Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Tasktop 3.6 released: IBM DOORS, Jama, integrating “things”

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Nothing catches the technologist’s eye like an elegantly designed gadget, with software and hardware flowing together in design harmony. The trouble is that traditionally, the way we build software and the way we build physical things have had very separate lifecycles. The V-Model of systems engineering provides the predictability needed to assemble little things into bigger things along a broad chain of bills of materials and suppliers. Contrast that with Agile development and Continuous Delivery, where constantly shipping the entire system. For the few companies that have managed to wire together their own internal processes for making hardware and software work together, the results have been spectacular.

For the past couple of years, customers have been asking us to extend the integration that we’re known for to their hardware systems and teams. With today’s announcement of Tasktop 3.6, we’re thrilled to announce our first step in this with Sync support for the most established product requirements management tool, IBM DOORS, and one of the newest and most innovative, Jama.

Tasktop - Jama to JIRA Sync

Over the past two years, Tasktop Sync has transformed from ALM integration technology to an end-to-end DevOps integration bus. We’ve watched in amazement as some of our largest manufacturing customers created DevOps environments for hardware. Service virtualization is replaced by hardware simulation, continuous integration spans to hardware testing, and new software can be deployed to things that we drive. While some Tesla aficionados were annoyed when their cars were no longer as low to the road as they might like, the ability for Tesla to push out such updates has signaled the sign of things to come. DevOps is being extended to physical product delivery, and the lifecycle of hardware and software will become increasingly connected. For this to happen, we need to create a new software-centric backbone for the product lifecycle. One which supports the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) backbone while supporting the continuous delivery of software and firmware. The first infrastructure software for that backbone is the new release of Tasktop Sync.

It will now be possible for organizations to have a single view of requirements in DOORS and Jama, synchronized in real-time across all the leading Agile development tools that we already support. This is the magic of Tasktop Sync and our integration factory. Once Tasktop’s integration bus is extended to understand a new concept or set of artifacts, such as a hardware requirement, and a connector that has full API-based read and write access to a repository is created, and our integration factory is updated to continually test that integration against all others we support, we enable the seamless flow of information across yet another tool boundary. But the Holy Grail for systems is not just the benefits of collaboration; it’s end-to-end traceability between requirements, defects, and the hardware and software that implements them (to the delight of users). And, the only way to automate this traceability is to integrate the stakeholder tools. That’s exactly what we’re doing, all thanks to the new Artifact Relationship Management support that we release with Tasktop 3.6. Because the cost of not having traceability might be front page news in the form of car recalls and airplane delivery delays.

Tasktop 3.6 also includes a set of incremental improvements to help you get the most out of Sync. Most notable: the Sync bus has been extended to support Test Case synchronization. If you’re a ServiceNow user, you’ll be happy to know we now support Sync to all “task” artifacts, which dramatically extends the number of ServiceNow tables that you can connect to your software delivery and DevOps activities. In addition, we’re releasing time tracking synchronization for Rally, and updates to integration Microsoft VS Online, HP ALM 12, IBM RTC an RRC 5.0, Rally OnPrem, VersionOne 14 and Bugzilla 4.4.4. For the full list of improvements see the New & Noteworthy.

Tasktop - Rally to CA Clarity PPM Time Tracking

As always, we look forward to seeing you deploy this new functionality for use cases that we have not yet imagined. When we first created Sync, we didn’t realize that it would soon be getting deployed for connecting the software supply chain of one of the world’s leading car manufacturers. We can’t wait to see how you deploy this new functionality in your systems engineering and Internet of Things (IoT) efforts, and to hear your thoughts about the other systems engineering and Product Line Management (PLM) tools that you want us to support in upcoming releases. So please stay in touch!

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Right Action, Right Time: Tasktop Raises Financing

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

After 7 years and growing to 70 people as a bootstrapped company, at the end of 2013, Tasktop made a decision to raise external financing.  We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved as a bootstrapped entity and the innovations we’ve created including Mylyn, the task-focused interface, co-authoring the Change Management portion of the OSLC specification, the DevOps integration bus Tasktop Sync, and Software Lifecycle Integration.  I am very proud of the organization that I’ve helped build, and the cool thing was that we could have kept growing without raising money.  We made a choice because we felt that the opportunity to change how software was built was so big and the foundation we had put in place was so solid, that it was time to add a catalyst to our business.  Also, our customers and partners wanted more from us than we could give to them organically so to grow commercially at the pace that the market was demanding, we felt the funding was needed.

