Product Review: BootStrapToday

1st Jun 2012
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There are lots of project management tools out there to manage the development of software. From on-premise software to cloud-hosted solutions, there are literally hundreds of project management tools - Trac, Rally, JIRA, the various Wiki tools, Bugzilla and many more. I've used many of these for personal and professional projects, and I've yet to find one that I love. Most project management tools I've used are either too simplistic to have all the features that I want, and the tools that have all the features that I want force me to follow some project management process that is too far from what me and my team is used to. Usually, things get too complex, and eventually all the planning degrades to a spreadsheet where all tasks get tracked.In many ways, these project management tools aren't really competing among themselves as much as they're competing with the trusty old spreadsheet.

Enter BootStrapToday. It's a product from Sensible Softwares that promises to comprehensively solve the software development management problem. BootStrapToday has all the features you expect from a well-designed project management suite - Collaboration tools, a Ticketing and workflow system, milestone tracking, timesheets and more. The interface is quite intuitive and well designed, and all the information that a project manager needs is present in the right places. For example, there is a nice graph that shows how many hours of work are completed and how many are remaining for each milestone in a project, giving the manager a quick sense of whether the product is on-schedule or expected to be late.

And there are some nice and thoughtful features on top of it too. There's a nice little "Recent Updates" section that collects all the changes happening across all the projects that gives a quick overview of where the action is. There's a convenient file-share feature to let team members share files with each other directly. BootStrapToday also features a neat integration with version control tools (Subversion and Git are supported), which makes the rest of the project management features like ticketing, milestones etc... that much more well-integrated. And then there's an API that you can use to integrate with your other on-premise tools like continuous integration and other test tools.

While BootStrapToday is well designed and gets the job done, there is nothing really to differentiate the product from the 100s of similar tools out there. But don't judge it just yet - BootStrapToday has an interesting angle to this that may just work out for them.

The future of project management tools is in analytics. Most software projects quickly become complex, and it starts becoming difficult for managers to understand what is going on. Leadership teams are even more clueless about what's really happening in their development & engineering teams. Most charts and graphs that project management tools product are either too difficult to understand, or simply not representative of the underlying state of the software. There is no easy way to come up with one clear picture of how things are going, where the bottlenecks are, what parts of the software are likely to be delayed etc.

BootStrapToday is promising to add "intelligence" to the whole process of managing software. Basic intelligence has been missing in most tools - Like the ability to identify the source file that has the most bugs reported or identifying developers that fix the most complex bugs. BootStrapToday promises to add some of these features soon. But it doesn't have to stop at that. What I'd really love to see is for the tool to come up with more intelligence that is useful to a product manager. Like which developers are the most efficient at estimating their tasks? Which components and projects are consistently delayed? What part of the software is the bottleneck, causing bugs and crashes across other systems? How does taking regular vacations affect programmer productivity?

And then there are questions that I'm just curious about - What day of the week is the most productive for programmers? Does code checked in late at night result in more bugs? Using data-mining and machine learning techniques, can the tool predict how late a product is going to be? Can it predict the piece of code that is most likely to end up with lots of bugs?

I think BootStrapToday is well positioned to push the boundary of analytics and intelligence in project management. In the meanwhile, if you're using spreadsheets to track your software development project, give BootStrapToday a try. There's a free trial available, and pricing starts at $9/month for 5 users.

Read their story here and more about the product on the website.

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