Aha

Recently we updated our annotated collection of requirements management tools. In this update we introduced a couple of new tools, which we got notice from. One of them is the product Aha!.

Aha! is a cloud based solution targeted at product managers. It has been created in 2013 and focuses on product planning aspects. The company Aha! positions the product as roadmapping software. Product managers can specify high level goals and visions for products. Read More »

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Collections of Agile Practices

While agile development is founded by the four agile values (see the agile manifesto) and ruled by agile principles (e.g., the 12 principles behind the agile manifesto), most of daily agile project work is determined by agile practices: How shall we act and interact in order to build new systems and software?

Every team shall establish its specific combination of agile practices that best suit its specific needs. But where can we find candidate agile practices? Where can we get advice on how to combine them and build effective development processes?

This article lists useful information sources on agile practices. Teams can use them as starting points when designing their own suitable development approach. In addition, when projects run into difficulties, the collections of agile practices might provide ideas on how to improve.

Before we move to the collections of agile practices, let’s take a look on how we can combine them into development processes: Agile methods (e.g., Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), and Lean Software Development) and agile method frameworks propose specific sets of practices that function well with each other. However, no agile method or framework might perfectly suit a specific situation and development context. So, you might well start with such a method or framework, but quite soon you will see the need to add some other agile practices, too. This is where the collections of agile practices come in …

A classic source of agile practices is the Agile Alliance’s Guide to Agile Practices. It covers the most important practices and presents them in an alphabetic list. Most practices are described by a concise definition, expected benefits and common pitfalls are stated, and the origins of the practices are defined. Unfortunately, not all practices are defined at this same level of detail.

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) homepage hosts an interactive diagram that illustrates the method framework and at the same time links to detailed explanations of each underlying agile practice. The explanations are generally very thorough and instructive. The SAFe homepage might be the richest and most elaborate source of agile practices. A related information source is Dean Leffingwell’s book on Agile Software Requirements.

Another approach for large-scale agile development has been described by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde in two related books. The second of these two books, Practices for Scaling Lean and Agile, hosts an extensive collection of agile practices.

Gojko Adzic has written a book and maintains a website on Specification by Example. This book contains useful explanations of agile practices, mostly from the requirements and testing disciplines.

The definitions of most agile methods involve collections of agile practices. The Wikipedia articles on Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), and Lean Software Development provide good overviews of the respective practices.

Additional kinds of information that can be regarded agile practices are patterns and pattern languages. The most comprehensive and possibly most relevant collection of  agile patterns has been published by the Scrum Pattern Community. The patterns have been collected and consolidated during the ongoing series of ScrumPLoP conferences. The community and conference homepage is http://www.scrumplop.org/. (PLoP stands for Pattern Languages of Programs.) The collection of patterns is available at the ScrumPLoP Published Patterns Homepage. It is structured in subject matter categories, so called pattern languages, such as Scrum Core, Product Organization, and Distributed Scrum. Each pattern language is a system of interrelated patterns. A pattern represents a specific practice with an explicitly defined objective and context situation. The ScrumPLoP homepage is a very rich source of information for everyone seeking inspiration and advice on how to apply and improve Scrum-based agile development.

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List of RM Tools Updated: September 2014 Version

Today we published an updated version of our list of requirements management (RM) tools. The previous version dated back from February. Many vendors have since released new extended versions of their tools. We have also removed several tools from the list that were obviously not maintained any more. Three new tools and a few vendors’ portfolio updates could also be added to the list.

What has happened on the RM tools market since last February? During the past days, we have issued a series of blog articles that summarize the main news on those tools we find most important. Here’s the list of these blog posts. They have appeared in roughly chronological order following the dates of the reported tool updates and events:

The extensions and updates in this new September 2014 version 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., name changes, new product bundles), several obviously 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)

In summary, notable changes to the set of RM tools have been:

  • IBM Rational Requirements Composer has been removed from the list, because IBM Rational has merged it with its other product IBM Rational DOORS Next Generation
  • Aha!, innoslate, and ReqView have been added to the list; Aha! is a promising new tool targeted at product managers; innoslate is a relatively new tool that was introduced in October 2012, and that came on our radar only after our last update in February; ReqView is a new tool still in beta release, but the beta is free of charge, and the tool might be interesting especially for light-weight entry-level requirements management
  • Borland renamed Caliber RM into just Caliber
  • microTOOL renamed in-Step into in-STEP BLUE and objectiF Requirements Modeller into objectiF RM
  • Serena dropped its bundle Serena Requirements Manager, that we had listed; instead, we now list the core product Serena Dimensions RM
  • The following tools were removed from the list, because it appears they are not actively maintained any more (i.e., their websites have not received any obvious updates since the last three years): GMARC, Reqline, RTIME, ScopeTracker, TraceCloud, and workspace; RQS has been removed, because we regard it a plug-in product and not a full-fledged RM solution

In the coming few weeks, we will explore on some of these updates in more detail. We are also expecting new tool versions and even the first release of a newcomer RM tool. You will learn about these news through follow-up blog posts.