Now as you know, wanting funding and actually getting funding are two different things.  We were quite gratified as we went through the process that there was significant interest in the team we had built and what we had accomplished to date.

Today, I’m very pleased to announce that we’ve raised $11M.  The primary focus of this investment is to expand the commercial part of our business.  Over the past 7.5 years, we’ve created technology that drives tremendous value to our customers.  When companies purchase Tasktop Sync or Tasktop Dev, they get software that pays for itself in the quarter it was purchased in (contact us to walk you through how Tasktop can drive significant returns for your organization).  We need to get these innovations into the hands of even more organizations so that more of our colleagues who build software for banks, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, government, retail, and the like can do it at the increasingly rapid pace demanded by today’s marketplace.  We are proud that our customers get increased visibility into their software manufacturing processes, see improved collaboration between the various stakeholders involved in delivering software and get home to their families in time for dinner because they’ve been so productive during the day.  So we will grow geographically, adding more local presences around the globe (in many cases with our growing partner ecosystem).

We will also grow the breadth of our integrations portfolio so that we will provide coverage for the top 80% of the market leading tools in every category we support (project/portfolio management, requirements management, Agile planning, change management, test / quality assurance, and help desk / ITSM).  Finally, we will evaluate adding integrations into adjacent markets based on customer demand.  In essence, we have raised funding to do a lot more of what we’ve been doing.  That also means we will maintain the discipline that allowed us to bootstrap the business through the ups and downs of the past 7.5 years.

John Thornton

The round was led by Austin Ventures, the VC in my home state of Texas.  With over $3.9B raised over the course of 10 funds, Austin Ventures has been the most active investor in Texas.   We’re excited to be adding John Thornton to our board of directors.  John has been a VC for Austin Ventures for the past 25 years, even leading the firm for a number of years as the managing director.  John’s ability to reach into his decades of experience in enterprise software stemming all the way back to his Tivoli and BuildForge investments to some of his other investments like SolarWinds, Datical and ITInvolve will help us navigate the growth we will be going through over the next few years.

Mike Satterfield

We also syndicated the round with Yaletown Ventures, the most active VC in Canada.  Mike Satterfield will be representing Yaletown on the Tasktop board after spending about a year as a board observer.  We’re thrilled to be continuing to get Mike’s experience working with enterprise software companies.  He has already been critical to helping us in recruiting in Vancouver as well as helping us navigate some of the challenges we’ve faced as a Canadian company working on a global stage.

I’m also excited that my friends at the Capital Factory also chose to participate in this round.  Both John and I are mentors at the Capital Factory, so this investment comes full circle for both of us.

I want to also say that I am proud that we’ve done it as a Canadian company.  Mik Kersten, Gail Murphy and Rob Elves started this company 7.5 years ago out of the University of British Columbia.  UBC has been a huge part of what we are, what we’ve been and what we will be.  I’m proud of the partnership we have with UBC and am proud of our organization who takes time to give back to its roots.  There are so many other people who have made a difference en route to this milestone for the company e.g., Rizwan Kheraj and all of the folks at the NRC, Bill Tam and the folks at BCTIA, and Mike Milinkovich and the Eclipse Foundation.

We also want to thank our customers, our partners, and our friends in the media and at analyst firms for their support over the past 7.5 years in allowing us to enter this new chapter of our company’s growth.

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IBM Innovate: DevOps grows up. Agile loses weight. Collaboration gets its groove back

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Last week, Tasktop had a wonderful week at IBM Innovate in Orlando. We were honored by the conference organizers who invited us to present, or co-present, in eight sessions. We were delighted to win the IBM Business Partner award for Innovation in IT Development . We’re especially proud that this was the second year in a row that we won this award. We had terrific meetings with our customers, potential customers and IBMers. Aside from the fact that I’m responsible for managing Tasktop’s conference presence, as a former member of the Rational team… and later as a former IBMer… going to Innovate is a bit like coming home. It was wonderful seeing how many of my former colleagues are still with Rational… and better yet, were willing to spend a little time with me to catch up.

