Overview of VersionOne Updates

VersionOne is one of the leading agile tools that we feature in our list of requirements management tools. In an earlier blog post from 2015, we surveyed its then latest developments. These were: Epic Dependency Visualization, Strategic Themes, Epic Timeline Drilldown and Scorecards.

Now we find it’s time for an update. Since spring 2015, VersionOne has delivered several builds, bundled into 3 major release streams named Summer 2015, Fall 2015, and recently in January the Winter 2016 release.

This blog post highlights and summarizes some of the major capabilities that have been added in the timeframe since our previous blog. Note that feature capabilities depend on the VersionOne edition chosen by an organization. For an overview of the four editions Team, Catalyst, Enterprise and Ultimate look up the VersionOne edition overview.

The Summer release 2015 provided enhanced visibility about commit information. The CommitStream TeamRoom panel provides the stream of commit data relevant to all work items for the entire list of repositories that has been configured. The panel can be configured by users to view only the repository commit information they are interested in.

Project management support has been enhanced by introducing budgeting capabilities. Total capacity may be allocated to the entire organization for a certain timeframe and then split into project based budget segments. The Fall release 2016 added capabilities to set budget for strategic themes. These capabilities are available under the topic of portfolio planning.

The Winter release 2016 added a Timesheet feature which allows team members to enter time spent on work items in an environment they are used to. The Timesheet page displays a team members time tracked against items for an entire week.

Reporting capabilities got enhanced in every release. The Summer release 2015 provided additional scorecards, like TeamRoom Scorecard and Iteration Scorecard.

The Winter 2016 release provided a new dashboard at the enterprise level. This Enterprise Dashboard visualizes organizational metrics in the categories: Throughput, Responsiveness, Quality, and Predictability.

DevOps has become a major theme in recent years. As a strategic response to that VersionOne acquired ClearCode Labs to add continuous delivery and automation functionality into its product offering. In the Summer release 2016 DevOps Center was added to the VersionOne product as a first step.

In the Winter release 2016, VersionOne announced that DevOps release automation is now available as a separate product named: Continuum. Continuum helps with automating, orchestrating and visualizing the flow of releases and their associated changes from inception to delivery.

As a consequence, the company VersionOne now offers two products:

  • VersionOne Lifecyle – Agile project and portfolio planning, tracking and reporting
  • VersionOne Continuum – Continuous delivery automation, orchestration and visualization

Kanban support in team rooms is now available. Teams are no longer required to have an open sprint/iteration. TeamRooms can now be configured as “iterationless”, which allows for true Kanban support.

Summary

VersionOne continuously broadens its capabilities in their already rich featured agile tool. From our point of view, it delivers one of the most complete solutions for agile teams. While they have added impressive support for large scale agile development in recent years, they did not neglect to refactor and streamline their core offerings as triggered by requests from their user base.

New Version of Requirements Tools List Available

The new February 2016 version of our list of requirements tools is available. It contains a total of 111 requirements management tools. The previous version dated back from May 2015. Several vendors have since released new versions of their tools that we have referenced in the list.

From the 111 tools overall, we feature 25 in a list of selected tools. The selection is based on indicators of market share and market presence.

The extensions and updates to the February 2016 release of our RM tools list include:

  • All tools have been checked for availability and up-to-date web links to tool and vendor pages
  • Some tools have been added, some tool entries have been changed
    (e.g., product name changes, company acquisitions, new product bundles)
  • Several outdated ones have been deleted
  • All tools have been supplied with up-to-date version information (where available) and assigned to the relevant tool categories (e.g., RD, RM, Agile)

Overall, we got the impression that tool vendors focused in the second half of the year more on consolidation activities than creating new functionality. Atlassian for example merged two of their flagship products JIRA and JIRA Agile into a single one now called “JIRA Software”.

It will be interesting to see whether vendors will focus in the first half of 2016 on releases with new functionality.

The following tools have received major updates between May 2015 to February 2016, with associated changes of their main version numbers:

  • Rational Doors Next Generation from 5.0.2 to 6.0.1
  • JIRA 6.4 to JIRA Software 7.1.0
  • Kovair ALM Studio from 7.0 to 8.0
  • Mingle from 14.2 to 15.2
  • VersionOne from 15.0.9 to 16.0.2.180

Interesting changes occurred with regard to tool vendors: Polarion announced that it will be acquired by Siemens (look up the Polarion announcement and the Siemens press release). Hewlett-Packard has been restructured and split off into two companies (press release). The enterprise software business is now part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Rally was acquired by CA (press release). Its tool has been renamed into “CA Agile Central”.  IBM Rational Focal Point has been acquired by UNICOM Global (press release).

Concerning the set of tools included in the list, we have performed the following changes during our January and February 2016 updates.

Added:

  • ScrumWorks Pro
  • TraceCloud

These additions have been proposed by readers of the RM tools list who help us keeping the market survey up to date. We want to express our special thanks to Heather Cotton who has pointed us to ScrumWorks Pro, and to Christopher Karr for the link to TraceCloud.

