Since issue tracking is as much about the people involved as it is about the underlying software, you’ll have more actively involved clients. That’s means your life will be easier, and your clients will be happier with the results. Who doesn’t want happier clients?

We’ll go over some basic things to keep in mind, and I’ve even put together a sample welcome email that you could send to your clients when you kick off issue tracking.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Not only are clients likely new to your process, but they couldn’t care less about your process. They care about their results. So it’s best to think and explain workflow and responsibilities in terms of how it will help their project. Help them see how an issue tracker and their particiaption helps you deliver high quality results faster with fewer mistakes. By focusing on the thing that they do care about, their project, you’ll inevitably use concepts that they can relate to.

Welcome them.

First and foremost, your clients must feel welcome. Unfortunately, sending them a link to an issue tracker isn’t enough. We’ve seen great results from using a standard issue tracking kickoff email to familiarize them with issue tracking and its significance. You can also include a timeline that shows where and how issue tracking fits in, and how it helps them easily see the project status.

Share the big picture.

Help your clients understand how issue tracking fits into the project. Prioritization. Assignment. Resolving, closing, and reviewing issues. All of these things help you give them what they want. Whether you run your whole project through an issue tracker or just a QA phase, seeing how and where issue tracking fits in can really help clients understand the benefits. If you don’t share the bigger picture, you can’t ever expect them to understand the details of the process.

Sell them on it.

Your clients hire you to do most of the heavy lifting, but it’s important for them to realize that they’re an integral part of the process. For the best results, they’ll need to actively invest in the project and not just toss things over the fence. This isn’t about telling them to do their job, but more about making sure that they realize you believe the project has the best chance of success if they’re actively integrated into your workflow. Help them see how they’re project will be more successful if they’re actively participating through the issue tracker.

Make their participation a priority.

Welcoming and selling them is usually enough, but if you find that your clients aren’t using it, set aside time to help get going. In this case, they’re likely either busy and distracted or overwhelmed and confused. In either case, a little hand-holding and education can go a long ways. If they’re busy, teach them how to email issues into your issue tracker. If they’re overwhelmed, sit down help them see how putting issues in the issue tracker can help you resolve them faster or make the issue less likely to slip through the cracks. Invest the time to make sure they’re participating, and everyone wins.

Teach. Don’t tell.

Your clients are likely not as experienced with issue tracking or issue tracking jargon. At best, they might be familiar with the concept, but it’s unlikely they’ll be experts with your workflow. They’re going to make mistakes, and it’s imperative that you treat every mistake as a learning opportunity. Be patient and help your client understand how the sausage is made so that they can make the right workflow decisions down the road.

A Sample Client Welcome Letter

If you put together a short welcome email for your clients about issue tracking and the project and keep these tips in mind when working with your client, you’ll invariably start seeing better results, save time, and make your clients happier. This example welcome letter can help set the tone so your clients have the context and know how issue tracking will help their project. You’ll probably want to tweak it for your business, but it should serve as a good starting point to help you save some time.

Dear {Client name} team,

So we achieve the best possible results on your project, we use an issue tracker to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks. You can think of it as a powerful and collaborative todo list that helps us address issues faster and make sure that everything gets done right the first time.

We don’t want to just throw you into a new system without any context, though, so we’ve put together this short intorduction to help you get acquainted with issue tracking…

  1. Everything goes through the issue tracker. Whether it’s a simple question, a software bug, a feature request, or a business issue, the process works best if everything goes into the issue tracker. This is the best way to ensure that nothing gets lost and you never have to ask twice. In addition to that, it ensures that you always have access to review the status of any given issue. The issue tracker is also setup to automatically ensure that the right people are notified of any new issue. That way, you never have to worry about who to tell. Just log your issue, and we’ll take it from there.
  2. Workflow. Once you’ve entered an issue, we’ll make sure that it’s assigned to the right person. We’ll also regularly work with your project lead to go through and prioritize all new issues. In general, you shouldn’t need to worry about assigning or prioritizing issues when you enter them. Our process makes sure that’s all taken care of.
  3. Prioritization. The key with prioritization is remembering that if everything is important, nothing is. Prioritization is key in making sure that we address the right issues in the right order. We’ll work with you to assess the priority of each and every issue, but this list should help provide some context to the priorities in our system.
    • Critical means that an entire portion of the system is inaccessible due to the problem or that project progress is blocked until the issue is resolved. A great example of this would be if the authentication system for a web app was broken and nobody could login. That’s definitely critical.
    • High means that a significant piece of functionality is completely broken but isolated to a specific area of the system. An example here would be if the “Forgot Password” functionality was broken. You could still login, but recovering passwords is pretty important.
    • Normal is the baseline. Something is broken, but it’s not stopping anyone from doing their job. A solid example here would be if a link was broken, but there were still plenty of other ways to get to that functionality. You want to fix it, but it’s not high or critical.
    • Low means that we should definitely do something about it, but only after everything else is finished. This could be a typo, spacing problem, or just a minor browser issue. It’s wrong, but it’s not impeding progress.
    • Trivial is for anything that’s simply nice to have. This will usually be enhancements or other items that are more of a personal preference nature. They’re good to jot down and keep track of, but they don’t have to be completed to launch.
  4. Reviewing and closing issues. Once you’ve filed an issue and someone begins working on it, they may need more information from you. Naturally, the sooner you reply, the sooner they can resolve the issue. Once the issue is resolved, we’ll let you know so that you can review it and make sure the resolution is satisfactory. If everything looks good, you can close the issue and move on. Or, if something isn’t quite right, you can reopen the issue with an explanation, and we’ll revisit it.

Your participation is key. We know that it’s a new system for you, so we’re always here to help answer questions and make sure you’re comfortable using it. Remember, this issue tracker is one of our key tools at making sure that your project is successful. If there’s anything we can do to help you use it, just let us know.


{Your Name}

Just tweak the above email to work within your process and workflow, fire it off to your new clients, and enjoy collaboration bliss.

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