The Tasktop Crew at Innovate

Of course we talked about the Good Old Days. But we also talked about the changes in the industry. Yes, I’m a marketing weenie… but the reason I love my job so much is that as a former developer (and engineering manager) the act of crafting software has always been, and always will be, near and dear to my heart

For me, the Biggest Thing at Innovate was that DevOps has grown up. In its original incarnation, the idea behind DevOps was that the entire software delivery process would go so much better if, instead of lobbing applications over the wall at Operations, there was some (pre-delivery) collaboration between the Development and the Operations teams. As bad as long waterfalls were, they were made worse by a discontinuity between the team building the software, and the team responsible for its care and feeding in production. Perhaps, I hoped, if the two teams collaborated right from the start, the promise of Agile would flow all the way into Operations.

But, I was so very disappointed when the movement seemed to narrow down to only Continuous Delivery/Continuous Integration and the tools required to automate the delivery of code to production. Sure, that’s better than just tossing a build at Operations and hoping they can figure out what to do with it, but REALLY… what happened to the COLLABORATION between the Development and Operations teams?!

Instead, Continuous Delivery seemed to be all about getting the bits into production. But unless two developers are working on the same sub-system, there isn’t all that much collaboration on the code per se. The real collaboration is around all the development artifacts… the requirements/user stories, models, defects, plans… and no one seemed to be talking about that. Until now. Finally, DevOps in the broader sense, is coming into its own.

I’m happy to report that during this Innovate, the notion of DevOps took center stage. The sessions were divided into three “streams”:
· Innovation – emerging technologies

· Continuous Engineering – the delivery of complex and connected products (where “products” are a combination of software and hardware), and

· DevOps!!

Oh sure, the words “continuous delivery” were used during the DevOps stream, but not as the sum-total of the conversation. In this incarnation of DevOps, continuous delivery is an outcome of using lean and Agile principles, of continuous planning, continuous testing and of continuous collaboration! Finally, the DevOps movement is morphing into what it could have been from the start.

And speaking of morphing, over the years, Innovate itself has changed and evolved. When I was with Rational, our user conference was called RUC (the Rational User Conference). After we were acquired by IBM, it became RSDUC (the Rational Software Development User Conference) and had about 2,500 attendees. This year there were 4,000 attendees at IBM Innovate. All along, this has been a user conference for Rational products. But next year, there is yet another evolution. IBM plans to meld several of their conferences together. We don’t know the name yet, we only know that it will be in February, in Las Vegas, with an expected attendance of 20,000. With several of their Software Group brands working together (some that concentrate on Development and some that concentrate on Operations), I’m sure there will be yet another evolution on IBM’s take on DevOps. And I’m looking forward to another terrific week.

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First look: Tasktop Sync Integrates Visual Studio Online with popular DevOps Tools

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

I’m excited about returning to TechEd for the first time in 3 years.  In 2011, I attended my first TechEd in Atlanta.  It was an exciting time for Tasktop; we had just announced Visual Studio support for Tasktop Dev and were a couple months away from announcing Tasktop Sync, our flagship integration hub for the DevOps stack.



Maude Hejna, Program Manager for Visual Studio Partner Program (VSIP) at Microsoft, and Neelan Choksi, President of Tasktop

TechEd is particularly interesting this year because Microsoft is embracing interoperability between Microsoft and other technologies under Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella, the same Nadella who offered Linux on Azure and, in his first activity as CEO of Microsoft, rolled out Office for Apple’s iPad.  I am personally rooting for success for Nadella, who, like me, is a graduate of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business (now the Booth School of Business).

At Tasktop, we are especially pleased to see the trend towards interoperability. To that end, we are excited to show a Technology Preview of Tasktop Sync’s support of Visual Studio Online (VSO) at TechEd today. This Technology Preview highlights Tasktop’s strong and long-standing relationship with Microsoft:

Tasktop Dev integration with Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server (TFS)
Tasktop Sync integration with Microsoft TFS (including sim-shipping with TFS 2012 and TFS 2013 when they were released)


The demo video above highlights integration between Visual Studio Online and Atlassian JIRA.  This extension is currently a Technology Preview (closed Beta) with the GA of this functionality coming this summer.

