Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Small Company Issue Management

I’ve recently started work at a small company, it’s a different environment for sure having come from a very large company.  One of my first tasks is to help formalise their development processes and setup issue and source management.  This is something I’ve done before, but only with very large development teams, so it should be interesting.  I’ve had to review a large number of issue and source control management systems so I thought I might as well blog about them.

I reviewed everything from Microsoft’s own VSTS running on our own servers to the smallest remotely hosted environments.

Visual Studio Team System

This is a very large product, with a very large price tag.  At a mere $10 000 just for the server, it is a little hard to see how a small company without a massive code base is going to get much bang for buck.  If I were still in a large company with 20-30 different .NET projects, all of which are load tested and have complicated build configurations I can see how it might be useful and well worth the money, but for a small company I find it hard to see the benefit, for the price.

The other problem with VSTS is that it’s very hard to find information about it.  I spent the better part of a week researching into it and was unable to find a demonstration that didn’t require me to download several gigabytes and spends days setting up a server just to try it out.  I think Microsoft would find a lot more buy-in if they had a hosted service that people could use to test tools that are so complicated.


I’ve used JIRA before, and it’s pretty good.  A lot of people believe that it over-complicates things, and they’re right.  In my last role it was a fantastic tool, because we had a complicated environment and needed the power that came with the complexity, but here with only a few projects at a time the complication of the tool is just not necessary and would introduce an un-required amount of overhead.

As a plus though, Atlassian will host your JIRA, Confluence and SVN environment for you at a pinch for a very reasonable price.  If you have a larger company with a complex environment that requires something like JIRA, I would recommend it.

Hosted Issue Management

There are a lot of tools in the cloud that you can use to manage your issue tracking and source control.  A quick search will find them for you, but some of notoriety are:

And they’re all pretty good in their own way, though I’m not going to bother doing a matrix. In short the ones with * against them have SVN hosting as well, which is fantastic.  After going through each of them I discounted every one of them except Assembla and Unfuddle, disputably the most popular of the list.  Both have SVN hosting and a good issue management system.


Slightly cheaper that Unfuddle, the interface is a little more complicated and the tool provides a lot of agile functionality.  You aren’t required to use any of that, it’s just to help if you follow an agile process.  They don’t offer a free plan, but they do offer a free trial.  The tool is good, but not exceptional.


Unfuddle is a little more expensive than Assembla, but they do offer a free plan.  The interface is far more intuitive and sellable to a business, but they are missing some of the functionality that is available in Assembla.  If you have a small company with very few processes, it’s a fantastic tool.


Anonymous said...

I like Assembla a lot. It's fresher than most of the other stuff out there and incredibly easy to use. Totally worth the money.

Odd said...

Yeah Assembla is very good, simple and very much worth the money. While we went with Unfuddle (very similar to Assembla) I didn't want to skew people one way or the other too much, better to try them all the make your own mind up.

Anonymous said...

Assembla has a free package, but only for open source packages.

If you register following this link, you will even get a $5 discount when signing for a plan

Assembla free trial

Odd said...

Yes Assembla has a free space for open source projects, but it must be public. This is very useful for open source projects of course, but of no use for a small company who is closed source. But I guess that's the point. It does let you try their software suite though, and we used it to do so.