Renamed / Rebranded:

  • HP Agile Manager into Agile Manager
  • Rally into CA Agile Central
  • IBM Rational Focal Point into just Focal Point (now owned by UNICOM Global)
  • HP Quality Center/ALM into HPE ALM/Quality Center
  • JIRA into JIRA Software, as a result of integration with JIRA Agile (formerly an add-on product)

Removed:

  • ALMComplete – product discontinued by vendor
  • JIRA Agile – now part of JIRA Software
  • Poseidon for UML – product appears not to be maintained any more; the last change to the product web site has been in 2010
  • Tormigo – product discontinued by vendor

Included into the list of selected tools:

  • in-STEP RED

Over the next weeks you will find related blog posts on MakingOfSoftware.com. They will contain updates on selected tools and observations from the tool market that we have collected during our ongoing research.

How Product Managers Learn

Reflections from PMF 2015

On November 18 and 19 I participated at the Product Management Festival 2015 in Zürich Switzerland. This was a great event for product managers to get together. Besides networking opportunities it provided numerous insights into product management practices. Most of the talks were experience reports. Young product managers as well as high profile product directors shared their insights. Some of those insights were morphed nicely into pictures, like the one from Nilan Peiris (VP of growth from TransferWise). He illustrated the relationship between Product Management and Product Marketing with a nice picture in the tweet: The great mexican standoff of product management

Learn from failures of other practitioners

What the audience really appreciated is the fact that speakers shared their failures as well. Where else do you get such insights? Learning from failure is a theme that has become prominent with the agile movement: you are allowed to fail, but you shouldn’t fail twice with the same topic.Stressed businesswoman in the office

Learn from good practices of other practitioners

Sharing good practices is another good source of learning and we could listen to numerous recommendations from the speakers, like the ones from Martin Rusch – vice president Xing. He provided insights into the Xing way of launching new initiatives using “Auftragsklärung” as a key success element. The German word “Auftragsklärung” is explaining the situation so excellent, that Martin and his colleagues at Xing didn’t find an equivalent English word for it; “project clarification” would be a rough translation.

“Auftragsklärung” may work for Xing, however, each practice should be evaluated carefully, whether it fits to other environments as well. Already 30 years ago Fred Brooks coined the famous term “there is no silver bullet”.

Learn the foundations

Several attendees came to the festival to learn how to establish product management as a discipline in their company. For them a product management framework like the one from the International Software Product Management Association (ISPMA) is a good starting point. Based on that Software Product Management Body of Knowledge training providers have established curricula that teach software product management as a discipline. See our training offerings on swpm.de/spm as one example.

Learn from references

There is also a growing body of knowledge available in text format. Books, blogs, online presentations and research articles about the field of software product management. Watch out for upcoming information about this topic in this blog.

Learn from your own practice

The most important learning source for product managers however is provided from own practice. Nothing is more worthwhile than making your own experience.

That of course, wasn’t possible at the product management festival, but will be done every day at work. May be we can hear about your experiences at next year’s festival?

What’s So Special with Atlassian?

Atlassian and its products have fascinated me since 2008. I first got in touch with their JIRA issue tracking software. Later I have helped customers introducing JIRA Agile and setting up requirements management with JIRA. It is impressive how Atlassian has evolved and how their products spread.

What are the ingredients of Atlassian’s success? Three factors stand out:

  • Products that appeal to software developers. — Should never be taken for granted. But very important, if you can’t count on a sales team …
  • Direct sales model without classical sales force. — A lean sales approach, with very low entry level for accessing and using the products
  • Very huge and active ecosystem. — They literally don’t let you alone: rich knowledge bases; super-(re)active support forums; collaborative documentation with strong quality management; (world-)wide partner network

Why is this important? Understanding the Atlassian way helps you to use their products successfully (given you are a customer or consider to become one). And it can inspire everyone interested in software business models.

The following information sources give you an overview of Atlassian and the three success factors.

Atlassian

Atlassian is privately held with headquarters in Sydney (Atlassian Pty Ltd, Australian Business Register: ABN 53 102 443 916) and eight offices in six countries.

Company description on Atlassian homepage: https://www.atlassian.com/company

Atlassian on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlassian

Atlassian on CrunchBase (crowd-sourced information): https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/atlassian

Atlassian Experts homepage (partner directory): https://www.atlassian.com/resources/experts

Atlassian press release with data on FY 2013/2014 results (FY from July to June): https://www.atlassian.com/wac/company/press/press-releases/atlassian-posts-another-banner-year-with-44-revenue-growth

TechCrunch article including FY 2012/2013 data: http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/13/atlassian-earned-150m-in-revenues-last-year-but-competition-intensifies-with-collaboration-providers/

Wallstreet Journal article with data on Atlassian and its 2014 funding round: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/04/08/atlassian-valued-at-3-3-billion-selling-business-software-sans-salespeople/

Business Insider company profile article from February 2014 (very comprehensive and fun-to-read overview; a pie chart shows the share distribution after the first funding round): http://www.businessinsider.com.au/atlassian-the-untold-story-how-two-australian-young-guns-built-a-company-headed-for-a-billion-dollar-ipo-2014-2

Products

Product overview: https://www.atlassian.com/software

Their flagship products JIRA and Confluence have ever been very appealing to software developers. I have observed several cases where individual developers have introduced the tools to their teams. From there, the products have spread fast, often to enterprise-level.