In this video, we demonstrate a Visual Studio Online-to-JIRA integration. You’ll see a defect created in JIRA sync to Visual Studio Online. Tasktop Sync will create the corresponding defect work item in Visual Studio Online and set up ongoing bi-directional synchronizations. During the demo, the work item in Visual Studio Online is updated and the defect in JIRA is updated in real-time.  The video also shows the opposite workflow– a bug created in Visual Studio Online is automatically created in JIRA.

This is just one example use case.   The great news is that the entire ecosystem of Tasktop integrations now works for VS online.

As we head towards GA this summer, we expect to be solving additional business challenges based on our upcoming release with support for VSO. For example:

Connecting VSO to Microsoft TFS on-premise and other on-premise tools.   As organizations determine what they will move to the cloud and what will remain on-premise, this integration will provide important functionality.
Connecting cloud-based development tools like VSO to other cloud-based DevOps technologies currently supported by Tasktop Sync e.g., ServiceNow, Zendesk, Rally, VersionOne, and others.
Connecting cloud-based development tools like VSO to other on-premise DevOps tools currently supported by Tasktop Sync e.g., HP Quality Center, IBM Rational, ThoughtWorks Mingle, CA Clarity.

To see the full list of DevOps tools currently supported by Tasktop Sync, please check out the list at http://tasktop.com/connectors.

If you are in Houston this week at TechEd, do not hesitate to contact us about meeting up.


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Tasktop Dev 3.5 and Mylyn 3.11 Released

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Tasktop Dev 3.5 and Mylyn 3.11 are now available. These releases include some cool new features that result from the combined efforts of many people in the Mylyn community and at Tasktop.

Speaking as a Tasktop Dev and Mylyn user, I am already loving the new support for finding text in the task editor. It was originally contributed to Mylyn Incubator a few years ago, but unfortunately the implementation suffered from serious performance problems. Recently I had the pleasure of supervising a Co-op student at Tasktop, Lily Guo, as she reimplemented it with dramatically better performance and improved the UI. Thanks to her efforts this very useful feature is now released and the task editor supports searching for text within the comments, description, summary, and private notes.

Screnshot of Find in the Task Editor

Another long-awaited feature in this release is task-based breakpoint management, which extends the concept of task context to include Java breakpoints. This was implemented as part of a Google Summer of Code project by Sebastian Schmidt, a graduate student at Technical University Munich. It provides several important benefits for Java developers. First, the debugger will not stop at breakpoints that aren’t related to the active task. Second, only breakpoints created while the task was active will appear in the IDE – when working on a task, the breakpoints view and Java editors are no longer cluttered with dozens of irrelevant breakpoints. Because the breakpoints related to a task are only present while that task is active, there is no need to delete or disable these breakpoints – which often contain valuable information such as which lines of code and which runtime conditions trigger a defect – when a task is complete. Finally, breakpoints can be shared with other developers as part of task context.

Screenshot of the context preview page showing breakpoints in the context

In a single view, the Hudson/Jenkins connector provides quick access to status information about selected builds across multiple build servers, even when you are offline. This includes information about build status, build stability, and test failures. But one thing I realized was missing was a quick summary of how many builds are passing, unstable, and failing. This information is now displayed at the top of the Builds view and, when the view is minimized, in a tooltip, making it really easy to tell when there’s a change in the number of failing or unstable builds.

Screenshot of builds view showing summary of build statuses

This release also includes a number of bug fixes and enhancements to the Gerrit connector. Among them are support for comparing images, buttons for navigating to the next/previous inline comment in the compare editor, and a code review dashboard that lets you see which of your changes have been reviewed and whether they have passing or failing builds. The connector also remembers your previous votes on a patch set, so that posting additional comments doesn’t reset your vote. Thanks to Jacques Bouthillier and Guy Perron from Ericsson for their work on comment navigation and the dashboard.

Screenshot of the Code Review Dashboard

To help you prioritize the tasks you are responsible for, a “Show only my tasks” filter has been added to the task list, and the tooltip uses the gold person icon to accentuate those tasks.

Screenshot of the task list showing the new filter button

Tasktop Dev 3.5 is built on Mylyn 3.11, including all of the above features. This release includes a number of bug fixes as well as support for VersionOne 2013. We have also upgraded Tasktop Dev for Visual Studio to support Visual Studio 2013, bringing the benefits of a unified task list to users of that IDE.

