CAST 2014 Retrospective

by Betty.Zakheim, August 29th, 2014

I recently had the pleasure of attending CAST 2014, the annual conference of the Association for Software Testing, a conference that Tasktop sponsored. If you couldn’t attend the conference, you can watch some of the sessions and get some of the flavor of the conference in the comfort of your home or office via the Association for Software Testing’s YouTube channel.

I’m a proud Tasktopian and wore my Tasktop shirt every day. Since there were no areas reserved for sponsors, that was the only way folks could find me to ask about Tasktop and how we help testers … more on that later. This blog is really about the art and science of testing (which was the conference theme this year) and some of the other controversies that exist within the testing community.

In truth, the thing that’s interesting about CAST is the level to which there is active discourse on the controversies within the testing community. If you’re not immersed in that community, you may think it a very homogeneous discipline. It is far from that; it is LOADED with controversy and differing opinions.

There were many sessions on the central topic: “The Art and Science of Testing.” There are folks that believe that testing software is an extension of the liberal arts, heavy on the use of skills learned by studying psychology, sociology or philosophy… such as developing and using various heuristics. And there are practitioners who feel strongly that testing software is best left to those that have studied engineering or computer science… using the knowledge of how the application was constructed to approach the challenge of testing it. But that was the least of the controversy!

There was quite a bit of heated discussion around a software testing standard being proposed by ISO (the International Standards Organization) and IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 proposes to define “an internationally-agreed to set of standards for software testing that can be used by any organization when performing any form of software testing.” But much of the conversation at CAST was firmly against this standard, as embodied by a petition to suspend the standard’s publication. It can be difficult to represent a consensus against a particular idea, but it seems that the fundamental concern is that the implementation of standards can easily create dogmatic adherence to a particular process. And the view of software testing as a definable process, flies in the face of the “context driven testing” school of thought. According to CDT, there are no particular best practices that fit every situation – what is required is the expertise of a professional software tester that can bring to bear the right techniques for each particular situation.

This controversy lead right into the discussion around automated testing: with some practitioners claiming that test automation signals a demise of the professional tester; and some practitioners with more moderate views. The moderates propose that test automation has important applications, but agree that it is not a panacea. In particular, it’s no silver bullet for overcoming the challenges inherent in organizations seeking to increase the velocity of release cycles through Agile or DevOps initiatives.

One “controversy” that tends to be fairly universal no matter what practitioner-oriented conference I attend, is the schism between testers and developers.

To be honest I never understood the developer – tester antipathy. Everyone on the team has a common goal to deliver the right software, on-time, with the agreed-up level of quality. As a developer, I never wanted to be viewed as the person who delivered “crap code.” I never checked in code late Friday night, enjoying my weekends, while others were left dealing with the fallout from a broken build. But more selfishly, I never wanted to be awakened in the middle of night to fix my broken code. I tested my code and helped my tester buddies, because to me, they were a line of defense between me and a 3AM wake up call.

So, it actually gives me great joy that Tasktop helps bring developers and testers together by eliminating some of the tedium introduced because testers and developers use different tools to manage their work… making the little time they have to collaborate “face to face” even more productive and (gasp) enjoyable. The fact of the matter is, most testers DO use tools to manage their plans, test cases (when appropriate) and the defects they find. And these tools are often not the same tools that their dev colleagues use to triage, fix and report the status of defects. And the same is true for the development and management of requirements and user stories.

Tasktop Sync integrates these tools, allowing everyone to use their tool of choice, while collaborating on project artifacts. Moreover, Tasktop Sync can help testing teams turn their existing tools into the “single source of the truth” of project health. (To learn more, read the white paper).

There will never be a shortage of differing opinions among practitioners in software development and delivery. But presumably we’re all in agreement that working together to solve our mutual challenges HAS to be more effective than working at odds.

Agile 2014: Agile swims into the big sea

by Wesley Coelho, August 5th, 2014

We’ve just wrapped up the Agile 2014 conference in Orlando, Florida, sponsored by Tasktop. One of the overall themes shouting the loudest at this year’s event is Enterprise Agile. Agile has enjoyed tremendous success at the team level and attention continues to turn toward making Agile work at larger scales. Agile 2014 featured a track dedicated to Enterprise Agile and many of Tasktop’s partners were on hand to talk about how they can help organizations take Agile to another level.

