Category Archives: tools

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The fastest way for on-premises provisioned products, is to check during launch if there is a newer version of the product available.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

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.

Requirements for JIRA Added to RM Tools List

Are there any requirements management add-ons for Atlassian JIRA? Yes, there are. This article introduces one of them: Requirements for JIRA by ease solutions Pte Ltd. We added Requirements for JIRA together with another JIRA add-on, RMsis from Optimizory Technologies Pvt. Ltd (view brief tool overview), to our list of requirements management (RM) tools during our latest May 2015 update.

Availability and Vendor

Requirements for JIRA is an add-on product to Atlassian JIRA on-premise installations. It extends JIRA concepts and UI elements by specific requirements management features.

Requirements for JIRA is quite fresh on the market with its initial release 2.2.0 from March 2015 and two updates since then. The current version is 2.3.0. Its vendor ease solutions is a Singapore-based IT service provider with a track record as Atlassian partner including JIRA customization and development, and with a history of requirements-related service offerings. Requirements for JIRA has been their first JIRA add-on product made available on Atlassian Marketplace. Recently, they launched a second product there, a JIRA add-on for supporting JIRA administration.

Features and Characteristics

Notable features of Requirements for JIRA are:

  • Rich and flexible requirements structures
  • Various requirements-specific views and diagrams
  • Requirements revisions and baselines
  • Requirements reuse
  • Round-trip export/import of Microsoft Excel spreadsheet files

Information model: Requirements for JIRA plugs into the basic JIRA information model and extends it by additional concepts useful for requirements management. The central concept and basic information structure is a user-defined folder hierarchy (aka “requirements tree”). Any existing JIRA issue can be assigned to a folder and new issues can be created within folders. All issues that belong to this folder structure can use the features of Requirements for JIRA. Other important concepts of the information model are suspect flags on JIRA links, indicating potential impact of a requirements change on other dependent requirements, and baselines on the requirements hierarchy or on parts of it.

User interface: The Requirements for JIRA user interface adds a “Requirements” entry to the main JIRA menu line that provides access to several requirements-specific views. The main requirements view shows the requirements folder hierarchy and a reading view similar to a specification document. Additional views include requirements coverage, trace diagram, baseline comparison, and others.

Tool Assessment

Requirements for JIRA brings a wide spectrum of important and useful requirements management features to Atlassian JIRA and integrates them quite smoothly into the existing JIRA functionality. This is my impression after having studied the documentation and from a brief trial usage.

User documentation appears suitable for making a first acquaintance with the tool. Advanced features are not explained in much detail, which calls for exploring the lean and relatively intuitive user interface during trial usage. However, it is remarkable that such a young tool does include so many advanced features like coverage view, roundtrip export/import, and requirements reuse.

Overall, when looking for specific requirements management support in Atlassian JIRA, Requirements for JIRA can be an interesting candidate. It might be particularly attractive for organizations that want to extend JIRA usage across the development lifecycle starting with solid requirements practices, and that are prepared to act as early adopters.

Information Resources

Product Homepage at Atlassian Marketplace: https://marketplace.atlassian.com/plugins/com.easesolutions.jira.plugins.requirements

Product Homepage at Vendor Site: http://easesolutions.com/jira-requirements-management/

Product Documentation: https://easesolutions.atlassian.net/wiki/pages/viewpage.action;?pageId=5406725

RMsis New on RM Tools List

With the latest May 2015 update of our list of requirements management (RM) tools we newly included two requirements solutions that are add-on products to Atlassian JIRA: RMsis by Optimizory Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and Requirements for JIRA by ease solutions Pte Ltd. This blog article introduces RMsis. Requirements for JIRA will follow in a separate article.

RMsis Availability and Vendor

RMsis is an add-on product to Atlassian JIRA on-premise installations. It plugs into JIRA as a separate sub-product coming with its own user interface, data structures, user roles, and access rights. JIRA issues can be linked from RMsis items (e.g., requirements), and RMsis items can be exported into JIRA issues. Besides RM functionality, RMsis provides support for testing.

The initial release 0.2 of RMsis was made available in October 2010. The current major release 1.8.0 dates from March 2015 with two additional updates since. RMsis vendor Optimizory is located in New Delhi, with consulting partners in Singapore, India, Germany, the Benelux countries, and Turkey.

RMsis Features, Information Model, and User Interface

Important features of RMsis according to the product page at Atlassian Marketplace are:

  • Flexible information model
  • Requirement versions, baselines, and branches
  • Cross project dependencies between requirements
  • Traceability between RMsis artifacts with JIRA artifacts and RMsis test cases

Information model: RMsis’s information model is based on a general type of requirement, which comes with a set of default attributes. Attribute values of these default attributes can be customized, and additional attribute types can be added. Requirements hierarchy can be expressed using parent/child relationships and via assignment of hierarchical tags. Child requirements are the actual items that contain detailed requirements information.

User interface: The main requirements view of the user interface is a tabular presentation similar to a spreadsheet table. There is one view for each of the two predefined requirements categories of unplanned and planned requirements. Within these table views, table columns correspond with requirements attribute types.

Tool Assessment

I could not run a trial-use of RMsis, yet. So the information provided in this article is based on the vendor’s sources available in the public domain, which are relatively rich and detailed.

While the list of RMsis product features is long, I am not always convinced of their implementation: Overall, RMsis makes some strong assumptions on requirements structure and process that cannot be changed. So, interested customers should carefully check whether the tool meets their way of working. One should also be aware that RMsis is a separate system running within JIRA, adding its own configuration needs and usage concepts. On the plus side are that RMsis has quite a long track record and a relatively large user base, and that it includes basic support for testing and test management.

Information Resources

Product homepage at Atlassian Marketplace: https://marketplace.atlassian.com/plugins/com.optimizory.rmsis.plugin.jira-rmsis

Product homepage at vendor site: http://products.optimizory.com/rmsis

Product documentation of latest release: http://docs.optimizory.com/display/rmsis/RMsis+Documentation+-+Latest+Release