Author Archives: Andreas Birk

List of RM Tools Updated: September 2017 Version

The September 2017 version of our list of requirements tools is available. It contains a total of 91 requirements management (RM) tools. The previous version dated back from November 2016.

The new September 2017 list contains many updates that show the requirements tool market is currently in a huge transition and transformation phase. Several vendors have merged in the past year, and there are interesting new developments towards support of agile development.

From the 91 tools overall, we feature 14 in a list of selected tools. The selection is based on indicators of market share and market presence. It shall provide focused support to organizations that want to collect a longlist for tool evaluation and selection.

Overall, the main update activities include:

  • All tools have been checked for availability and up-to-date web links to tool and vendor pages
  • Three tools have been added, many tool entries have been changed (e.g., name changes, new product bundles), several obviously outdated ones have been deleted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)
  • The list of selected tools has been reduced from 25 to 14 tools.

The list of selected tools has been reduced, because our objective is to provide even more focused support to organizations that want to collect a longlist for tool evaluation and selection. So, we have removed tools that apparently have not received significant maintenance over the past years, that have already well-established successor products, or that appear to have little relevance on the market overall.

Added:

  • Specification Wizard
  • OpenProject
  • ALM Octane

Renamed / Rebranded:

This time, quite many tools have been renamed or rebranded. For instance, the former HPE Software product family belongs now to Micro Focus. During this process, the tool HPE ALM has been renamed into ALM Enterprise. All name changes are marked in the list by adding the former name in parentheses. An example: “HelixRM (was TestTrack RM)”

Removed:

We have again removed several tools for the following reasons: (a) the tool has been discontinued, (b) it has turned out that the tool does not show sufficient functionality for requirements definition or management, or (c) the tool’s product or vendor websites have not received any substantial updates for more than two years.

  • Acclaro DFSS
  • Axure RP
  • Cameo Requirements+
  • IBM Notes
  • IdeaShare
  • Justinmind Prototyper
  • LeapSE
  • LiteRM
  • MockupScreens
  • QPack
  • ReqT
  • SPEQit
  • Telerik Platform
  • Troux Architect

Requirements Management with Atlassian Confluence

Atlassian Confluence is one of the most widely used Wiki systems among software development teams. Besides other application areas it can be used to support requirements management (RM).

This article surveys relevant information resources and gives basic advice on RM with Confluence. It starts with Confluence-specific topics, touches the integration of Confluence with Atlassian JIRA, and concludes with recommendations on how to use Confluence for RM, also taking into account the inherent complexities of RM.

What is Confluence?

The Atlassian Confluence product homepage lists the main features of the tool and links to additional information. It positions the tool as a central work environment and structured information repository for teams, and for software teams in particular.

Atlassian’s central documentation homepage includes the links to the documentation pages of Confluence’s cloud and server product variants.

How to Use Confluence for Requirements?

For managing requirements, Confluence is superior to office applications, which are most commonly used as simple, entry-level solutions for requirements specification. Among Confluence’s advantages are:

  • One central point of reference for all requirements, always up to date
  • Version control of requirements changes
  • Access control for viewing and eding requirements
  • Some automation support for frequent RM tasks
  • Collaboration support like automatic notification of team members upon changes

Atlassian, when positioning Confluence as an RM solution, focuses on the so-called Product Requirements Blueprint. This is a template page that ships with Confluence and that provides some basic automation for RM tasks.

The most relevant information resources from Atlassian on RM with Confluence are:

Confluence and JIRA

The combination and integration of Confluence with its Atlassian sister tool JIRA provides particular advantages for RM, and for software team collaboration and project management in general: You gain coherent and consistent information management, task management, and progress monitoring across the entire application lifecycle and all software development workflows. In addition, there are various automation options around software change, configuration management, project planning, and monitoring.

Atlassian provides a documentation page on how to “Use JIRA applications and Confluence together”. It explains the prerequisites, lists the main integration options and use cases, and provides a summary table of the features and their required products, product variants, and version.

In summary, the main integration mechanisms for JIRA and Confluence are:

  • Collect and display JIRA issues on a Confluence page
  • Include reports and charts with information from JIRA into Confluence
  • Easily create JIRA issues from text contained on Confluence pages
  • Navigate from JIRA to Confluence and vice versa using links

Recommendations

Prefer Confluence over office applications

When you specify requirements mainly with office applications, text processors in particular, and already have Confluence in place, then you should consider to switch your software specifications to Confluence. Effort and risk of switching should be fairly small, and immediate gains and benefits very high.

However, keep in mind that every change in work practice and tooling requires some degree of planning, preparation, and guidance: Train and coach users, possibly provide page templates and usage conventions, and monitor how the Confluence spaces and pages develop.

If you, too, manage requirements with spreadsheet applications, you might consider to switch this part to JIRA. Information structuring and management in JIRA are similar to spreadsheets (as far as typical requirements tasks are concerned), and you gain benefits like versioning and integration with Confluence.

Prepare for requirements complexity

Requirements, like the software systems they specify, are inherently complex. Different persons or teams collaborating during requirements definition might have different or even incompatible work practices and documentation styles. No tool can dissolve this. You and your teams must face these challenges and manage them.

Take a look at Atlassian’s example Confluence page for requirements specification using their Product Requirements Blueprint: It is an excellent illustration of what the blueprint template provides for requirements specification. However, it is everything but a realistic specification document.