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Given the focus on scaling up, it’s no surprise that Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) was also front and center at the event and worthy of its own separate track. While PPM as a discipline has much to gain from directly adopting Agile practices, another key area for improvement is the interaction between PPM and Agile development. PPM, Agile or otherwise, will always take place at a higher level of abstraction than Agile development, and require project management tools specialized for each level.

This is where Tasktop can bridge the gap by automating the interaction between PPM and Agile development. Connecting these stakeholders is critical so that each has instant visibility into priorities and progress information. For example, the new Tasktop 3.6 release provides the capability to automatically send time tracking information from Atlassian JIRA and IBM Rational Team Concert (RTC) into CA Clarity PPM.

Of course, Agile’s swim into adjacent seas extends far beyond PPM. There is an ever-increasing need to automate the connections between Agile and disciplines like QA and IT Service Management. The Agile translation project for the Agile Manifesto is symbolic of Agile’s expansion and Tasktop is leading the way in connecting the big sea of software delivery.

Tasktop 3.6 released: IBM DOORS, Jama, integrating “things”

by Mik Kersten, July 21st, 2014

Nothing catches the technologist’s eye like an elegantly designed gadget, with software and hardware flowing together in design harmony. The trouble is that traditionally, the way we build software and the way we build physical things have had very separate lifecycles. The V-Model of systems engineering provides the predictability needed to assemble little things into bigger things along a broad chain of bills of materials and suppliers. Contrast that with Agile development and Continuous Delivery, where constantly shipping the entire system. For the few companies that have managed to wire together their own internal processes for making hardware and software work together, the results have been spectacular.

For the past couple of years, customers have been asking us to extend the integration that we’re known for to their hardware systems and teams. With today’s announcement of Tasktop 3.6, we’re thrilled to announce our first step in this with Sync support for the most established product requirements management tool, IBM DOORS, and one of the newest and most innovative, Jama.

Tasktop - Jama to JIRA Sync

Over the past two years, Tasktop Sync has transformed from ALM integration technology to an end-to-end DevOps integration bus. We’ve watched in amazement as some of our largest manufacturing customers created DevOps environments for hardware. Service virtualization is replaced by hardware simulation, continuous integration spans to hardware testing, and new software can be deployed to things that we drive. While some Tesla aficionados were annoyed when their cars were no longer as low to the road as they might like, the ability for Tesla to push out such updates has signaled the sign of things to come. DevOps is being extended to physical product delivery, and the lifecycle of hardware and software will become increasingly connected. For this to happen, we need to create a new software-centric backbone for the product lifecycle. One which supports the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) backbone while supporting the continuous delivery of software and firmware. The first infrastructure software for that backbone is the new release of Tasktop Sync.

It will now be possible for organizations to have a single view of requirements in DOORS and Jama, synchronized in real-time across all the leading Agile development tools that we already support. This is the magic of Tasktop Sync and our integration factory. Once Tasktop’s integration bus is extended to understand a new concept or set of artifacts, such as a hardware requirement, and a connector that has full API-based read and write access to a repository is created, and our integration factory is updated to continually test that integration against all others we support, we enable the seamless flow of information across yet another tool boundary. But the Holy Grail for systems is not just the benefits of collaboration; it’s end-to-end traceability between requirements, defects, and the hardware and software that implements them (to the delight of users). And, the only way to automate this traceability is to integrate the stakeholder tools. That’s exactly what we’re doing, all thanks to the new Artifact Relationship Management support that we release with Tasktop 3.6. Because the cost of not having traceability might be front page news in the form of car recalls and airplane delivery delays.

Tasktop 3.6 also includes a set of incremental improvements to help you get the most out of Sync. Most notable: the Sync bus has been extended to support Test Case synchronization. If you’re a ServiceNow user, you’ll be happy to know we now support Sync to all “task” artifacts, which dramatically extends the number of ServiceNow tables that you can connect to your software delivery and DevOps activities. In addition, we’re releasing time tracking synchronization for Rally, and updates to integration Microsoft VS Online, HP ALM 12, IBM RTC an RRC 5.0, Rally OnPrem, VersionOne 14 and Bugzilla 4.4.4. For the full list of improvements see the New & Noteworthy.

