[teampractices] Experimenting with Pivotal Tracker

Steven Walling swalling at wikimedia.org
Thu Nov 14 03:01:30 UTC 2013

Hey all,

In previous discussions, we've leaned toward calling Trello and Mingle a
pair of complementary tools, with the former being good for small teams and
the latter being good for large teams. I think this is probably true.

Tomasz said that he's already running in to the limitations of Trello for
teams more invested in Scrum processes like points estimation, burndown (or
up) charts, velocity, and so on. He showed me a little bit about how
they're using a browser extension to hack this stuff in to Trello, but that
he's still having to manually calculate velocity which is a pain.

Growth is still a very small team, but we're starting to venture down the
path of more Scrum process. This week I did some work to simplify our
Trello board, and reduce it to "Backlog", "Current To Do", "Doing" and
"Done" lists of cards. You can view our current board at

In the future, I can definitely see Trello breaking down for a larger team
doing sprints, even if you're like me and not particularly interested in
things like velocity. However, I want Mingle to die in a fire, so I
experimented with creating a Pivotal Tracker board, which is public at

I have a little experience with Pivotal from working at a startup with
Ward, where their dev team had 100% adoption of this tool. I was outside
the Scrum as a writer, but it was interesting for sure. Beyond the better
usability, mobile apps, etc., I think this is a good tool if we commit more
to Scrum practices. In particular, it does a few things I think are
different than Trello...

   1. Burndown or up charts can be generated automatically. There are also
   other charts and progress reports about points delivered etc. and you can
   get RSS feeds of it all.
   2. It seems to have bi-directional integration with any Bugzilla
   instance, and API access, so we could create Gerrit integration as well.
   3. It's geared toward having a story requester and owner, and the
   product owner explicitly accepts or rejects delivered work. Trello has
   pretty much no set roles, by comparison.
   4. Unlike Trello, the card lists are set for you. There's Icebox
   (holding area for new stories), Backlog (stories ready to start), Current
   (which actually auto-fills from Backlog based on your velocity). Pivotal
   also finally made Epics make sense to me. Epics are created from labels you
   put on stories, and you can see them in their own list and they have
   progress bars etc.
   5. Stories have set types of feature, release, bug, or chore.
   6. Stories get point estimations of course. By default points are not
   assigned to bugs or chores, though you can change this. There are different
   scales you can set for points, when iterations start/end, iteration length,
   and you can either let your velocity get set for you or set it manually.

*TL;DR: *to me it looks like Pivotal Tracker does everything we need from
Mingle, and is a helluva lot easier to use and understand for people new to
Scrum or only lightly in to it. Please play around, and if you want I can
invite you to be a member of our Growth project there so you can try it

A logistical point: Pivotal is proprietary. It's a small company based in
SF and owned by VMWare. However, they officially give free unlimited access
perpetually to public projects and non-profits.

Steven Walling,
Product Manager
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