For more information, see Tasktop Dev New & Noteworthy and Mylyn New & Noteworthy, or try out Tasktop Dev and Mylyn for yourself.

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Tasktop Sync 3.5 released: VersionOne, Zendesk, links get sync

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

We’re at the ALM Forum this week, where the hot topic is how to scale Agile and DevOps deployments.  What Scott Ambler made clear in his opening keynote is that there isn’t a single Agile best practice that spans the various sizes, domains, business processes that we find across organizations. While the practices and vendor tools implementing them vary greatly, the principles are consistent.  Short iterations, automation, real-time collaboration and end-to-end traceability are critical to an effective software lifecycle.  These principles are relatively easy for individual teams and startups to adopt.  The massive challenge that mid-size and large organizations are faced with is how to reap the benefits of Agile at scale.

While December’s Tasktop Sync 3.0 release extended our support to DevOps, the 3.5 release is all about supporting Agile at scale. Sync is now the lifecycle integration infrastructure for 5 of the top 25 world banks and powers many of the world’s largest Agile deployments.  The larger the scale of the deployment, the more problematic the disconnects between tools and processes become.  With Sync 3.5, we are introducing a new capability to our software lifecycle bus called Artifact Relationship Management.  This provides the last mile of integration needed for large scale Agile.  In addition to synchronizing the artifacts that make up your lifecycle, we now synchronize the relationships between those artifacts.  The result is end-to-end traceability and for best-of-breed and heterogeneous Agile deployments.  Which is pretty much every sizeable Agile deployment.

The internal workings of Artifact Relationship Management are complex due to the different kinds of relationships that make up your software lifecycle architecture.  For example, a requirement can be in a hierarchy, a folder, depend on an internal item or an external item, as well as being connected to tests, builds or source changes in other tools.  While it took 3 PhDs to untangle the various scenarios that enable Sync to federate relationships across tools, as with the rest of Sync, all of this functionality is now easy to configure for your administrators and completely transparent to your end users.  Whether you’re working with traditional requirements managements and Water-Scrum-Fall, or deploying new methodologies for large-sale Agile such as the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) or Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), you will now have end-to-end visibility, traceability, and collaboration across your best-of-breed tool stack.

RequirementsTraceabilitySLIpattern

We are also very pleased to announce Sync support for our partners VersionOne and Zendesk.  This means that we now have support for all of the market-leading Agile tools, and we have also made significant improvements to our support for Atlassian JIRA Agile, Bugzilla, CA Clarity Agile, IBM Rational Team Concert (RTC), Rally, Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) and ThoughtWorks Mingle.  Adding to our other integrations, our Integration Factory is now continually testing 220 different versions of the Agile, ALM and DevOps tools that we support.

zendesk-versionone

Finally, Sync now has a new desktop and mobile device friendly Web UI. While Sync Studio provides the rich Eclipse-based configuration environment that allows Agile ALM tool administrators to easily deploy Sync purely through configuration, the Web UI provides you with a metrics of what Sync is doing, such as the number of synchronizations and artifact creations that are spanning systems.  Now that Sync has become a core part of the organizations’ Agile and DevOps infrastructure, these metrics provide a quick way to manage your Software Lifecycle Integration infrastructure as it evolves.

For more on the release, see New & Noteworthy

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Tasktop Sync 3.0 released, service desks get support

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Open source projects have it good. Their issue tracker serves as the single system of record for all development, support, quality management and planning activity. The result is a theoretical ideal in terms of a connected software lifecycle. For example, every vote that a user makes for a particular bug is immediately visible to developers. As soon as a new feature is added, users watching the corresponding task are automatically prompted to try the latest build and report back. This kind of real-time connectivity between users, developers and project leaders makes for an incredibly efficient build-measure-learn loop, which explains why so many open source project are able to deliver so much value so quickly. Having lived it day-to-day, it continues to inspire me in wanting to bring these benefits to software delivery in the large, where these benefits can make a tremendous difference.