Tasktop - Rally to CA Clarity PPM Time Tracking

As always, we look forward to seeing you deploy this new functionality for use cases that we have not yet imagined. When we first created Sync, we didn’t realize that it would soon be getting deployed for connecting the software supply chain of one of the world’s leading car manufacturers. We can’t wait to see how you deploy this new functionality in your systems engineering and Internet of Things (IoT) efforts, and to hear your thoughts about the other systems engineering and Product Line Management (PLM) tools that you want us to support in upcoming releases. So please stay in touch!

Connecting ServiceNow to Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server (TFS)

by Neelan Choksi, July 16th, 2014

One of the neat things about being so focused on SLI and DevOps integration in its various incarnations for the past decade stemming back to Mik’s PhD thesis is that we’ve seen more than nearly any other company in what it takes to be successful in making DevOps in the enterprise a reality. Note that when we talk about DevOps, we aren’t just talking about Continuous Delivery popularized by Jez Humble but actually the complete holistic view of DevOps which includes all activities in the software lifecycle from planning to development to testing to production. This holistic view has allowed us to create a set of common DevOps integration patterns. In this blog and accompanying video(s), I’ll focus on one integration pattern, the Help Desk Incident Escalation pattern.

Envision an organization who has an Operations team who uses ServiceNow for their help desk / ITSM solution to track and resolve customer support tickets. This may be internal or external customer support tickets. The same organization’s Development team uses Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) to schedule and track its work.

As we show in this video (see below) recorded a few weeks ago during one of our weekly demo sessions, Tasktop Sync will create a bi-directional synchronization between the Operations team that uses ServiceNow and the Development team that uses TFS. Many of the incidents and problems that come into ServiceNow have nothing to do with software applications built in-house but rather things like “my laptop has a virus” or “my screen is cracked” or other IT related tickets. However, if in the course of triaging customer tickets, the Ops teams uncovers a defect that requires the development team to spring into action (e.g., related to a internally developed piece of software), Sync will synchronize the ticket in ServiceNow as a defect in TFS so that the developers can work to remedy that defect. The status of the defect in TFS can by synced back to a custom field on the ticket in ServiceNow so that the Ops team knows what is going on at all times and can keep the customer apprised on any progress of the ticket. Alternatively, the status field in each repository can map directly to each other.

We didn’t show this in this specific demo video but many of our customers also have HP Quality Center (QC) for their testing infrastructure. If the Dev systems and QA systems are also connected via Tasktop Sync, Ops can also see if that defect fix has been successfully verified and tested by QA.

The really cool thing is that some of our biggest customers follow the ITIL cookbook in their Operations department (and even more fun are the ones who “sort of” follow the ITIL cookbook). Regardless, the neat thing is that Sync, in these cases, allows our friends in Operations to follow their ITIL processes (following the ITIL transitions from incident to problem or change request) while not forcing the ITIL processes visibly onto their colleagues in Development, who may react poorly to such “heavy weight process” imposed on them.

Recording of Shawn’s recent ServiceNow / TFS Video:

Connecting BlueMix to the world

by Dave West, June 27th, 2014

Over the last 6 months IBM has been heavily promoting BlueMix, the IBM cloud delivery platform based on IBM’s open cloud architecture and Cloud Foundry. The platform is heavily aimed at developers, promoting the ability to rapidly deliver applications to the IBM cloud by leveraging auto provisioning,  development frameworks and a very cool web IDE. But what makes BlueMix special is the idea that customers can start developing in a very modern flexible “cloud” environment whilst managing the risk of change and do this all with staying with IBM. The same IBM that supports many other aspects of the customer’s IT infrastructure. As cloud development crosses the chasm, hybrid or combination development, will be the reality for many large organizations that will have to connect these “new” cloud developments with their more traditional development projects. IBM is well-placed with their knowledge of both worlds – and their integration partner Tasktop. As many of you know, Tasktop partners with IBM to provide software lifecycle integration by OEMing the “IBM Rational Lifecycle Integration Adaptors – Tasktop Edition,” from us.  Tasktop provides the integrations that enable IBM customers to connect their different tools, creating an integrated lifecycle supported by heterogenous tools. This integration technology already supports connecting on-premise tools like Rational Team Concert to cloud tools, such as Rally, but I would like to announce a technical preview for BlueMix.

