What is issue tracking?

Issue tracking is the process of managing software bugs that users encounter when interacting with a product. An issue, then, refers to a bug or error in the code that creates some sort of problem for the user. This could be a broken button, authentication error, or unintended user experience, just to name a few examples.

But issue tracking goes beyond documenting a running list of defects. Many agile development teams include technical debt, refactoring, and other suggestions in their list of issues. By keeping track of both urgent fixes and opportunities to improve the product in a single place, it is easier to prioritize how you will improve the overall user experience — one issue at a time.

A great agile team needs the right tools — try Aha! Develop.

So where do issues come from? Many product development teams identify issues via customer feedback — a user reaches out for help with a specific problem or error message. Issues like these can come from a variety of sources, from tickets that the customer support team creates to social media messages from customers themselves. If your company has a robust idea management system in place, issues can also come directly from customers via ideas portals, in-app community feedback, or empathy sessions.

But it is also useful to find (and resolve) issues before they reach customers in the first place. Debugging, QA testing, and beta releases are all opportunities for the development team to spot problems. Of course, you should also be vigilant about looking for bugs or code weaknesses at all stages of the agile development lifecycle. If you are able to quickly ship code changes at any time, you can continuously release improvements to customers.

After all, the ultimate goal of issue tracking is to iteratively improve the user experience and deliver a product that customers love.

What is an issue tracking system?

An issue tracking system is an application or tool that helps development teams manage and address issues. Popular issue tracking tools typically support agile methodologies and project management capabilities, so agile teams can stay aligned and collaborate faster. Some teams choose to organize or sort issues into different levels, such as epics, user stories, and subtasks.

This is an example of a workflow board in Aha! Develop. Issues are labelled as bug fixes, and user stories are sorted into columns according to their status — so the engineering team can visualize technical issues to address alongside new work to complete.

While developers are ultimately responsible for tracking and fixing errors in the code, issue tracking is vital to the entire product development team. Everyone from product and project management to product marketing and operations rely on you to create and refine a product that delights customers. Depending on the structure of your organization and the type of issue that needs fixing, other groups such as customer support or design may also need to be involved in the process of identifying and communicating the solution.

Why do you need an issue tracking system?

Software development is dynamic and collaborative work. Changing one part of the code often impacts how other parts of the software function — which is why bugs, issues, and defects tend to multiply over time. An issue tracking system provides teams with a framework for managing and organizing the development work that must be done to improve the product and address customer needs.

Using a strong issue tracking system allows you to capture, organize, manage, and fix issues from when they are discovered to when they are resolved. While developers usually log issues for tech debt and refactoring, bugs are typically logged by a member of the product management, QA, or support team. Product managers usually push work related to the product roadmap over to the engineering team's issue tracker as well.

Here are some of the main benefits for agile development teams that use an issue tracking system:

  • Alignment

  • Collaboration

  • Efficiency

  • Transparency

  • Visibility

In short, fixing bugs quickly and addressing customer feedback make for a better product and user experience. This can lead to greater customer trust and loyalty — when users are not frustrated by error messages and broken links, they can actually enjoy the entire experience of using your product.

What features should you look for in an issue tracking tool?

The features you need will depend on how your company and development team operate — for example, which agile methodologies you use and how the team collaborates. Most companies opt for a cloud-based tool that updates in real time and includes a comprehensive view of all the bugs you need to fix (present and future). The ability to search for a specific issue, escalate it based on shifting priorities, link related issues, and track the time until resolution are also popular functionality for issue trackers.

No matter what your specific situation is, you will likely benefit from using an issue tracking tool that contains the following features:

Feature

Benefit

Automation

By assigning automation rules within the issue tracker, you save time and cut down on manual or repetitive tasks in your workflows.

Centralization

A single view of all the issues — whether reported by customers or discovered by internal teams — is vital for knowing what you need to fix.

Customization

Issues are not very useful without accompanying details. Look for an issue tracking system that lets you add information such as status, tags, and comments to each issue. You will likely also want the ability to customize workflows, assign tasks, and filter data.

Integrations

Software development happens across multiple tools. Your issue tracker should be able to easily integrate with the third-party development, customer service, or communication apps your company already uses.

Prioritization

The team should be able to quickly identify the issues that are in progress, completed, or coming next. Your issue tracker should make it obvious which issues are most urgent and which can wait for the next sprint. You will also want the ability to track estimated time against team capacity so you can better plan your sprints.

Reporting

You are constantly improving your processes, and your issue tracking tool should help you accomplish this. Find an issue tracker that makes it easy to create dashboards and reports. This will allow you to better measure your efficiency and improve your output going forward.


These features are a great starting point. The problem, however, is that issue tracking tools that include all the functionality above are often cumbersome to use. Many development teams find it challenging to balance competing needs when different types of work are lumped together in a single stream. For example, if product work dominates the list, defects tend to pile up — resulting in a quality issue for the product. Or if your list of issues focuses on maintenance, new features languish and the team might not meet product goals.

A large number of issues coming in also means that tickets can get overlooked, forgotten, or unintentionally duplicated. And developers using overly complex issue trackers run the risk of alienating their cross-functional colleagues. For instance, executives and business operations folks are reticent to go into the issue tracker to try to understand the status of the development work.

You need a purpose-built tool that is visible to everyone and facilitates close collaboration. This is why development teams benefit from using a tool like Aha! Develop. You can include everything you need in a single, streamlined app that is easily accessible and understandable to everyone.

This close-up view of an issue in Aha! Develop shows details such as the team responsible for addressing the issue, an estimate of how long it will take, and the priority level.

If you are not yet ready for a fully extendable tool like Aha! Develop, keep in mind that Aha! Roadmaps easily integrates with other popular issue tracking and ticketing software.

Get started using an issue tracking tool

Staying on top of problems and promptly resolving bugs leads to higher customer happiness. A strong issue tracking tool is essential to achieving this. No matter which tool you use, successful issue tracking requires buy-in and participation from the entire development team. Everyone must commit to using the tool correctly, consistently, and over a sustained period of time.

Many development teams use Aha! Develop to prioritize the backlog, coordinate and estimate work, track issues, and plan sprints. Having all of the development work in a single tool makes is easy to collaborate and build quickly. You can also integrate Aha! Develop with Aha! Roadmaps — so everyone on the product development team has the information they need to build lovable products.

Sign up for a free trial of Aha! Develop — work the way you want.