Atlassian’s license model has very low entry levels for evaluation use and for smaller teams. For most products they offer instant set-up of cloud instances as well as direct download for on-premise installations.

Sales Model

An article in Sydney Morning Herald (August 2015) explores on Atlassian’s approach, which omits a classical sales team. A comprehensive article from February 2014 at Business Insider lays out the entire Atlassian story and adds context to their sales approach.

Of course, Atlassian does not omit sales per se. Although they publish comprehensive price models on the web, customers can contact them (i.e., their sales organization …) for quotes. And they have retail sales partners in their worldwide “Experts” ecosystem.

Ecosystem

Their ecosystem has many facets, ranging from documentation and support resources via user groups and events to a thriving marketplace of product add-ons.

Documentation homepage: https://confluence.atlassian.com/display/ALLDOC/Atlassian+Documentation

Knowledge base: https://confluence.atlassian.com/display/KB/Atlassian+Knowledge+Base

Support forums: https://answers.atlassian.com/

User groups & events pages: https://www.atlassian.com/company/events

Marketplace homepage: https://marketplace.atlassian.com/

Experts partner ecosystem homepage: https://www.atlassian.com/resources/experts

Looking for Experience Sharing

What are your impressions and experiences? I am interested to discuss with you what’s so special with Atlassian, and what their approach means to organizations that use their products. Contact me via info@makingofsoftware.com.

On our list of requirements management tools and on our blog, we track Atlassian’s activities in the requirements areas, monitoring their JIRA, JIRA Agile, and Confluence products. While none of their products is a full-fledged RM tool, they provide interesting entry paths to RM tool support. Add-on products like RMsis and Requirements for JIRA extend JIRA with more advanced RM functionality.

Requirements for JIRA Added to RM Tools List

Are there any requirements management add-ons for Atlassian JIRA? Yes, there are. This article introduces one of them: Requirements for JIRA by ease solutions Pte Ltd. We added Requirements for JIRA together with another JIRA add-on, RMsis from Optimizory Technologies Pvt. Ltd (view brief tool overview), to our list of requirements management (RM) tools during our latest May 2015 update.

Availability and Vendor

Requirements for JIRA is an add-on product to Atlassian JIRA on-premise installations. It extends JIRA concepts and UI elements by specific requirements management features.

Requirements for JIRA is quite fresh on the market with its initial release 2.2.0 from March 2015 and two updates since then. The current version is 2.3.0. Its vendor ease solutions is a Singapore-based IT service provider with a track record as Atlassian partner including JIRA customization and development, and with a history of requirements-related service offerings. Requirements for JIRA has been their first JIRA add-on product made available on Atlassian Marketplace. Recently, they launched a second product there, a JIRA add-on for supporting JIRA administration.

Features and Characteristics

Notable features of Requirements for JIRA are:

  • Rich and flexible requirements structures
  • Various requirements-specific views and diagrams
  • Requirements revisions and baselines
  • Requirements reuse
  • Round-trip export/import of Microsoft Excel spreadsheet files

Information model: Requirements for JIRA plugs into the basic JIRA information model and extends it by additional concepts useful for requirements management. The central concept and basic information structure is a user-defined folder hierarchy (aka “requirements tree”). Any existing JIRA issue can be assigned to a folder and new issues can be created within folders. All issues that belong to this folder structure can use the features of Requirements for JIRA. Other important concepts of the information model are suspect flags on JIRA links, indicating potential impact of a requirements change on other dependent requirements, and baselines on the requirements hierarchy or on parts of it.

User interface: The Requirements for JIRA user interface adds a “Requirements” entry to the main JIRA menu line that provides access to several requirements-specific views. The main requirements view shows the requirements folder hierarchy and a reading view similar to a specification document. Additional views include requirements coverage, trace diagram, baseline comparison, and others.

Tool Assessment

Requirements for JIRA brings a wide spectrum of important and useful requirements management features to Atlassian JIRA and integrates them quite smoothly into the existing JIRA functionality. This is my impression after having studied the documentation and from a brief trial usage.

User documentation appears suitable for making a first acquaintance with the tool. Advanced features are not explained in much detail, which calls for exploring the lean and relatively intuitive user interface during trial usage. However, it is remarkable that such a young tool does include so many advanced features like coverage view, roundtrip export/import, and requirements reuse.

Overall, when looking for specific requirements management support in Atlassian JIRA, Requirements for JIRA can be an interesting candidate. It might be particularly attractive for organizations that want to extend JIRA usage across the development lifecycle starting with solid requirements practices, and that are prepared to act as early adopters.

Information Resources

Product Homepage at Atlassian Marketplace: https://marketplace.atlassian.com/plugins/com.easesolutions.jira.plugins.requirements

Product Homepage at Vendor Site: http://easesolutions.com/jira-requirements-management/

Product Documentation: https://easesolutions.atlassian.net/wiki/pages/viewpage.action;?pageId=5406725