For instance, even the simplest software system has far more requirements than you want to put into one table on a Wiki page. Requirements belong to different aspects that you might want to separate into different specification documents—e.g., different functional dimensions or subsystems, or separating technical data requirements from user experience design. These specification parts interrelate: So, how do you capture and document dependencies? etc. etc.

Before you “just use” Confluence for requirements specification, consider questions like the following:

  • What shall be the scope of specifications put into a Confluence space?—Everything in one space? Each customer variant of the system in a separate space? One space for each major product release?
  • What shall be put into a single Confluence page?—Separate pages by functional groups? or by specification dimensions like functionality, legal, data, and user experience?
  • How shall individual requirements be described?—As sections in a text flow? As table entries? What attributes / column shall the table have?
  • Do we want predefined, detailed page templates?

Prepare to extend your requirements solution over time

Confluence is great for some kinds of requirements specification. But no tool can be suitable for everything. Be aware that you might gradually evolve and extend the ingredients of your requirements solution.

JIRA is a good companion of Confluence. You can add it quite easily even to ongoing projects, and you deepen the integration on the fly. At one point you might possibly switch the lead role between the tools. For instance, start ideation of a new system in Confluence; but when you are in implementation mode, then add new detailed requirements in JIRA.

It can also become necessary or beneficial to further extend the tool platform: There are specialized JIRA add-ons for requirements management. And you possibly need to integrate with other requirements or ALM solutions.

All this can become relevant, and you better should be prepared. However, as long as a simple solution works fine, keep it! Confluence can definitely be a fairly simple, stable, and very smart solution for many requirements tasks.

HPE and Micro Focus Intend to Spin-Merge HPE’s Software Business

On September 7, 2016, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE; https://www.hpe.com; NYSE: HPE) and Micro Focus (https://www.microfocus.com; LSE: MCRO.L) announced their intention to spin-off HPE Software and merge it with Micro Focus. The merger is expected to close in Q3 2017 (HPE fiscal year; equivalent to summer 2017).

Screenshots of HPE's and Micro Focus's merger announcements on September 7, 2016

Screenshots of HPE’s and Micro Focus’s merger announcements on September 7, 2016

In this article I survey the main facts available to date and attempt a first analysis of the merger with regard to the companies’ product portfolios in the areas of application development and application lifecycle management.

What we can expect to happen:

  • There will be about six to nine months of uncertainty, and possibly stagnation, too. HPE Software will most likely stop most new product investments and focus on executing spin-off, merger, and new formation under the Micro Focus umbrella.
  • HPE’s traditional ALM/QC product line, market leader in enterprise testing solutions, can be expected to stay and be maintained over a (very?) long period. HPE ALM/QC is exactly the type of product that Micro Focus’s strategy is specialized to tend and exploit.
  • It is unlikely that products will be merged or harmonized across Micro Focus’s product lines like Borland, Serena, and the HPE Software portfolio. Because this way Micro Focus can maximize profit from established mature products.
  • The future of HPE’s recent and forthcoming agile offerings will be open. HPE recently came up with a number of very promising new products like Mobile Center for mobile testing and ALM Octane for agile development. Micro Focus’s plans published so far don’t indicate what might happen to these products. The company will need future champions. However, not every product can become the pick of the bunch. Running many new investment areas would not be in line with Micro Focus’s operating model.

What We Know Today: HPE

HPE’s press release states:

  • The transaction will have a value of approx. $8.8 billion.
  • The transaction is currently expected to occur by the second half of HPE’s fiscal year 2017. (HPE’s fiscal year starts in November, it’s second half starts in May.)
  • The new company will continue under the name Micro Focus.
  • HPE shareholders will own 50.1% of the new combined company.
  • An HPE senior executive will serve on the board of directors of the combined company. In addition, HPE will nominate 50% of the independent directors to the combined company’s board.
  • The transaction will include HPE’s Application Delivery Management, Big Data, Enterprise Security, Information Management & Governance and IT Operations Management businesses.
  • The new combined company is expected to have annual revenues of approx. $4.5 billion, which will make it one of the largest pure-play enterprise software companies.
  • The new company is expected to have high profitability. It is claimed that this ensured higher levels of investment in growth areas.
  • Each product line will have a clear role in overall company performance (i.e., each product will need to demonstrate its profitability).

What We Know Today: Micro Focus

Micro Focus positions itself as a global infrastructure software company, committed to enabling customers to both embrace the latest technologies and maximize the value of their current IT investments. (see: Micro Focus At a Glance)

Micro Focus’s regulatory statement on the proposed merger sees potential to improve profitability of HPE Software’s businesses. Application of Micro Focus’s operating model is expected to raise HPE Software’s adjusted EBITDA margin of currently approximately 21% to Micro Focus’s equivalent margin of approx. 46% by the end of the third full financial year following completion of the merger. This applies to HPE Software’s mature software assets that represent approx. 80% of the business segment’s revenue.

According to a Financial Times article, Kevin Loosemore, Executive Chairman, Micro Focus, confirmed that the new company would have “total control” of the business despite the links to HPE on the board.

Micro Focus has a history of acquiring other software companies with well-established, mature product portfolios. The most prominent examples from the application lifecycle management and application development areas are Borland and Serena. Both product lines are positioned under their respective brands, while they can also be accessed via Micro Focus’s central products directory.

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.

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.