Tools for Product Management

On September 17, I will be speaker at this years product management festival in Zurich.

I will provide an overview about tools that support product managers to do their jobs. More and more tool provider recognize, that product manager and product owner have specific needs and start to address these. Even completely new products show up. I will provide an overview and visualize recent trends in tooling. It will be fun to discuss these with the intended target audience.

Gerald Heller

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Agile Requirements Frameworks

by Andreas Birk and Gerald Heller

When agile methods emerged during the 1990s and until quite long into the first decade of the 21st century, agile requirements were widely synonymous with user stories. This was a major contribution and step forward for requirements practices on team level. However, for larger multi-team development efforts, for continuous product development as well as for product- and portfolio-level planning, effective guidance for agile requirements management was still mostly missing. This situation has improved gradually since around 2005 when frameworks for scaling agile appeared on the scene. Most notable examples are: Scaling Software Agility by Dean Leffingwell (2007) and Scaling Lean & Agile Development by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde (2008). Follow-up publications of these authors have provided valuable additional guidance also for requirements management. In particular, Dean Leffingwell published the first comprehensive agile requirements framework in 2010: Agile Software Requirements, the approach is now known as the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

Today, we have quite a variety of agile requirements frameworks. But now it has become difficult to survey the entire scene and find the suitable approaches relevant for one’s own specific software or system development context. For this reason, we want to give an overview here, providing orientation and guidance in the growing field of agile requirements management. You find a survey of those frameworks we find most important along with links for further information. Of course, this selection is subjective, and for sure we have overlooked some important approaches. So we will be grateful, if you can comment on the following list and send us additional hints (feedback link). We will include them into future updates of this list.

Scaled Agile Framework SAFe (Leffingwell)

SAFe has been the first comprehensive framework for agile requirements management, defined by Dean Leffingwell. Published in its initial version in 2010 and partly based on earlier works, we view it still as the most important reference and entry point for agile requirements management. The website provides a very rich collection of valuable information. The book is an excellent introduction and resource on agile requirements. Dean Leffingwell’s earlier book makes a good extension for understanding the large-scale agile development process.

Scaling Lean & Agile Development LeSS (Larman, Vodde)

LeSS does not focus on requirements management in particular, rather it addresses the entire spectrum of agile development activities. However, it includes very many practices and techniques relevant to agile requirements management. A good introduction to LeSS is the May 2013 article in CrossTalk magazine. Additional information provide the homepages and blogs of Craig Larman and Bas Vodde. An interesting experience report is the article on Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) @ J.P. Morgan at InfoQ. The comprehensive resources are the two books on basic concepts (2008) and on practices (2010) of the approach.

Disciplined Agile Delivery DAD (Ambler)

DAD is a “process decision framework” that aims at helping projects and organizations to create their suitable agile development approaches. As such it includes various agile requirements practices along with guidance to design requirements and software delivery processes. The approach is relatively new, dating from 2012. There is an accompanying book available.

Discover to Deliver (Gottesdiener)

Discover to Deliver is an approach to agile product planning and (requirements/business/system) analysis. It extends established product planning and analysis techniques and transforms them into the agile world. A book introduces the approach, and a short 2-minutes video clip explains the essential concepts.

Specification by Example SBE (Adzic, Fowler, and others)

“Specification by example (SBE) is a collaborative approach to defining requirements and business-oriented functional tests for software products based on capturing and illustrating requirements using realistic examples instead of abstract statements.” (Wikipedia) It provides a consistent framework to agile requirements management utilizing high-level tests and test automation. Among the main proponents are Gojko Adzic and Martin Fowler. Gojko Adzic maintains the specificationbyexample.com website and has written a good instructive book on the topic. Martin Fowler has written a concise article that motivates and introduces the approach.

Acceptance Test Driven Development ATDD (Gärtner, Koskela, and others)

ATDD is another consistent approach for accomplishing agile requirements and testing tasks in an integrated fashion. It features several agile requirements practices that can be very useful in the context of other approaches as well (e.g., the Given-When-Then template for specifying system behaviour and tests). A Wikipedia article provides a good introduction. Introductory books are available from Markus Gärtner. Lasse Koskela has written a brief introduction as well as a very instructive book on ATDD.

User Stories Applied (Cohn)

User stories are the nucleous or starting point of all agile requirements management. Mike Cohn’s classical book on the topic provides an excellent introduction and explains the application of use cases in agile development projects.