Technical Preview for BlueMix

In this attached preview, you will see a typical scenario of an application being developed in BlueMix with testing being performed in HP QC, in a Testing Center of Excellence. This Testing Center of excellence uses an on-premise version of HP QC which integrates with Tasktop in real time to the BlueMix version of JazzHub. This supports the natural flow of work being done in BlueMix: tests undertaken in HP QC and the defects running back to the developers in BlueMix. This replaces the need for BlueMix developers to leave BlueMix and allows testers to work in their tool of choice. And this is just a preview of one scenario – but because BlueMix is just another connector to the Tasktop integration bus, it opens up BlueMix to all the other lifecycle tools supported by Tasktop. For example, maybe requirements are being developed in IBM RRC, or the PMO wants to continue to report on project progress in Clarity… or your organization is using ServiceNow and wants problems to automatically be pushed to developers in BlueMix. All of this is possible by connecting BlueMix to the software lifecycle with Tasktop.

If you are using BlueMix today and are interested in trying this technical preview please let me, or your Tasktop contact, know. We are excited to connect the worlds of cloud development and of traditional software delivery lifecycles together.

Right Action, Right Time: Tasktop Raises Financing

by Neelan Choksi, June 24th, 2014

After 7 years and growing to 70 people as a bootstrapped company, at the end of 2013, Tasktop made a decision to raise external financing.  We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved as a bootstrapped entity and the innovations we’ve created including Mylyn, the task-focused interface, co-authoring the Change Management portion of the OSLC specification, the DevOps integration bus Tasktop Sync, and Software Lifecycle Integration.  I am very proud of the organization that I’ve helped build, and the cool thing was that we could have kept growing without raising money.  We made a choice because we felt that the opportunity to change how software was built was so big and the foundation we had put in place was so solid, that it was time to add a catalyst to our business.  Also, our customers and partners wanted more from us than we could give to them organically so to grow commercially at the pace that the market was demanding, we felt the funding was needed.

Now as you know, wanting funding and actually getting funding are two different things.  We were quite gratified as we went through the process that there was significant interest in the team we had built and what we had accomplished to date.

Today, I’m very pleased to announce that we’ve raised $11M.  The primary focus of this investment is to expand the commercial part of our business.  Over the past 7.5 years, we’ve created technology that drives tremendous value to our customers.  When companies purchase Tasktop Sync or Tasktop Dev, they get software that pays for itself in the quarter it was purchased in (contact us to walk you through how Tasktop can drive significant returns for your organization).  We need to get these innovations into the hands of even more organizations so that more of our colleagues who build software for banks, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, government, retail, and the like can do it at the increasingly rapid pace demanded by today’s marketplace.  We are proud that our customers get increased visibility into their software manufacturing processes, see improved collaboration between the various stakeholders involved in delivering software and get home to their families in time for dinner because they’ve been so productive during the day.  So we will grow geographically, adding more local presences around the globe (in many cases with our growing partner ecosystem).

We will also grow the breadth of our integrations portfolio so that we will provide coverage for the top 80% of the market leading tools in every category we support (project/portfolio management, requirements management, Agile planning, change management, test / quality assurance, and help desk / ITSM).  Finally, we will evaluate adding integrations into adjacent markets based on customer demand.  In essence, we have raised funding to do a lot more of what we’ve been doing.  That also means we will maintain the discipline that allowed us to bootstrap the business through the ups and downs of the past 7.5 years.

John Thornton

The round was led by Austin Ventures, the VC in my home state of Texas.  With over $3.9B raised over the course of 10 funds, Austin Ventures has been the most active investor in Texas.   We’re excited to be adding John Thornton to our board of directors.  John has been a VC for Austin Ventures for the past 25 years, even leading the firm for a number of years as the managing director.  John’s ability to reach into his decades of experience in enterprise software stemming all the way back to his Tivoli and BuildForge investments to some of his other investments like SolarWinds, Datical and ITInvolve will help us navigate the growth we will be going through over the next few years.

Mike Satterfield

We also syndicated the round with Yaletown Ventures, the most active VC in Canada.  Mike Satterfield will be representing Yaletown on the Tasktop board after spending about a year as a board observer.  We’re thrilled to be continuing to get Mike’s experience working with enterprise software companies.  He has already been critical to helping us in recruiting in Vancouver as well as helping us navigate some of the challenges we’ve faced as a Canadian company working on a global stage.