Tasktop Sync 3.0: Defect Unification

The problem is that this open source project management approach doesn’t scale to the enterprise. It’s fine when you’ve got one stakeholder playing multiple roles. For example, on Mylyn I played the role of developer, product manager, tester, and support desk. I spent so much of my time triaging and commenting on bug reports that, in order to help me get through the tickets fast enough to have enough time for coding, I ended up adding features to Mylyn to make it work as a developer’s inbox for triaging tickets. The experience of other open source projects leads that I know is very similar, in that a tremendous portion of their time is spent triaging and responding to users. This direct touch with end users enables open source developers leverage the collective wisdom of their community so quickly.

However, the developer’s issue tracker does not scale to meet the demands of commercial software support, such the need for SLAs and ITIL processes. So a separate help desk tool is required, once that separation is made, real-time collaboration between the developer and support team stops, and reverts to inefficient channels such as email and meetings. The result is a chasm between the people who are user facing and those who are developing the application. The knowledge of the customer’s experience gets siloed into the help desk and voice of the customer gets diffused by the time that the next sprint planning session comes around. Given the increasingly primary role that the service desk plays in the software lifecycle, as evidenced by the amazing growth of ServiceNow, we need to fix this.

Tasktop Sync 3.0: ITSM

Our goal with Software Lifecycle Integration is to unify the ALM stack while allowing software stakeholders to use the systems that make them most productive. With today’s Tasktop Sync 3.0 announcement, we are very happy to reveal that the Sync bus now supports ITSM artifacts such as tickets and problems, and can connect service desk tools to the large and growing number of Agile and ALM tools that we support. Tasktop Sync makes it possible to extend the popular Defect Unification SLI pattern to the service desk, meaning that tickets matching specific criteria, such as those marked as problems, are automatically created as issues in the issue tracker or defects in the quality management system, and synchronized bidirectionally from that point on. For example, if the defect is Synced to IBM’s RTC, developers can schedule them onto a sprint, and the support team will instantly know that it has been assigned. And as soon as it’s completed, the workflow transition will happen on the service desk indicating that the fix is ready to review or deploy to the customer. Comments and activity streams are federated in real-time. And then it’s smiles all around.

We are launching two service desk integrations with Sync 3.0. Our integration for ServiceNow integration is fully certified by ServiceNow, and will support the many uses of the ServiceNow platform ranging across its ITSM and lifecycle capabilities. We are also launching support for Atlassian’s recently announced JIRA Service Desk, which builds on our comprehensive support of JIRA versions including the latest JIRA 6.1. And as usual, there will be more to come so please let us know what other support desks you would like to see integrated.

ServiceNow Visualizer

Connecting the help desk and bridging the task management gap between Dev and Ops is the most exciting Sync 3.0 news in terms of our mission to scale the efficiency of open source development to the enterprise software lifecycle. In other news, we’re releasing new template support for inheriting and extending mappings, making it dramatically easier to manage large numbers of of projects with different schemas. For those customers using Rally and Serena Business Manager, we’re very happy to announce the GA of those Sync connectors along with the Tasktop Dev connector for developers accessing Serena from Eclipse and Visual Studio. We’ve also extended the Sync bus to support time tracking federation between Agile and PPM, enabling time on task to flow between your Agile system and CA Clarity.

Sync 3.0: Example

Finally, the big news for both ALM vendors and customers is a beta program of the new Tasktop Connector SDK. You may think that SDKs should be old news given that Tasktop created and maintained the Mylyn SDK, which became one of the most extended SDKs on Eclipse. But it turns out that in order to support the real-time lifecycle bus architecture of Sync, an entirely new integration extensibility layer had to be created in order to support robust and easy-to-implement 3rd party extensibility. Along with it we created a bridge to support Mylyn connectors, so if you created one of those you’ll have a head start. If you’re interested in being an early adopter partner of the SDK, please get in touch.

Tasktop Sync 3.0 Bus

We’re thrilled that the tremendous customer demand that we saw for connecting the service desk ships today, and look forward to bringing the voice of the customer into the enterprise software lifecycle.

Want to learn more about Tasktop Sync 3.0? Register for an upcoming webinar:

When: Thursday, January 23rd, 2010: 12 noon ET
Presented by: Mik Kersten, CEO of Tastkop
Register now: Webinar – Introducing Tasktop Sync 3.0

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Agile 2013 Retrospective

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

… or, “work isn’t supposed to be this much fun”

I’m just about recovered from our whirlwind trip to Nashville for the Agile Alliance’s conference Agile2013. There were 1700 attendees, 200 sessions, keynotes, parties, and a little controversy.

