Author Archives: Gerald Heller

List of RM Tools Updated: November 2016 Version

The November 2016 version of our list of requirements tools is available. It contains a total of 101 requirements management tools. The previous version dated back from February 2016. Several vendors have since released new versions of their tools that we have referenced in the list.

From the 101 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 November 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  • Several outdated ones have been deleted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, the following tools have received major updates between February 2016 to November 2016:

  • codeBeamer Requirements Management
  • Enterprise Architect
  • Innovator for Business Analysts
  • Mingle
  • objectiF RM

Important changes occurred with regard to tool vendors: Siemens completed the acquisition of Polarion. It is now a product of the Siemens corporation. In May Micro Focus completed the acquisition of Serena which added some requirements management and agile tools to the Micro Focus portfolio. In September HPE and Micro Focus announced their intention to spin-merge HPE Software.

Concerning the set of tools included in the list, we have performed the following changes during our November 2016 update:

Added:

  • Atlas from Micro Focus
  • Workspace.com from Workspace.com

Renamed / Rebranded:

  • in-STEP RED now objectiF RPM
  • ontime now axosoft
  • Agilian now Visual Paradigm

Removed:

We have again removed several tools that have been discontinued, or whose product or vendor websites have not received any substantial updates for more than two years.

  • AgileZen – no longer available for purchase
  • Avenqo PEP – inactive
  • Axiom – inactive
  • ArcWay Cockpit – inactive
  • Enfocus Requirements Suite – no product information on website
  • GatherSpace – inactive
  • Objectiver – inactive
  • QFDcapture – inactive
  • TeamPulse – no longer available for purchase
  • X-Tie-RT – not available for purchase
  • YAKINDU Requirements – no product information on website

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 prefers the SaaS delivery channel. However, they accept that some of their customers do not want data managed outside their 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.

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?

agosense.requirements Added to RM list

In the recent May 2015 update of our list of requirements management (RM) tools, we added – among other tools – agonsense.requirements. This article briefly introduces the tool, which comes with some interesting new concepts. Over the next few weeks, we will publish similar articles for other tools that we have added to the RM tools list.

The company agosense is relatively young. It was established in 2009. Their initial product agosense.symphony is a process integration platform for software engineering tools across the application lifecycle. So, agosense have collected a lot of experience in connecting requirements management tools with other application lifecycle tools.

Based on their multi-year integration experience with many existing requirements management tools, they decided to create their own RM solution. In November 2014, they announced the first release of agosense.requirements. I had a chance to get some impressions about the tool in January 2015 where I participated at the company event agosense.CONNECT 2015.

agosense.requirements is a web based requirements management solution which is available on premise. It offers typical requirements management capabilities like requirement types, tracing of items, reporting, and rich text support for requirements to name a few. agosense summarizes the key features under the terms of: usability, processes and infrastructure advantages.

So, what are specific characteristics of agosense.requirements that make it special compared to other RM tools? I will highlight some tool capabilities under the topics of:

  • Change and Version Management
  • Tool Integrations
  • Cost of Ownership
  • Performance and Scalability

Change Management: By servicing many companies in their requirements integration approaches agosense came to the conclusion that an RM tool shall support strong change management capabilities. That’s why they focus on change management from the very beginning. Every requirement must be associated to a previously defined change request or task. Requirements are tracked in so-called sheets. Within those sheets requirements can be associated to change sets. Change sets can be versioned, and even branched. Changes between versions are tracked at the detail level and made available to users via various display options.

Tool Integrations: Tool integrations are a long-standing core competency of agosense. Using agosense.symphony a large collection of tools can be connected to agosense.requirements, too. Specifically for interchanging requirements between tools, agosense supports established interchange formats like OSLC or ReqIF.

Cost of Ownership: According to agosense, several features of agosense.requirements contribute to an overall small footprint. In particular, there is no separate purchase of a database required. The tool is delivered with an embedded NoSQL DB. agosense claims, that there were no extensive DB administration necessary using this technology. In addition, the user interface is purely based on web technology. It does not require client-based installations and can be used through all modern web browsers.

Performance and Scalability: Based on the chosen server technology and data model agosense claims to have the fastest RM solution on the market. The selected NoSQL technology allowed for scaling-up the RM solution with almost no administration effort by simply adding new nodes to the environment.

We find these capabilities impressive for such a young product. However, up to now, we could not yet evaluate how agosense delivers on these claims. We might well follow-up with running a detailed evaluation and trial usage sometime in the next months.
Look forward for more exciting news to come on MakingOfSoftware.com.

agosense.requirements Information Resources on the Web:

Product web page: http://www.agosense.com/agosenserequirements

Video about change management with agosense.requirements:

http://www.agosense.com/english/media-library/webinars/aenderungsbasiertes-rm-mit-jira