I’m also excited that my friends at the Capital Factory also chose to participate in this round.  Both John and I are mentors at the Capital Factory, so this investment comes full circle for both of us.

I want to also say that I am proud that we’ve done it as a Canadian company.  Mik Kersten, Gail Murphy and Rob Elves started this company 7.5 years ago out of the University of British Columbia.  UBC has been a huge part of what we are, what we’ve been and what we will be.  I’m proud of the partnership we have with UBC and am proud of our organization who takes time to give back to its roots.  There are so many other people who have made a difference en route to this milestone for the company e.g., Rizwan Kheraj and all of the folks at the NRC, Bill Tam and the folks at BCTIA, and Mike Milinkovich and the Eclipse Foundation.

We also want to thank our customers, our partners, and our friends in the media and at analyst firms for their support over the past 7.5 years in allowing us to enter this new chapter of our company’s growth.

IBM Innovate: DevOps grows up. Agile loses weight. Collaboration gets its groove back

by Betty.Zakheim, June 10th, 2014

Last week, Tasktop had a wonderful week at IBM Innovate in Orlando. We were honored by the conference organizers who invited us to present, or co-present, in eight sessions. We were delighted to win the IBM Business Partner award for Innovation in IT Development . We’re especially proud that this was the second year in a row that we won this award. We had terrific meetings with our customers, potential customers and IBMers. Aside from the fact that I’m responsible for managing Tasktop’s conference presence, as a former member of the Rational team… and later as a former IBMer… going to Innovate is a bit like coming home. It was wonderful seeing how many of my former colleagues are still with Rational… and better yet, were willing to spend a little time with me to catch up.

The Tasktop Crew at Innovate

Of course we talked about the Good Old Days. But we also talked about the changes in the industry. Yes, I’m a marketing weenie… but the reason I love my job so much is that as a former developer (and engineering manager) the act of crafting software has always been, and always will be, near and dear to my heart

For me, the Biggest Thing at Innovate was that DevOps has grown up. In its original incarnation, the idea behind DevOps was that the entire software delivery process would go so much better if, instead of lobbing applications over the wall at Operations, there was some (pre-delivery) collaboration between the Development and the Operations teams. As bad as long waterfalls were, they were made worse by a discontinuity between the team building the software, and the team responsible for its care and feeding in production. Perhaps, I hoped, if the two teams collaborated right from the start, the promise of Agile would flow all the way into Operations.

But, I was so very disappointed when the movement seemed to narrow down to only Continuous Delivery/Continuous Integration and the tools required to automate the delivery of code to production. Sure, that’s better than just tossing a build at Operations and hoping they can figure out what to do with it, but REALLY… what happened to the COLLABORATION between the Development and Operations teams?!

Instead, Continuous Delivery seemed to be all about getting the bits into production. But unless two developers are working on the same sub-system, there isn’t all that much collaboration on the code per se. The real collaboration is around all the development artifacts… the requirements/user stories, models, defects, plans… and no one seemed to be talking about that. Until now. Finally, DevOps in the broader sense, is coming into its own.

I’m happy to report that during this Innovate, the notion of DevOps took center stage. The sessions were divided into three “streams”:
· Innovation – emerging technologies

· Continuous Engineering – the delivery of complex and connected products (where “products” are a combination of software and hardware), and

· DevOps!!

Oh sure, the words “continuous delivery” were used during the DevOps stream, but not as the sum-total of the conversation. In this incarnation of DevOps, continuous delivery is an outcome of using lean and Agile principles, of continuous planning, continuous testing and of continuous collaboration! Finally, the DevOps movement is morphing into what it could have been from the start.

And speaking of morphing, over the years, Innovate itself has changed and evolved. When I was with Rational, our user conference was called RUC (the Rational User Conference). After we were acquired by IBM, it became RSDUC (the Rational Software Development User Conference) and had about 2,500 attendees. This year there were 4,000 attendees at IBM Innovate. All along, this has been a user conference for Rational products. But next year, there is yet another evolution. IBM plans to meld several of their conferences together. We don’t know the name yet, we only know that it will be in February, in Las Vegas, with an expected attendance of 20,000. With several of their Software Group brands working together (some that concentrate on Development and some that concentrate on Operations), I’m sure there will be yet another evolution on IBM’s take on DevOps. And I’m looking forward to another terrific week.

