more, which I don’t. I enquired with PT about data security, privacy, etc and was satisfied to go with them despite my data going out to a third party – I mean, who doesn’t use a webmail account of some sort at some point in time?

  • Joseph

    Another great Project Management tool I would throw into the pot for Start Ups is Dooster. It’s pretty new but really cool. Check it out here http://www.dooster.net

  • Anonymous

    PT ain’t free anymore!

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