Introductions - Say hello! 👋

Hey everyone! There are a lot of passionate users of Pivotal Tracker both from within the former Pivotal and its clients and in the larger software community.

I wanted to start a thread where people can say hello and introduce themselves!

I am Grant Hutchins. I was a consultant at Pivotal Labs for just under ten years, from 2010 right up to the last day when Pivotal was acquired by VMware at the end of 2019. I had the great opportunity to work on about 30 different client teams, pair programming and (almost always) using Pivotal Tracker.

I have developed strong opinions about estimating stories, having a single prioritized backlog, and more. I think you should never put points on bugs and chores!

At the end of the day, the thing I miss most about Pivotal Tracker is its opinionated nature. I never had to configure a Tracker project in order to make it usable. It was always a great fit for a particular, hyper-efficient workflow. While I can’t claim that every team I worked on was able to achieve this workflow, the ones that did benefitted quite a bit from the approach.

I’m hopeful that someone can recapture the simplicity of the original tool. Until then, I am definitely interested in discussions of how to cope with teams using other tools, especially in this remote-first world we now find ourselves in. Too bad it can’t be as simple as Post-Its on a physical card wall these days.

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Hey! Thank you for making an Introductions thread! I’m going to respond here and then make a separate reply for my own introduction, I think.

What office did you work in, Grant?

So, here’s my own introduction.

I’m Jesse Alford. I worked on Cloud Foundry (in mostly engineering and leadership positions, but with some product, service, and design work for stints) for almost a decade, starting in San Francisco in late 2013 and continuing in various ways until I unilaterally resigned from VMware under the shadow of the Broadcom thing in mid 2023. I resigned for a lot of different reasons, but one of them was that my position as tech lead in the TAS program left me facing demands that I marshal tools that I loved and had built my career on into ignoble graves, and I found I could not do it.

Way back in 2013, when I got the job that would make me the engineer I am today, Pivotal Tracker was one of the first things I could touch and interact with to learn about the company I was so excited to be joining. Its opinions were so… useful, usable, good. I’m very sentimental about it, but I’ve also accomplished a lot of good work using it - and not just the face use of picking up and delivering stories, but the team uses around discovering disagreement and finding alignment and really operating as a continuously improving unit.

Tracker didn’t do all of that, but it supported all of that in this really congruent way that I think was unique. On some level, I’m afraid of a world with no Pivotal Tracker in it. I’d like to be less afraid, and I think talking about Tracker and other tools will help me with that, both because I think I might be able to make a successor happen, and because I’ll learn about options for me and for others.

The for others thing is a big deal for me. I want to see XP and Pivots thrive in the world, to have places that are good for them to work at, and places that can make good use of their particular powers. I think Tracker sinking into the sea makes that harder, and that really bothers me.

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Grant! Hi! I’m glad you’re in here. We need your advocacy and stories.

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Hi there! I’m Nat Bennett. I worked on Cloud Foundry for about 5 years, and used Tracker very heavily there.

Since then I’ve mostly been contracting and consulting. That’s mostly been Jira, a little bit of Notion, and one lovely project with a former Pivot client that was run out of Tracker.

I miss the way that Tracker diverted a lot of common conversations from stakeholders (“how long will it take to…?”) into conversations that I think were more productive (“what’s the most important thing to do next?” and “if we we have to give something up to hit {date}, what should it be?”).

It provided a lot of cultural glue on Cloud Foundry and was a big part of the system that enabled frequent team rotation. I could generally get a clear idea of what a team was up to just by taking a look at the stories active in Tracker and their backlog. With basically any other tool I have to figure out how they have it set up – and the “real” work is often hidden away in some other tool that I have to go find.

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Hi friends,

I’m Coby Almond, I started out in the brand new Dallas Lab and wound up getting to know the tracker team in Denver when I moved into R&D in 2020. Of course we used Tracker a ton and I got to see some other client backlog tools I’d rather not touch again.

I’m still in Labs now and Tracker isn’t really allowed in Public Sector as easily. Sadly, I’m now tied to Gitlab Issues, which can be a workable Kanban board, but you know, isn’t the same.

I was also part of the Tracker 2 testing group, which I was super excited about. I found myself always wanting to tie recurring assumptions or bets to stories and research evidence to help drive the pairing conversation.

I wound up using a Tracker Workspace for this and maintained a separate “learning/bets/evidence-gathering” backlog myself, with localized product principles and GIFs in the story titles.

I miss the custom label views for “needs design” + the targeting button. That helped me re-orient back into the larger team prioritization after considering my own items I owed to the team.

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Did you ever use the “red labels” extension? I used it so much I forgot it wasn’t a native feature.

It changed any labels that started with the word “needs” to red.

I think there was something similar that changed the icon of Features with “explore” in the title to a little compass.