Adventures with VersionOne

Posted on Apr 07 2008 in Web Development

A few months ago the primary project to which I'm assigned espoused an Agile/XP approach for development... well, a heavily modified Agile/XP approach as there is only one developer (me) working on features/tasks/etc that come from a team of people, funneled through a project manager of sorts before they get to me. Because of the unique relationship we've enjoyed with the client, managing the project has been an interesting challenge since client users are involved closely with the project and are sometimes responsible for tasks such as testing.

We've moved between a few task tracking/project management systems in the process, trying to find software that fit our needs, the latest of which is VersionOne. The client actually came across VersionOne, which I'd only heard of in passing before that point, and asked if it would be a viable system to use during development. After a quick glance by several of our team members, we agreed that the system looked pretty good and was unique in that it was designed with Agile in mind so it supported the Agile/XP workflow in a manner than other ticketing systems didn't. So, over the course of a couple days we migrated to VersionOne and started using it.

The first thing that impressed me about VersionOne (aside from its nice, Web 2.0 shiny look) was how you can customize every view you have access to. You can specify which columns to show, and even which you would like to be able to edit inline (great feature!). This allows for a customized experienced and access to information the way you want it.

It wasn't long before we started running into the challenge of figuring out how to pass information back and forth. VersionOne has nice "Notes" that can be attached to any object (story/defect/issue/request/task/etc); however, as far as I've been able to tell, the overly-complicated but barely useful subscriptions/notifications feature does not allow emails to be sent to let me know when there's been a new note on an object. In fact, the notification system won't send emails at all -- the only option you have is a personalized RSS feed that pushes nearly useless notifications about the various objects (not including when there is a new note).

In pursuit of a workable setup, I discovered that VersionOne has an Eclipse plug-in. I rejoiced. That is, until I installed and used it. The plug-in is horribly buggy and exposes an abhorrently limited set of abilities to the user in the Eclipse environment. All in all, the plugin should be abandoned and they should put some honest time into writing a good Mylyn connector.

Lacking an email option wouldn't even be so bad if the notification system's personalized feed provided useful information about the objects for which it's updating feed items. After a couple days of tinkering with notifications, I've all but stopped paying attention to the notification feed and have been forced to rely on a combination of clever custom statuses, a custom 'status note' text field, and pure memory to determine if an object has been updated in a manner that needs more attention from me.

Overall, however, I've been really pleased with the way VersionOne works and its slick interface. I'm holding out hope that with time I'll either get used to how VersionOne wants me to communicate or uncover a feature I'm not yet aware of that will help bring important information to my attention.