Use Case 2.0 (Jacobson)

Ivar Jacobson has coined the concept of use cases as early as in the 1980s. With Use Case 2.0 he and his colleagues have refurbished the use cases approach for the agile age. The approach differs partly from other agile requirements frameworks (e.g., stronger emphasize on more or less formal information structure and (only) apparently less emphasis on stakeholder communication procedures). However, this makes it particularly relevant as a source of additional inspiration for agile requirements managers. It also can provide important guidance for environments in which other agile approaches don’t appear suitable (e.g., possibly in development of technical products using model-based approaches). An eBook explains the approach.

Agile Product Canvas (Pichler)

Roman Pichler is the author of the book Agile Product Management with Scrum (2010). Since then he has developed several additional and very useful tools. One of them is the Agile Product Canvas, which collects all important overall product-related requirements information on one easy-to-understand and easy-to-use pane.

Agile Modeling & Agile Documentation (Ambler, Rüping and others)

Quite early during the emergence of agile methods, Scott Ambler and Andreas Rüping had taken attention to aspects beyond coding. First, Scott Ambler wrote a book on agile modeling (2002). He also now maintains a comprehensive website on the topic, which contains a good overview article. Soon later, Andreas Rüping has added another book on agile documentation (2003). In 2012, Andreas Rüping published an updated and extended version of the book (available in German only). These works complement the other frameworks on agile requirements management by providing guidance also for the interfaces of requirements management to adjacent disciplines like graphical modeling (e.g., business process models, UML, SysML), architecture specifications, and user documentation.

At the end of this article, let us emphasize again: We will be very glad, if you share your thoughts on agile requirements management with us. Do you disagree with (parts of) what we have written here? Would you have additional framework suggestions? Do you have agile requirements experiences that you want to share with others? Don’t hesitate to contact us via info@swpm.de.

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Requirements reuse with Jama

On May 9th, 2014 Andreas Birk and myself presented the Webinar “Requirements reuse – requirements practices using the tool Jama” (in German)
We did show reuse practices which increase productivity and quality in development on a sustainable fashion.

Themes addressed:

  • Reusing requirements from previous releases
  • Reusing requirements form similar projects
  • Managing company wide guidelines as global requirements across projects
  • Managing product variants

We did show how Jama features help to address those scenarios, but also mentioned the challenges which need to be handled for such situations. The presentation is available on Slideshare.

This picture shows the various challenges an organization might encounter when establishing systematic reuse.

This picture shows the various challenges an organization might encounter when establishing systematic reuse.

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Survey of Requirements Tools Lists

For the February 2014 update of our list of requirements management (RM) tools, my colleague Gerald Heller and I researched for other lists of requirements tools, in order to extend and complement our collection. In the following you find the results of our investigation. Each list has its specific strengths and focus areas that are outlined in brief comments on each entry.

Requirements Management Tools

INCOSE’s RM Tools List (http://www.incose.org/productspubs/products/rmsurvey.aspx) has been the first large RM tools list we know of that was researched systematically. It is supplied with an extensive collection of (vendor-provided) tool characterizations. Unfortunately, the last update is from 2010 and much information stems even from 2008, so that most of the detailed tool information must be regarded outdated.

Volere’s RM Tools List: http://volere.co.uk/tools.htm. Vendors provide their own brief tool characterizations. Much information is not fully up to date. But the rather extensive list provides an easy to read overview of the RM Tools landscape.

Iain Alexander’s ’s RM Tools List at http://www.scenarioplus.org.uk/vendors.htm includes many tools that are not contained in INCOSE’s and Volere’s collections. A large subsection is on tools for requirements quality analysis.

The Tools Journal’s RM Tools List (http://www.toolsjournal.com/requirements-management-tools) is another list that provides a good overview of tools. But it also most information is not up-to-date.

Capterra’s list of requirements management products (http://www.capterra.com/requirements-management-software) contains about 40 tools and provides filtering support with regard to tool features.

Ludwig Consulting Services provide a fairly up-to-date list (http://www.jiludwig.com/Requirements_Management_Tools.html) that has last been updated in 2012 but also mentions some outdated tools. It includes a brief informative introduction text and contains some tools not provided in the previous lists.

IEEE Software magazine from July/August 2011 includes a tools survey (http://www.computer.org/csdl/mags/so/2011/04/mso2011040086-abs.html) that contains an elaborated overview characterization of 37 tools. The authors have set up a web page with brief characterizations of the tools. A PDF version of the article is also available from Vector’s media portal.

