One of the difficult issues we face as a small isv, is managing growth. The fact is we are growing and our customer base is expanding, which is great. But it does have it's down side. Back when we were a one man band (ie, me!), all support and sales emails naturally came into my inbox. That was fine, there wasn't too much email and it rarely took me more than an hour each morning to deal with it. Trouble is, as our customer base has grown, and as Finalbuilder has become more widely known, so has the volume of email we recieve (and the amount of spam). A few weeks back it got to where I found myself spending most of the day dealing with email, and considering I'm still the lead developer and architect for FinalBuilder, that's far from an ideal situation.
I started looking around for a system that had a customer facing page, ie somewhere people could fill in a support request etc. I was already aware of FogBugz since we've had some dealing's with the FogCreek people in the past (they use FinalBuilder), but it had been a while since I had looked at it. Fogbugz 4 was released earlier this year, and one of the features that piqued my interest was it's email abilities. Lot's of bug tracking systems can send emails, but not many can recieve emails, filter them, categorise them and also filter out spam. We spent 2 days evaluating the product. I have a “rule” that the amount of time spent evaluating software should be proportional to the cost of the product. If it's less than <$100 then why spend weeks. With some products, the only way to evaluate is to use. Now it's all good & well to enter a few bug's, mess with assigning bugs to people etc, but it doesn't really tell you what it's going to be like in a real world situation. So we bought a few licenses (US$99 per user) and put it to work.
We've been using it for a few weeks now, and I am totally sold. The Bayesian filtering in FogBugz takes a while to get up to speed (the more emails it recieves the quicker it learns), but it's incredibly accurate, filtering out spam and categorising emails into sales, bug reports etc. The result is that I'm spending less time each day either replying to email or forwarding it to someone else to deal with, and I get to see what discussion has taken place with a customer (so if I do deal with them I'm up to speed in minutes) without others having to cc me on everything.
We're working on automating and formalising processes so that when we hire staff, they are able to get up to speed and contribute within hours, not weeks. Now I'm not saying FogBugz is for everyone, in fact with larger companies I suspect it would fall short in areas such as workflow (other products do have customisable workflow), but for small to medium sized companies it fits very nicely.
It's not often that I get excited by a product, but FogBugz is helping us deal with the growing pains we are experiencing at the moment and making a big difference to my working day.