integrated project management for development

Ironically, the choices for an in-house integrated project management toolchain are, to my mind, significantly more limited than the straight up open-source market. I have been looking and watching several projects over the past months for something that I could use for my development team at work (i.e. behind a corporate firewall and not publicly available) to support a more open, transparent view of what was happening.

Trac, of course, is one I’ve used and really enjoy. Trac, however, doesn’t really support multiple projects in any integrated way – and we’ve got way more than one project. From the activity I’ve seen, it’s not about to any time soon. Variations on that theme include DrProject, and more recently Basie. They’re all interesting, but I didn’t see either DrProject or Basie as really ready for prime time and I wanted to be able to quickly grow beyond the basics. Two others that are obviously available are Redmine and Retrospectiva.

Ultimately, I’m heading down the road with Redmine for the following reasons:

  1. It’s a decent and clean user interface that has several years of polish now around it
  2. The system support plugins, and there’s several plugins that I really want to take advantage of
  3. Redmine and Trac appear to have the most active communities around them and driving them

The story cards and burn-down charts from Retrospectiva’s AgilePM addition were darned compelling. But ultimately it has a more limited set of folks focusing on that project, and I think I can achieve the same effects with plugins that are available from the Redmine community. Many of these are hosted on GitHub, and even more are in development or some middlin’ shape at the same site. And finally, I’d much rather deal with a partially implemented plugin than a partially implemented core system.

If I could host our development outside of the corporate firewall, I’d likely be looking at Bitbucket or Firefly for the work. I like Bitbucket partially because it’s all mercurial based, and I need to support some Microsoft based development. Git will work with enough effort, but I don’t want to go down the road of trying to explain all the detail needed there. I love the functionality in GitHub, and frankly think it’s a slightly better and more aggressively updated solution that BitBucket, but the git thing – while I’m happy enough with it – just sinks me otherwise because I know I’ll end up spending hours attempting to support it on a windows environment, and I just don’t want that hit. Firefly is ActiveState’s “let’s take and commercialize Trac by hosting it” – and they look like they’ve done a nice job of it. The agile methodology plugins and burn-down charts are pretty darn compelling.

It should be noted that I also took a pretty deep look at Launchpad. Even though it’s open sourced, it’s a damned complex thing to potentially integrate and build up for internal use, and its integration/collaboration features just haven’t been as compelling to me as the machinery that GitHub or Bitbucket provide. The “branch and request a pull” feature set that supports the massive branching and merging for features, bugfixes, etc. is just so much easier in Github or Bitbucket – and the wiki support to the other components is also far superior.

If you’re looking for something yourself, definitely keep an eye on the market and projects though. RIght now it’s just December 2009, and it’s clear there is a lot of effort, momentum, and a ton of good ideas that people are just begging to implement in this space. If I go to make this same decision in 6 months, there’s no guarantee that the landscape won’t have changed dramatically and a different solution would be better.

5 thoughts on “integrated project management for development

  1. Suno – It’s interesting, but Pinax is the components to build a site, not a set-up-and-ready-to-use site in and of itself. I’m far more interested in the later rather than building up my own environment from component parts.

    Tiffin – if Trac 0.12 supports multiple projects, I’m afraid it’s not very clear either from the Trac website at Edgewall or the Trac 0.12 demo site.

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  2. I think next year the number of available integrated PM tools will double, simply because the interest in Project Management is exponentially growing.

    For Project Management, I believe most companies prefer paying for the tool rather than getting one for free, the reason for this is support.

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