The Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) space is hot, rapidly evolving and fragmented. Over one hundred task and change management solutions are available. Significant fragmentation is also seen in source control, continuous integration tools, build systems and issue trackers, many of which offer similar feature sets. Agile rollouts are altering the development process and favouring lightweight tool sets. While ALM ISVs stake their ground in various flavours of “Agile ALM”, open source tools have shifted the landscape even further by taking the market lead in many ALM categories. These developments are great drivers of both imitation and innovation in the ALM space, the end result of which has been countless options for software development teams.
For the enterprise, the sheer number of options has resulted in the spread of the heterogeneous ALM stacks. Organizations large and small are spending an inordinate amount of time creating, configuring and integrating disparate ALM tools in order to provide some semblance of traceability across their development stack, let alone across functions such as QA and DevOps. At the same time, Agile and Lean methodologies are being tested at scale within large organizations. While most of us buy into the value that Agile promises, some early adoptions of Agile, especially those rolled out to thousands of developers, are teetering on the brink of backlash. There are two problems compounding the risk.
The first problem is that of forgetting the developer. A fairly common occurrence, as most companies don’t believe they can make money selling to developers. This has become a chronic condition of ALM tools that have focused management and traceability in a way that ignores where coding work is being done. No arrangement of fancy charts and task boards will help the organization know whether the product is on track if developers are not deriving benefit from breaking their work down into user stories and tasks.
The second problem is the lack of integration between disparate ALM solutions. ALM vendors compete against each other and want to bring as many customers as possible to their stack, which makes cross-vendor integrations an afterthought. In addition, open source projects have little interest in interoperating with the large and heavier weight ALM solutions in use at large organizations. The solution to this problem used to be simple: get your entire ALM solution from a single vendor. But in part due to all the innovation that we have seen from open source and smaller vendors, for most organizations this option is long gone, and while striving for ALM stack unification continues to be a goal, the reality is often best-of-breed heterogeneity.
The recent wave of consolidation in many major industries e.g., banking, telecom, bio-tech, and technology, further exacerbates the problem when trying to integrate systems of companies who have heterogeneous ALM stacks. Usually the choice comes down to continuing to operate development teams independently or abandon one of the systems in favour of the other thereby creating massive loss of organization knowledge in the abandoned legacy system.
Put these two problems together and you have a recipe for failure in your organization’s Agile or ALM deployment, or at best a huge waste of developer time. Agile provides teams with additional autonomy and removes the kind of predictability and transparency that organizations were accustomed to with waterfall. When working in all its glory, Agile increases the velocity at which business value is delivered and is a huge step forward from the previous status quo. But it all breaks down when your average developer, who is not an Agile aficionado, is given tools that don’t integrate with his or her coding workflow, and then told to manually track progress in a separate systems. Developers complain, their managers lose visibility, the organization then reacts by implementing band-aid integrations between their IDE, the Agile project tracking tool, requirements management tool, in house or team-specific issue trackers and various SCM tools. The organization then grows its own ALM integration team, but lacks the expertise or ISV and open source project relationships needed to create a solid solution, and the result is marginal ALM and tool stacks, annoyed developers, tremendous waste and loss of the promised ROI from Agile.
At Tasktop, we see a constant stream of requests from organizations handling these two problems internally and needing to bring sanity and productivity to their ALM stacks. The rapid success of the Eclipse Mylyn project that we created is due to the fact that we focused so heavily on the developer’s experience with ALM, creating the task-focused interface and the de facto standard ALM federation framework in the process. While Mylyn has transformed the productivity of countless open source and individual developers, today’s release is a major milestone in our mission to bring these benefits to the enterprise.
Tasktop Enterprise 1.8 includes new support for the most requested enterprise ALM integrations: HP Quality Center & ALM, version 3 of the IBM Rational C/ALM stack and Microsoft Team Foundation Server. Our new set of ALM integration offerings represents long-running collaborations with HP, IBM and Microsoft, convergent evolution of our open source frameworks and their web services APIs and deep integrations between the Tasktop tools and the ALM servers they build on. Developers now get Eclipse Mylyn-based tool support for using the HP, IBM and Microsoft ALM tools, the productivity benefits of the task-focused interface, as well as interoperability with the other ALM integrations we have created including Rally, ThoughtWorks Studios, VersionOne, Accept 360, CollabNet, Perforce, Polarion and Atlassian. The solution is forward looking, as Tasktop Enterprise will also embrace new developments in ALM such as the upcoming release of our Code2Cloud, our partnership with The SpringSource division of VMware, as well as new open source integrations that we’re working on for Git and Hudson. We are also announcing today that we are an HP Gold Partner and a Microsoft Visual Studio Premium Partner in addition to our Ready for Rational Certification being updated to v3.0.
For the developer, Tasktop provides a kind of Microsoft Outlook collaboration environment for their Agile and ALM systems. From within the Tasktop plug-in for their Eclipse-based IDE, or from the standalone Tasktop desktop application, developers can collaborate, get instantly notified of priority changes, and interact with their team. All of the ALM systems they use are seamlessly integrated and provide a unified user interface supporting the entire best-of-breed ALM stack. Thanks to the task-focused interface, one-click multitasking™ and workspace focusing, there is an immediate benefit of reduced information overload and provides an immediate productivity boost that comes from developers explicitly “activating” the tasks that they work on.
For the organization, the developer’s task-focused workflow means that ALM artefacts get automatically linked and connected by virtue of task activation. For any defect or user story the developer works on, a change set is created and tracked. Time spent is tracked automatically, but in the developer’s control as not to trigger “big brother” concerns. Task contexts automatically track all code and resources accessed as part of a task, so that expertise is captured, creating a knowledge base of the software’s evolution and storing that in the existing change management or task tracking tool. Links between previously siloed repositories are provided using Tasktop’s cross-repository linking features, which make it possible to connect defects tracked in an open source tool like Bugzilla to requirements tracked in HP Quality Center. Cross-repository synchronization can also be deployed, which leverages our task federation framework to provide facilities such as on-demand synchronizations of defects between IBM Jazz/RTC and HP Quality Center. The Mylyn APIs can additionally be extended to connect to in-house and custom ALM systems. In other words, no matter what your ALM environment and existing or upcoming deployment of servers, Tasktop provides both the developer tooling and the federation layer needed to make developers happy, productive, and successful with your current and future Agile ALM deployments.
|Read the Tasktop 1.8 Press Release and the eWeek article|
|Watch the Tasktop for HP Quality Center(QC) video|
|Watch the Tasktop for Rational Team Concert (RTC) video|
|Read about the Tasktop Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) Connector|
About Mik Kersten
Dr. Mik Kersten is the CEO of Tasktop Technologies, creator of the Eclipse Mylyn open source project and inventor of the task-focused interface. At Tasktop, Mik sets the strategic direction of the company as well as drives many of Tasktop's key partnerships and key customers accounts. He created Mylyn and the task-focused interface during his PhD in Computer Science at the University of British Columbia. Mik has been an Eclipse committer since 2002, is a 3-time elected member of the Eclipse Board of Directors and serves on the Eclipse Architecture Council. Mik's thought leadership on task-focused collaboration and improving the software economy makes him a popular speaker at software conferences, and he was voted a JavaOne Rock Star speaker in 2008 and 2009.