I’m always working with a host of project management and collaborative software suites to help manage and track my team’s progress through a project. In the past I’ve reviewed popular agile software platforms: IceScrumm, ScrumWorks, and Jira + Greenhopper. While working for Rogers I was begrudgingly forced to use Rally and its suite of requirements tracking tools. Thankfully I had a great scrum master and we reverted to physical post-it boards for the meat of the team’s planning and estimation work. At InViVo, where I was Project Manager for a short stint, I used Redmine to track bugs and requirements across multiple micro-projects. In my down time my preferred go-to resource for all my side-projects has been PivotalTracker. Pivotal has a super-simple, intuitive UI, it works on desktop and mobile and it allows me to collaborate with my team on user stories in near real time (seriously, check it out).
Having used so many variations of project management software and collaborative tools, you can understand my reservations about Podio. When I first read about Podio it sounded too good to be true: its social, its collaborative, and it merges the needs of the project manager, the accounts director, the marketing guru, the HR manager and the development team.
The Good News
I honestly and truly believe that Podio can do just that. It really can help my HR manager and recruiter to find the perfect candidate. It really can help me organize events and promote discussions around what color tablecloth to use. It has a slick UI with lots of Facebook-like elements. It’s also super simple to add users to a workspace from within your organization, or even from external systems like Google, Live, GoToMeeting and Facebook. I’ve browsed the app store and some of the workflows in there are amazing. There’s definitely a strong community of followers developing and customizing apps for their Podio needs.
The Bad News
My team uses absolutely none of those workflows. As a software development and design production house, we needed a precision tool for requirements and bug tracking. What we really got was a social collaboration tool that is focused on discussion and not the item of change itself.
“But James, Podio has a Bug module for all of its workspaces! What do you mean it doesn’t do bug tracking?”
I’m glad you asked! Yes, Podio truly does have a Bug module for most of its workspaces. To the casual observer it appears that it has all of the necessary ingredients for a bug tracker: a list of bugs, status, severity, priority, adding bugs, assigning bugs, etc. But once you start to use the module on a day-to-day basis you slowly begin to realize that the Bugs module simply isn’t meant for any level of serious defect management.
GUI Glam Over Function
This is a screenshot of the Bugs module for a real project that we are working on and tracking in Podio. The first thing you’ll notice is that everything after the Priority column is cut off. This is intentional and incredibly annoying. Imagine for a second that you are a project manager who has to triage the 572 defects which reside in this project. When triaging defects, every project manager is looking for an at-a-glance overview of key essential information: description, priority, severity, status, responsibility, date entered, project. By default I can see 3, maybe 4 columns of data if I really know table’s column arrangements. I blame the restricting table view on Podio’s three column page layout; its is incredibly limiting and prevents me from consuming any significant amount of data. Yes, Podio looks really pretty and it has lots of fancy sliding divs, but it makes life incredibly difficult for me to compare and contrast bugs.
To be fair, the Bugs module has four other views: Badge, Card, Activity and Calendar. Unfortunately for me, none of them are much better than the Table view of the bugs seen above.
The Fundamentals just aren’t there
Notice how the Low Medium and High labels under the Priority column are highlighted green (green= good), whereas URGENT labels are highlighted in yellow (yellow =not so bad). It doesn’t take a UX expert to understand that the colour green is often equated to “good” or “go ahead” in most cultures; so one should always be hesitant to apply this colour to Priority labels. I cannot understand how the Podio team overlooked this simple but essential UX element. Automatically color coding defects using a sensible colour scheme is the most elementary feature for any defect management suite.
Podio also doesn’t tell you the exact date and time a bug was entered, when the bug was modified, and who executed the change. As a project manager and a former QA team lead, this is a deal-breaker. My QA team is going to hell of a time doing regression testing if I can’t find the original developer who marked a defect as fixed and when he fixed it.
I can go on and on about Podio’s lackluster attempt at creating a bug-tracking application. The few issues that I have already identified should already tell you that the Podio team did not design the Bugs module with serious software development in mind. I can imagine how this lightweight bug tracker could be used to manage Events or minor projects, but I would not recommend it as a serious requirements or defect tracking tool.