May 27, 2009

Who Needs Change Management?

Helix ALM
Before I worked for Seapine Software, I was employed by a now defunct software company in the Cincinnati area. It was a small company, with about 25 employees or so. I did many jobs at this company. My main duty was customer support, but I also did things like testing, managing our bug tracking system, putting together our releases, and other things. Reading Matt's post on his co-op where he tracked tests on a spreadsheet made me reminisce about my old employer. You see, our defects were written down on paper. Screenshots were physically attached (I mean we used a stapler) and notes, comments, and anything else were usually handwritten all over the place. My job was to enter the defects in an Access database for some basic reporting. As you can imagine, it was a challenge to convey what people wrote all over the piece of paper in a multi line text field. How do you write when someone circles a phrase in the description, makes an arrow, and writes some comments on it? Also, how could I put the printout of an attachment into Access? I think you get the idea. The paper copy of the bug was still the "Master Copy" and it was the source of truth. Due to the seasonal nature of the industry we were in, it meant that we had a major release once a year, we had a "busy season" and then a "slow season". During the slow times, I would gather up all the defects from the previous year, box them up, and place them in storage. One year, my manager and I were discussing an issue that a customer reported to me. The issue sounded all too familiar, like we had seen it before. If we could only access the previous year's defects and see what we did to fix it. I searched the Access database, and we found a few defects that could be a match, but without looking at screenshots, it was hard to tell. So, what did I have to do? You guessed it, I had to go to storage, go through boxes and boxes of defects until I found the one that we thought we remembered. This took me at least a couple of days! And remember, there wasn't any guarantee that I would find anything! We thought we had seen it before, but we weren't 100% sure. I did find the one that my manager was thinking of, and by the way, it turned out to be a completely separate, unrelated issue. It turned out the customer encountered a brand new issue. So, you may ask, what is the point of this story? The point is that no matter how small your company is, you should invest in tools that help you manage your issues. While TestTrack Pro is the best solution out there (I am a bit biased), even the simplest of issue tracking solutions is a better alternative than keeping physical copies of defects or storing them in an Access database or spreadsheet. Unless, of course, you can afford to have employees waste two days of work going through boxes of papers.