Hot! 37signals – Managing Software Exceptions

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There is a dearth of online, project management applications on the market at the moment and, where clients sign up for these applications and 37signals exceptionsstart to use them in earnest, they can quickly become reliant on this software and issues in the software and its use can cause significant problems.

Exceptions in software happen when something under the hood goes wrong, unexpectedly, and these can cause disruption to the user base, whether it’s a single user, multiple users, the entire user base.  Exceptions will happen in any software application, even where the development quality is high, particularly where that software is under ongoing revision, with new releases delivering new functionality.  So given that exceptions will happen, it is how they are responded to that will make a big difference to customers.

Of course, the serious exceptions that affect a large part of the user base get immediate attention, but 37signals recognize that good housekeeping and management of the smaller, less intrusive exceptions and problems can help to minimize larger problems, as sometimes smaller exceptions 37signals clientsexperienced by individual users can reflect the fact that a larger issue may be lurking somewhere below the surface.  In addition, routine maintenance of software issues can show demonstrable results, for example, 37signals reports that it reduced application exceptions in December, 2011 by a massive 43%, reflecting the fact that the developers had taken care of more issues before they had ever resulted in an impact on the users.

Each week, the programmers at 37signals will take a detailed look at problems their clients are experiencing and combine those with other problems that become apparent that don’t always get as far as actually affecting the end users.

In looking at exceptions, the overriding driver is to find the root cause that clearly explains why the exception has occurred.  Without understanding the root cause, any mitigating action is simply glossing over the problem and not necessarily fixing it such that it won’t happen again.

37signals has a good history of delivering its applications as online, subscription-based services and has 4 key products, delivered in this way over the cloud, that it offers to customers that come together to form an integrated suite of business and project management applications:

  • Basecamp: project and task management, with centralized document storage & management and collaborative tools
  • Campfire: real-time chat application
  • Backpack: online, centralized management of internal communications
  • Highrise: management of detailed contact information

For more information on the 37signals products, please visit:



Jan Birley

Jan holds a PhD in computing and started out in software development and IT training. She built a strong career as a project and program manager focusing on IT in the Health Service sector. Jan specializes in taking greenfield and immature services/departments to effective business-as-usual operation and is currently responsible for the delivery of clinical assessment forms into a high profile clinical system. Jan has authored 100′s of articles on project-management related topics.


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