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Five FAQs Every Project Manager Needs to Read

Five essential FAQs

Here are five frequently asked questions that every PM needs to read:

1. Why use issue tracking software over an Excel spreadsheet?
There are many advantages to using Issue Tracking software over an Excel spreadsheet.

For one, issue tracking software makes collaboration easy. Users do not have to worry about having the latest information or spreadsheets- the latest information is available to all users. You can also edit information concurrently, as opposed to one user at a time for a spreadsheet.

Second, if you have many issues, it might be difficult to save an audit trail to keep track of your issues. Most full-featured Issue Trackers keep audit trails automatically. This makes it nearly impossible to lose or delete data or information associated with an issue-as opposed to a simple Excel file.

Third, Excel spreadsheets lack many of the useful features that Issue Trackers contain. For example, the ability to add file attachments, create advanced focused reporting, receive quick notifications when an issue is modified, and many more.

Realistically, using Excel as an issue tracker is only suitable if there are only 1-2 users, and few issues.

2. What's the difference between priority and severity?
Although these two terms may seemingly go hand in hand, and to an extent they do, they are different.  The priority of a bug or issue tells you how urgent the bug is and how fast it should be resolved. The severity tells us the impact of the bug, and how it affects performance usability. Usually, a bug's severity is constant while its priority could change depending on the product's schedule.  Assigning priority or severity is essential in letting users know which issues are most urgent and detrimental to the project.  Both priority and severity are usually classified into four categories; immediate (or critical), high, medium, and low.

3. What's the importance of managing priorities?
Performing testing and development tasks according to their priority can increase efficiency and prevent unnecessary time waste during the product development process.

In many cases, developers don't know what the priority of each task is and often spend more time on low priority tasks than high priority tasks. As a result, the project is not completed on time.

Managing priorities and completing high priority items are essential to completing projects on time. Setting priorities will let your team handle the urgent issues first, before tackling the less important ones. Not every bug has to be addressed and not all bugs can be fixed right away. You may decide to pass on some of the lower priority issues until you have more time, or you may decide to scrap a feature, and not address the bug at all.

4. What are test cases and how do I use them to improve my testing process?
Many times, project managers want to implement a testing process but don't know where to start, or are intimidated by industry lingo. I am going to define what a test case is, and how it can be used to improve the testing process.

The whole point of using test cases is to find defects. A test case has an input, an action and an expected result. In using test cases, the tester is trying to break the application.

Test cases must exercise every feature of the application to prevent defects from being released. Each test case needs to contain a set of test steps of a feature or function.

For example, if you were to test the functionality of a search box, you might create a test group and name it "Search Functionality". This group would consist of various test cases that test the search box in different ways, with each test case consisting of multiple steps.

One test case would be, "verify the search textbox input is null" and it would be comprised of the following three steps:

  1. Go to a page with a search function
  2. Do not input any words in the textbo
  3. Click on the search button

At the end of the test, the expected results are compared to actual results to determine if the application is working properly. In this instance, it is expected that the user will be alerted via a message that they must enter text to complete the search.

5. How can time tracking be used to control my project?
A Time Tracking tool is useful in managing projects because it allows you to measure the efficiency of users by examining their time spent and outcome. Time Tracking enables you to identify bottlenecks and delays in the project development process by comparing the actual time that it takes to complete tasks to the estimated time. Sometimes, a specific task can take longer than expected, and as a result, the rest of the project is delayed.

It also gives you a snapshot of how the organization is spending their time and what processes need improvement.  For example, you can measure how long it takes to resolve an issue, the amount of time spent on customer inquiries, how long you are spending on the testing process, and so on. This is important in identifying trouble areas. After observing the time spent on various processes using a time tracking tool, you might notice that your organization is spending too much time on the testing process compared to the industry standard.

More Stories By Michael Kowlowitz

Michael Kowlowitz is a project manager at Elementool. Elementool provides its tools to software companies and business web sites from all over the world. Elementool is used on a daily basis by its customers, and is integrated in their product development process. He is also ablogging enthusiast.

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