Speed up On-Premises Product Delivery

Fast delivery of value to customers is today’s business mantra – especially in the software industry. In this blog I reflect on delivery challenges of companies which offer the same product as SaaS AND on-premises solution. I will also present a case study that shows how a company has dramatically improved its on-premises delivery speed.

Within the past 15 years we have seen several approaches how to foster fast delivery of software products. Two prominent ones are:

  • Agile development
  • Cloud based solutions

The agile approach to software development produces software products incrementally and frequently. This is achieved by close interaction with customers and a set of development principles that are based on the agile manifesto. It is not uncommon that software companies create new versions of their software products on a monthly or even shorter frequency.

How are these product increments delivered to the customer?

Currently there are two major mechanisms in use:

The fastest way for on-premises provisioned products, is to check during launch if there is a newer version of the product available. If so, the newer version will be automatically downloaded and installed. This practice is often used within the software games industry. E.g. games that are provisioned by the steam gaming platform. Traditional ways to deliver a new on-premises version are customer notifications combined with manual on-demand-downloads.

SaaS provisioned products are often under control of the company in charge for the development of the product. Whenever the development organization has produced and tested a new product increment, it will be moved to the SaaS server. Customers that launch the product through their web browser are automatically connected to the latest version of the product. Cloud-based solutions enable software vendors to deliver new software features quite often to their customers. The only thing left to do is to update the software on the runtime environment that is often under their own control. In such environments it is not uncommon that bug fixes and new features are delivered on a weekly or even on a daily basis.

The dual-delivery challenge

Companies which started business after the millennium focus often on cloud based solutions and do not provide on-premises products. In contrast, companies that have been around for more than 15 years are used to on-premises delivery and have established their business around that channel. However, more and more of those companies start to deliver their products as SaaS-based products in addition. Prominent examples are Microsoft with their office suite and HPE with their ALM solution.

Serving two channels with the same product creates new challenges. Customers that utilize on-premises products often have to wait for more than a year to get new features. Features which they can already see within the SaaS version of the same product. This situation creates quite some tension. Therefore, product companies try shortening the delivery cycles for on-premises solutions as well.

The company Jama Software was faced with this challenge and recently came up with a new release model for their on-premises release stream of the requirements product named Jama.

Case study Jama

Jama Software preferres the SaaS delivery channel. However, acknowledge that some of their customers do not allow data to be managed outside a company’s intranet. Especially, if the data contains sensitive information about upcoming product releases which is usually the case when managing requirements.

As a consequence, Jama Software delivers its product as a hosted solution via SaaS AND as an on-premises solution. Typically, they release two on-premises versions within a year. However, customers using the SaaS version get access to new product features much earlier.

In summer 2016 Jama Software announced a significantly changed new release mechanism: On-premises Express. With the on-premises express channel they aim to deliver new versions on a monthly base. Compared to the half year release schedule so far this represents a stunning acceleration in delivery.

What are the secrets to Jama Software’s cycle time reduction?

First of all: A thorough analysis of the current situation. Finding out the areas of work that need a lot of time for each release. The current server part of the product Jama is delivered on two operating systems: Windows and Linux. All used 3rd party components need to be available on both platforms at the same time. So far Jama Software supports two database systems: MySQL and Oracle. Features and bug-fixes need to be tested on both platforms and DBs. Testing bug fixes and new product features on the various configurations consumes quite some time.

Jama product management made the tough decision to drop support for Microsoft Windows server and Oracle DB. This enabled the QA organization to substantially reduce time for testing. Now Jama Software delivers the same software configuration to their customers that they use on their hosted platform as well.

Second, they analyzed their current architecture in regards to ease of modification. They found out, that they could improve their product significantly by a new way of modularization.

Third, they decided to utilize top-notch technology for isolating the product into distinct independent components, thereby easing software distribution. Jama Software decided to utilize Docker containers. They now encapsulate product dependencies like Java and Tomcat into containers, so that customers don’t need to care about specific Java or Tomcat versions.

Fourth, accelerating deployment. Jama software now uses Replicated. This technology takes advantage of Docker and deploys containers not only to the SaaS server of the vendor but also behind a customer’s firewall. Using Replicated Jama Software now builds the product just once and deploys the result simultaneously to their own hosted instance and to registered customers.

Develop and Deploy

Encapsulating product services into Docker container and managing deployment with Replicated enables Jama Software to manage deployment of the service-oriented architecture much faster, more flexible and more reliable than before.

Summary

Achieving cycle time reduction in development is just one element to deliver software to customers more frequently. It needs to be matched by fast deployment methods, so that the whole DevOps chain can be covered. On top of that the product managers of Jama Software needed to make some tough decisions what not to support in the future. These decisions took complexity out of the product and significantly reduced testing time. Product managers are responsible for the overall product success. They have a holistic view of the business and need to look at all aspects along the delivery chain of a product in order to come up with solutions that enable sustainable business success. Jama Software has rebuild major elements along that line.

We may expect similar moves by other vendors this year as they all face similar pressures.
Stay tuned.

Further information:

Jama delivery channels

Replicated Technology: SaaS vs. on prem solved

Docker

Software Product Management: Key to software product success

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.