At first, Jeremy and I were trying to show our boss how much we were improving as a development team. We were also trying to prove that the agile principles we started implementing really worked. While we were at it, we were looking for a way to track our build status, code quality, and other KPIs (key performance indicators).
Our boss was interested in knowing how the project was going, whether we were improving, and what the status of certain features was.
Our team was very small at that time and we would have been very happy with a tool that would deliver a few metrics to prove that our agile practices were helping us manage change better, ship faster, and improve constantly.
So we started looking around for common solutions and ideas. What we found was that most teams don’t track the things we wanted to track because it was simply too complicated. Other teams were gathering and maintaining the information on Excel sheets or, in some cases, even building it by hand.
Our lazy developer minds could not wrap themselves around the thought of copying, pasting, and retaining this amount of information on Excel sheets and generating daily reports, or even drawing burn-down charts by hand—daily.
At that point, we decided to build something on the side. Shortly after, we were talking to managers and development teams via Skype and Hangouts to figure out what their reality was.
The first version
At first, we were building a burn-down chart for Pivotal Tracker because this chart is simple, yet rich in information. However, the more users we got, the more we started realizing that this chart was not enough to measure and improve software development teams.
Sure, it was a simple tool to draw a burn-down chart electronically instead of drawing it by hand every day. It was also a decent solution for distributed teams as they couldn't share the hand-drawn burn-down easily. But, as more people got to use it, it was becoming very clear that there was a need for much more than a simple chart.
Some teams want to track the scope variation for each iteration, other teams want to see how they are actually doing against their planning, yet other teams just want to know if they will be on time for an upcoming release. On top of that, every team has it's process and particularities, so the simple burn-down chart was struggling to keep up.
The first Pivot
One day, we were looking at our growth and feature requests piling up and we realized 2 things. The first was that the product could not support all the needed features in it's current form as it was centered around the burn down chart. The second was that our growth and pricing were not nearly sufficient to build a sustainable business upon.
On that particular day, we started talking about a new tool that would replace excel sheets and present the project data in various charts with customizable filters. We even introduced a new chart to track how the stories flow between states during a period of time.
Building a report was simply a matter of choosing a visualization and narrowing the data with custom filters. A secondary view was the Dashboard, which could display the reports on a TV screen.
We had some interesting growth, but we quickly realized that, even thought the tool was useful, it was also too complicated due to the amount of flexibility it was providing. We also noticed that the dashboard was clearly a better way to display this kind of information and our users seemed to prefer the dashboard format over the report one.
This video is how we used to onboard new users to the alpha version.
The second Pivot
We cut down every feature that didn't directly support the dashboard and we started building widgets and integration for the most common development tools. The dashboard now has the mission to be the best tool to track projects and improve the development process.
The Insight you see today is the result of hundreds of interviews we had with managers, developers, CEOs, and CTOs. In my mind, there is definitely a need for those analytics. At this very moment, there are loads of data just sitting there waiting to tell you a story.