Ideation Tools

Ideation tools list at CreatingMinds.org: http://creatingminds.org/tools/tools_ideation.htm. It contains tools from various different areas, many of which can be relevant in certain requirements elicitation and requirements definition activities.

Agile Tools

Lists of agile tools at agileSCOUT: http://agilescout.com/top-agile-tools/best-agile-tools. The extensive list, grouped into two web pages on Scrum and Kanban tools, provides a good overview using a screenshot for each tool.

Steve Blank’s list of agile tools is part of his “Startup Tools” list (see subsection “Kanban and Scrum Tools”) and focuses on mostly light-weight tools that can be relevant to software startups: http://steveblank.com/tools-and-blogs-for-entrepreneurs/

Business Modeling Tools

Wikipedia page on tools specifically for BPMN notation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Business_Process_Modeling_Notation_tools

Listly’s BPM tools list (http://list.ly/list/CR-bpm-tools-essential-in-itsm-projects) contains 62 tools, with embedded media (screenshots, video clips) for some of the tools.

Process-Symphony blog presents a list of ten selected tools, along with an evaluation and rating: http://psymphony.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/top-ten-bpm-tools-you-cannot-ignore/

BPM-Software blog focuses on free tools: http://bpmsoftware.wordpress.com/free-bpa-tools/

UML Tools

The wikipedia list of UML tools (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Unified_Modeling_Language_tools) provides tabular tool characterizations and feature overviws. It also contains links to other lists of UML tools.

OOSE’s list of UML tools: http://www.oose.de/nuetzliches/fachliches/uml-werkzeuge/. The list includes a table of detailed information provided by vendors, dating from 2012/2013.

The list at Listly offers screenshots, brief overview texts and possibilities for user voting and for user comments: http://list.ly/list/2io-popular-uml-modeling-tools

UI Mockup / Wireframing Tools

Steve Blank’s list of wireframing tools as part of his “Startup Tools” list (see subsection “Wireframing Tools”): http://steveblank.com/tools-and-blogs-for-entrepreneurs/

Usertesting.com presents a list of wireframing tools (http://www.usertesting.com/blog/2012/10/23/the-ultimate-wireframing-tools-guide/) along with guidelines and recommendations for tool evaluation.

The App Entrenpeneur website at http://theappentrepreneur.com/54-amazing-wireframing-tools-apps lists web apps as well as Android and iOS mobile apps with brief one-line characterizations of each tool.

Memeburn’s specialty is a list (http://memeburn.com/2012/09/25-of-the-best-wireframing-and-prototyping-tools-ever/) with embedded video clips from most of the tool’s vendors.

Econsultancy provides at http://econsultancy.com/blog/62700-18-practical-responsive-design-tools-and-resources-for-wireframing wireframing tools and and additional resources.

A commented list of selected tools is presented by http://vandelaydesign.com/blog/design/wireframe-tools/

creativebloq.com (http://www.creativebloq.com/wireframes/top-wireframing-tools-11121302) list tools along with platform and price information. It also contains some less conventional but interesting recommendations.

Last but not least, two lists of free wireframing tools:

http://mashable.com/2010/07/15/wireframing-tools/

http://webdesignledger.com/tools/10-free-ui-wireframe-kits

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Workshop: RM für Produktlinien

Workshop: RM für Produktlinien und variantenreiche Software-Entwicklung

Zum wiederholten Mal organisieren Dr. Andreas Birk und Gerald Heller von Software.Process.Management einen Workshop bei der größten deutschen Requirements-Engineering-Konferenz REConf 2014 zum Thema “RM für Produktlinien und variantenreiche Systeme”.

Zeit und Ort: Donnerstag, 13. März 2014, 09:00 – 17:00 Uhr, REConf 2014, München

Der Workshop vermittelt wichtiges Praxiswissen für das Management von variantenreicher Software und für die Entwicklung von Software-Produktlinien. Im Mittelpunkt steht der schrittweise Übergang zur Produktlinienentwicklung. Besondere Aufmerksamkeit liegt auf dem Requirements-Management sowie dem Konfigurations- und Integrationsmanagement. Fallbeispiele aus der industriellen Praxis illustrieren, wie man Variantenvielfalt im Griff behält und Produktlinienentwicklung zum Erfolg führt.

Weitere Informationen und Anmeldungslink auf der MakingOfSoftware.com Veranstaltungsseite.

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