Importance of issue tracking
Since moving away from hands on project management a couple of years ago I'd forgotten some of the trials and tribulations of getting sites live to agreed timescales. These were brought back to me recently as we put two sites live for one client within a couple of days of each other. Having been a project manager for a number of years the experience of old soon came rushing back. The most important thing during the pressurised time of go-live is communication. Therefore having the right communication tools in place is essential to delivery.
The skill of the PM is ensuring that the communication is clear, agreed and documented, giving the client confidence in the delivery team and protecting the agency against any last minute scope creep. So to aid communication we use an issue tracking tool called JIRA, which made tracking issues and client feedback through project delivery straight forward.
Both Steve and I have used JIRA before at previous agencies and always sing its praises. Whenever a new project starts we setup a JIRA account giving all stakeholders access to the project. Clients can login, report and prioritise any issues they find on designs, prototypes and acceptance sites with accompanying screen shots and notes. The issue entry is done through a really simple user interface and the issue is stored in a central repository where the PM can assess and assign it to the relevant resource. The development resource can put time estimations against each issue as it is assigned and associate it with a particular release of the code. This allows a development roadmap to be created, clearly articulating which bugs and issues will be fixed in which realises and by when.
The other really nice thing about JIRA is that it allows release notes to be exported, listing all the changes within any release, making it easy to identify which code areas might cause any subsequent problems.
This tool is definitely worth considering if you're currently struggling with spreadsheets and emails containing feedback from clients. It will give your clients (and you as a PM) confidence that all feedback is being worked on and will save you time on the phone explaining where you are within the development plan.