On a personal note, I was gratified to see the number of women in technology there… most specifically, the number of women who gave talks. Encouraging women to take leadership roles in technology is a side project of mine – I help run a blog and mentoring program at ALineAtTheLadiesRoom.org.

So for me personally, Agile2013 was a blast!

I bumped into so many people I know from various “former lives” – a former engineering manager, a former engineering colleague… folks I know from Agile New England – as well as hanging out with my colleagues at Tasktop (into the wee hours of the morning :-) ).

It was also terrific to meet Tasktop partners, customers and prospective customers. I had the opportunity to spend a bit of time in our booth, chatting with people who often started the conversation with, “My friend told me I had to stop by your booth. Can you really integrate <product A> with <product B>? We’ve got so many systems that don’t talk to each other and… “

This kind of conversation is HUGE fun for me; I haven’t cut code, fixed bugs or managed a software deployment in a while, but still love helping those that do.

Mik presenting

Mik delivering his session

I also had great time listening to Tasktopians give their talks. Mik Kersten, Tasktop’s CEO presented: “As distributed as it gets: 10 Agile best practices from open source” and Dave West, our Chief Product Officer presented: “Agile ALM – A horror/feel good/fantasy story“. Check out their slides; unfortunately it’s not like hearing the talk itself because both Mik and Dave are such great speakers. (If you create an account on tasktop.com, we’ll put you on our mailing list so you can find out about our upcoming talks and webinars).

And while it’s not the same as hearing his talk, you can hear a bit of Dave’s perspectives in two video interviews that were done at Agile. One by DZone and one from BigVisible.

While at Agile, Tasktop made a couple of announcements. On Monday, we announced our partnership with Serena, and on Tuesday we announced the GA of Tasktop Sync 2.8. Our CEO Mik blogged about this release, time tracking and how we’ve connected the worlds of Agile ALM and Project Portfolio Management (PPM)… it’s definitely worth a read.

So, were you at Agile2013? What was notable for you?

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Tasktop 2.8 released, Serena partnership announced, death to timesheets

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Filling out time sheets is about as fulfilling as doing taxes. This mind-numbing activity is an interesting symptom of what’s broken with the way we deliver software today. What’s worse than the time wasted filling them out is the fact that the numbers we fill out are largely fictitious, as we have no hope of accurately recalling where time went over a course of a week, given that we’re switching tasks over a dozen times an hour. As Peter Drucker stated:

Even in total darkness, most people retain their sense of space. But even with the lights on, a few hours in a sealed room render most people incapable of estimating how much time has elapsed. They are as likely to underrate grossly the time spent in the room as to overrate it grossly. If we rely on our memory, therefore, we do not know how much time has been spent. (Peter Drucker. The Essential Drucker, ch. 16. Know your Time)

Tracking time is not a problem. When done well it’s a very good thing, given that time is our most scarce resource. Done right, time tracking allows us to have some sense for what the burn downs on our sprints are, and to predict what we will deliver and when. It allows us to get better at what we do by eliminating wasteful activities from our day, such as sitting and watching a VM boot up or an update install.

Effective knowledge workers, in my observation, do not start with their tasks. They start with their time. And they do not start out with planning. They start out by finding where their time actually goes. (Effective Drucker, ch 16. Know your Time) (Peter Drucker. The Essential Drucker, ch. 16. Know your Time)

Drucker was a big advocate of time tracking systems for individuals. With Agile, we have now learned how effective tracking story points and actuals can be for Scrum teams. Yet all of this goodness feels very distant when the last thing that stands between you and Friday drinks is a time sheet.

What we need is a way to combine the benefits of personal and team-level time tracking with those needed by the Project Management Office (PMO). With the Automatic Time Tracking feature of Tasktop Dev (screenshot below), we validated a way to combine personal time tracking with team estimation and planning. I still use this feature regularly to be a good student of Drucker and figure out where my own time goes, and many Scrum teams use it to remove the tedious process of manually tracking time per task.

