Generis Knowledge Management Streamlines Reporting and Release Management with Elementool Issue Tracking
Generis Knowledge Management Corp. is a developer of content management software solutions for customers in regulated industries. As a fast-growing company with an international roster of Fortune 500 customers and a far-flung network of employees, Generis faced several challenges, such as reporting to clients and managing its widely distributed workforce, in overseeing its success. Generis' customer base had come to rely on the company's proven track record of service innovation and improvement. However, the restrictions imposed by Generis' contracts with customers in regulated industries meant that the company needed to prove they used a reliable method of tracking issues and logging which source code build issues had been fixed– in other words, that they follow effective issue tracking procedures, from conception all the way through to completion. In addition, it was necessary to provide an easy-to-use system for customers to offer input, get answers to routine questions, and have critical queries addressed and suggestions acted upon.
From an internal perspective, Generis was also seeking to maintain communications among its international team of employees that are based throughout Europe and the United States. Working in several different time zones, many of Generis' team members were completing their work days while their counterparts in other areas of the world were just starting theirs. The company needed a way to communicate work-flow and status, and achieve around-the-clock productivity from their international network.
When evaluating products, James Kelleher, CEO of Generis Knowledge Management, trialed several different tools before selecting Elementool. His list of requirements included ease of use and detailed reporting. During these trials, Elementool proved to be by far the easiest Issue Tracking tool to use. Other tools that Kelleher demoed were less intuitive, or lacked the fields and reporting that Generis needed to be able to show to their clients. In 2003, the company signed on with Elementool and began integrating Elementool Issue Tracking into their software development lifecycle.
Finding a Solution
Kelleher had been looking for a web-based system which could accommodate the various office locations, and could allow for customers to log in as well. With their development team spread out among three locations in Europe and one in the United States, the company absolutely needed to find a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) issue tracking solution. Kelleher initially considered hosting an issue tracking tool internally, but soon realized that with an internally hosted solution they wouldn't be able to provide the same uptime rate that Elementool is able to achieve.
"Elementool's 99.9% uptime has proven to be crucial to Generis; with clients accessing the system directly, we couldn't risk having the system down and a client unable to log in," says Kelleher. "Elementool not only offered us an easy to use web-based solution, but with unlimited users per account, an extremely reasonable cost structure as well."
As an added benefit of using Elementool, Generis team members could log into the web-based system in the morning local time, and continue whatever work had been started by their colleagues across the Atlantic the previous day. This provided a simple solution to Generis' problem of maintaining productivity and communicating project status throughout various time zones.
Another high priority requirement for Kelleher in evaluating issue tracking systems was an easy method of downloading and backing up data. Generis publishes an annual summary of how well the company has responded to customer requests during the past year. This report is made available to all client companies as proof that Generis has fulfilled their end of various service agreements.Explains Kelleher, "being able to export data from our issue tracking system to an Excel spreadsheet has significantly cut down on the time and effort put into obtaining and calculating the metrics needed for Generis' annual service report."
During the company's initial use of Elementool Issue Tracking, shortly after implementing the tool, Kelleher found that there were a few functions and features specific to Generis which would improve the tool. Elementool's quick response from support, and implementation of the requested features, ensured Generis an easy transition to the system.
Implementing the Tools
Generis first began by using Elementool Issue Tracking to log issues and enhancement requests made both internally by employees, and externally by customers. After a few months of use, the company deliberated adding additional tools and services for their application lifecycle management. However, they eventually found that Elementool Issue Tracking was sufficiently meeting their needs.
As they implemented Elementool, Generis began integrating the tool into the company's development process, as well as into their customer support operations. Within the company, product enhancement ideas are now entered and logged alongside bugs found during the internal testing process. As they're entered into the system, each bug or enhancement is assigned automatically to a lead developer who delegates the issue as necessary. Every step happens almost without oversight, and is completely recorded and logged.
"Elementool has been integral in tracking which product releases new enhancements end up in," said Kelleher. "This detailed tracking and reporting allows us to accurately plan release timetables and keep our customers well informed."
Additionally, Generis allows their customers to log issues into Elementool themselves, be it a product enhancement request or a true bug. Having a tool that customers can easily access removes a large step from the customer fulfillment process, saves time, and eliminates any risk of the problem or request being misinterpreted. Once the customer issue has been assigned to a lead developer and delegated out for resolution, Generis uses the dynamic reporting function in Elementool Issue Tracking to pull reports on a single customer's issues or individual product releases. The company can now easily see an entire customer account or a view a full picture of an upcoming product release.
Kelleher explains, "We can gather highly detailed reports on projects and customer history, then export the data to Excel to be used as release notes. This function is particularly useful in compiling metrics that we share with our customers."
Elementool as Part of the Process
Since 2003, Generis has been using Elementool to log development issues and product enhancement requests for internal use.
"In fact," says Kelleher, "Elementool has become the most used team tool in the company. "
Noting how well received the issue tracking tool was internally, Generis recently opened Elementool up to customers to see each other's issues. Generis customers can now enter the Elementool database to research similar problems found by other customers, as well as their resolutions. This turn of events has let Generis, and their customers in turn, cut down on time spent dealing with new issues and focus their attention and energies on furthering business goals.