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Survey of Latest RM Tool Updates

As the last part of our series on updates on the requirements-management (RM) tool market, this article summarizes some additional news on tools we have included into our list of RM tools. The news covers the following vendors and tools:

  • Sparx System Enterprise Architect
  • Micro Focus / Borland
  • Serena Requirements Manager and Dimensions RM

Other RM tool updates were published as separate blog posts:

Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect: New Specification Manager

In late April 2014, Sparx Systems released version 11 of its Enterprise Architect (EA) product. In the meantime, release 11.1 has been published.

EA 11 has brought some interesting new features concerning requirements management (RM). Still primarily a graphical modelling tool for notations such as UML, SysML and BPMN, Enterprise Architect gradually strengthens its RM-related functionality. Many features of full-fledged RM tools are missing. But organizations and teams that work heavily with formal analysis and design models can use Enterprise Architect to make first steps towards systematic RM. In addition, enhanced RM functionality in EA generally means improved capabilities for tight integration with specialized RM tools.

The new Enterprise Architect requirements management features come in a functionality category Sparx Systems calls “Software. Business. Systems”. An important part of it is the new Specification Manager: Every model element in a package can now be displayed in a document view. A new editing UI allows for editing element information similar to working in a word processor. Enhanced documentation templates are available that facilitate report generation. In addition, new charts and dashboard creation features can also be relevant for supporting requirements management tasks.

Sparx Systems’s website offers videos that illustrate the new features, for instance the Specification Manager demo video.

Micro Focus: Acquisition Proposal

On September 15, 2014, London-based Micro Focus International plc (http://www.microfocus.com/) announced a merger proposal with Houston-based The Attachmate Group, Inc. (http://www.attachmategroup.com). You might check out the press release for details. Micro Focus is the mother-company of the Borland brand that markets the long-established RM tool Caliber. Other Micro Focus product areas mainly belong to the enterprise application segment: Visual COBOL, Mainframe Solutions, and CORBA Solutions. Attachment Group is the owner of, Attachmate, NetIQ, Novell, and SUSE.

Although we aren’t aware of any indications whether the proposed merger will affect the Borland brand, it is clear that an event of such a scale deserves special attention from Borland users and potential future customers.

Serena: Change in Product Portfolio

Serena used to offer a bundled product called “Requirements Manager”, which combined a set of RM-related products. We included it into past releases of our RM tools list, because it was the most comprehensive RM offering of Serena. Recently, Serena stopped marketing its Requirements Manager product. Instead, interested customers should check out Serena’s core RM product: Serena Dimensions RM.

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Atlassian’s Requirements-Related Product Updates

In this issue of our updates series on the requirements-management (RM) tool market, we take a look on Atlassian‘s product portfolio, involving JIRA, JIRA Agile, Confluence, and others. Although we wouldn’t recommend these products for building, an advanced RM solution, they provide a fair level of support for various requirements management scenarios. For this reason, we have included Atlassian products into our list of RM tools.

In May, Atlassian has introduced a new product bundle: JIRA Agile Ready. It combines JIRA, JIRA Agile, Confluence and Confluence Team Calendars and shall cover essential agile work processes. From a requirements management standpoint, JIRA Agile Ready is interesting, because Atlassian provides features for transforming text statements written in the Confluence wiki (e.g., representing parts of specifications documents, individual requirements statements, customer requests etc.) into JIRA issues (aka item types). Since organizations can customize JIRA and JIRA Agile and define arbitrary item types, a text statement from Confluence can become an enhancement request (a typical JIRA issue type), an agile epic or user story (typical JIRA Agile issue types), or even a business or system requirement (provided, an organization first defines such customized item types).

This linkage between Confluence and JIRA (including JIRA Agile) can support the first steps towards systematic tool-based requirements management. Still, to our opinion, JIRA is lacking important functionality that we expect in a modern RM tool. In addition, the organization that runs JIRA must carry the relatively large burden of defining the entire requirements workflow, to a degree that significantly exceeds what would be required in specialized modern RM tools. For individual teams or smaller organizations, and particularly when conducting agile development, Atlassian’s offerings can provide a good starting point for tool-based RM. Since nearly every RM tool has quite viable connectors to JIRA, an organization can later attach a specialized requirements solution and relatively seamlessly extend its established JIRA-based workflows. So, if you want so, you might regard JIRA Agile Ready as kind of a starter drug for your lifelong addiction to effective requirements management.

The following blog posts and documentation pages outline how JIRA Agile and Confluence can be used for RM:

Freshly introduced in September 2014, just a few days ago, and announced in a blog post from yesterday is JIRA Portfolio. It shall facilitate the management of multiple projects and their relations from a central control environment. You might want to check out the provided product page and blog post for more details and for illustrations on how JIRA Portfolio works. From an RM perspective, we find JIRA Portfolio a useful building block when moving towards larger-scale requirements processes. Especially agile environments might value this support when implementing concepts from the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) or other large-scale agile RM process and method frameworks.

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