While that automation is useful for the individual and the team, it did not help the PMO, that works at the program, enterprise and product level. PMOs use specialized project and portfolio management software such as CA Clarity PPM. So now, in our ongoing effort to create an infrastructure that connects all aspects of software delivery and to keep people coding and planning to their hearts’ content, we have stepped out of the IDE in order to bridge the divide between the PMO and Agile teams.

The Tasktop Sync 2.8 release includes updates to the leading Agile tools, such as support for RTC 4, HP ALM, CA Clarity Agile and Microsoft TFS 2012. It also ships the first Sync support for Rally and the TFS 2013 beta. The other big news is that we now are announcing a partnership with Serena in which both Tasktop Sync and Tasktop Dev will be OEM’d as part of the Serena Business Manager lifecycle suite. This new integration, which further cements Tasktop’s role as the Switzerland of ALM, will be showcased at Serena xChange in September, and ship this fall.

With Tasktop Sync 2.8, we have finally managed to connect the worlds of Agile ALM and PPM both in terms of task flow, and time reporting. While the support currently works for CA Clarity only, integrating these two worlds has a been a major feat in terms of understanding the data model and building out the integration architecture for connecting “below the line” and “above the line” planning (Forrester Wave). For the individual, it’s like having your own administrative assistant standing over your shoulder filling out the PPM tool for you, only less annoying and easier to edit after the fact. For the Agilistas, it’s about getting to use the methods that make your teams productive while making the PMO happy. And for the organization, it’s the key enabler for something that Drucker would have been proud of: automating the connection between strategy and execution.

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Software Lifecycle Integration (SLI)

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Disjointed tools have inundated the application lifecycle. At its roots, tool diversity is a good thing. Over the past few years, it has transformed the way software is built via Agile methods, open source tools and differentiating vendors. But it has also wreaked havoc on the decade-old promise of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM). We need a new kind of infrastructure to deliver on that promise in a world where developers get to choose the tools that make them most productive. The time has come for an integrated lifecycle bus that allows information to flow freely between developers, testers, business analysts and administrators. This infrastructure will enable us to connect the best offerings in ALM in order to create a Lean Software Lifecycle, and implement a build-measure-learn loop that connects business idea to app store, and back again. We need a set of common data models and architectural patterns. Most importantly, we need to establish the common artifact that will connect the lifecycle. We are calling the category of infrastructure that will enable this Software Lifecycle Integration (SLI).

When outlined on a whiteboard or diagram, the architecture of today’s ALM stack resembles a half-eaten bowl of spaghetti, with meatballs corresponding to the various tools selected by stakeholders. We have two choices, either find a way back to the homogenous and single vendor solution of the 1990s, or embrace heterogeneity and come up with an infrastructure that provides end-to-end collaboration and traceability across best-of-breed tools.

Not long ago, we witnessed a similar transformation of the app dev stack. Once the services, databases and app server space enabled heterogeneity, the middleware category materialized and the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) emerged, along with the new title of “Enterprise Architect”. History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme. It’s now time to create the role of the Lifecycle Architect, and to define an architectural framework for connecting the software lifecycle. Just as the notion of services was key to enabling the ESB, and file and documents abstractions were to sharing data, we now need an abstraction to connect the software lifecycle and to create a Software Lifecycle Bus. That abstraction is the social task.

Today Tasktop is a kicking off an effort to bootstrap the SLI discipline, with a series of whitepapers discussing the technical architecture, common data model, and technical tools. We are proposing the Eclipse Mylyn m4 open source project as a home for collaborating on a de facto implementation of the SLI data model, which will leverage what has been learned from the adoption of Mylyn, integrations that build on it, and new efforts around the open standards of Linked Data and OSLC. Later this week we are also launching an SLI integration patterns catalog, based on existing input from our customers, and open for all to contribute to. By the end of the week, with input from key thought leaders present at the ALM Connect subconference of EclipseCon, we plan to release a first draft of the SLI manifesto. To learn more and to participate, see:

Whitepaper: Building the Business Case for Software Lifecycle Integration
Whitepaper: Software Lifecycle Integration Architecture
Software Lifecycle Integration landing page
Eclipse Mylyn m4 Project Proposal Draft
SLI Patterns Catalog Wiki (to come)


Learn more about SLI

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