From complaint management to help desk ticketing, businesses need a way to identify, monitor and document all kinds of issues that crop up. The best issue tracking software will provide end-to-end support, creating a framework by which organizations can comprehensively manage any issue or problem they come across.

However, not all businesses are ready to fully take the plunge into the world of professional issue tracking right away, and instead seek out free software platforms to address these needs. Is this a viable solution? Can a free issue tracking tool capably handle everything it's asked to do, or will it create as many problems as it solves?

Approach free software with caution

The appeal of these applications is evident, especially for organizations that have limited budgets to make software investments. The best thing one could say about free issue tracking software is that it's better than nothing. Certainly having some kind of uniform issue tracking capability is preferable than relying on disparate documentation processes.

As Software Testing Help noted, teams that use manual tracking strategies open themselves to all kinds of visibility and workflow problems. Stakeholders may need to wade through piles of emails to find each spreadsheet that documents identified issues. Furthermore, it's incredibly difficult to keep everyone up to date on issue statuses, open tickets and escalations.

Free software is a step up from this scenario, but it's far from ideal for organizations looking for a deep feature roster.

Free issue tracking software may have its appeals, but it won't offer all the features you need. Free issue tracking software may have its appeals, but it won't offer all the features you need.

Know when it's time to make an upgrade

Software Advice Content Analyst Eileen O'Loughlin explained that free platforms are an OK starting point, but eventually businesses will outgrow them and require more substantial issue tracking tools.

"No-cost software platforms tend to be severely limited with their features."

No-cost software platforms tend to be severely limited with their features, often only giving users a meager set of tools to work with. For instance, you may be able to document an issue and record updates, but can you assign tasks to different employees and set escalation parameters? Moreover, these applications are almost always suited for a particular type of issue - QA defects or customer complaints, for instance. But that doesn't cover the full breadth of problems that a growing business will encounter and need to monitor.

The best issue tracking software features auto-assignment capabilities to streamline response workflows and ensure that every ticket, complaint or request is identified and sent to a specific team member for investigation and response. In a similar fashion, businesses can establish pre-defined criteria to determine when an open ticket should be escalated for further review. In this way, these platforms reduce the amount of time needed to manage and address incoming issues, giving team members more flexibility to tackle other important tasks. From a productivity standpoint, you can't beat a sophisticated issue tracking system.

Free software also lacks in the support category. Businesses must rely on an independent user community to help them with any configuration questions or day-to-day problems that might arise. There's just no official, licensed support system in place to take care of these needs, and there's no guarantee you will find the answers you're looking for.

Is a free issue tracking platform right for your business? It's possible that this kind of software could function as a stop-gap solution for a short amount of time. Eventually - and sooner than you probably realize - your organization will need something more substantial.