First look: Tasktop Sync Integrates Visual Studio Online with popular DevOps Tools

by Neelan Choksi, May 13th, 2014

I’m excited about returning to TechEd for the first time in 3 years.  In 2011, I attended my first TechEd in Atlanta.  It was an exciting time for Tasktop; we had just announced Visual Studio support for Tasktop Dev and were a couple months away from announcing Tasktop Sync, our flagship integration hub for the DevOps stack.



Maude Hejna, Program Manager for Visual Studio Partner Program (VSIP) at Microsoft, and Neelan Choksi, President of Tasktop

TechEd is particularly interesting this year because Microsoft is embracing interoperability between Microsoft and other technologies under Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella, the same Nadella who offered Linux on Azure and, in his first activity as CEO of Microsoft, rolled out Office for Apple’s iPad.  I am personally rooting for success for Nadella, who, like me, is a graduate of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business (now the Booth School of Business).

At Tasktop, we are especially pleased to see the trend towards interoperability. To that end, we are excited to show a Technology Preview of Tasktop Sync’s support of Visual Studio Online (VSO) at TechEd today. This Technology Preview highlights Tasktop’s strong and long-standing relationship with Microsoft:

Tasktop Dev integration with Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server (TFS)
Tasktop Sync integration with Microsoft TFS (including sim-shipping with TFS 2012 and TFS 2013 when they were released)


The demo video above highlights integration between Visual Studio Online and Atlassian JIRA.  This extension is currently a Technology Preview (closed Beta) with the GA of this functionality coming this summer.

In this video, we demonstrate a Visual Studio Online-to-JIRA integration. You’ll see a defect created in JIRA sync to Visual Studio Online. Tasktop Sync will create the corresponding defect work item in Visual Studio Online and set up ongoing bi-directional synchronizations. During the demo, the work item in Visual Studio Online is updated and the defect in JIRA is updated in real-time.  The video also shows the opposite workflow– a bug created in Visual Studio Online is automatically created in JIRA.

This is just one example use case.   The great news is that the entire ecosystem of Tasktop integrations now works for VS online.

As we head towards GA this summer, we expect to be solving additional business challenges based on our upcoming release with support for VSO. For example:

Connecting VSO to Microsoft TFS on-premise and other on-premise tools.   As organizations determine what they will move to the cloud and what will remain on-premise, this integration will provide important functionality.
Connecting cloud-based development tools like VSO to other cloud-based DevOps technologies currently supported by Tasktop Sync e.g., ServiceNow, Zendesk, Rally, VersionOne, and others.
Connecting cloud-based development tools like VSO to other on-premise DevOps tools currently supported by Tasktop Sync e.g., HP Quality Center, IBM Rational, ThoughtWorks Mingle, CA Clarity.

To see the full list of DevOps tools currently supported by Tasktop Sync, please check out the list at http://tasktop.com/connectors.

If you are in Houston this week at TechEd, do not hesitate to contact us about meeting up.


Living the Experiences of Our Customers

by cynthia.mancha, April 28th, 2014

Joining Tasktop as a business analyst in September 2013, I was tasked to learn about the intricacies of the software delivery process while doing my part to help the company work toward its goal of improving that very process. While at first this seemed like an overwhelming undertaking, it turns out that Tasktop has been a great place to do so.
Our Vice President of Product Management, Nicole Bryan, often states that building software takes a village. As a business analyst, I regularly interact with the many members of this village and have seen how the contributions of each combine to create our own software solutions. This interaction has revealed not only the importance of each unit, but has also underscored the principal reasons for Tasktop’s existence.

When I first pursued a career opportunity at Tasktop and learned about its technology, I thought to myself “If the disconnect between teams using different tools is so pronounced, why wouldn’t someone focus on building a single piece of software that could be used by everyone involved in software development and delivery?” If such a tool existed, the need for integration would cease. (And the company that built it would make a lot of money.) Tasktop seemed to be doing well, though, and the position seemed interesting, so I happily joined when I was extended an offer, eager to learn about the world of software development.

And oh, how much I have learned. I now realize how naïve a notion that the development and large-scale adoption of this theoretical all-inclusive tool was. While I knew there was a disconnect between teams, I didn’t realize just how many teams were involved in software development and delivery, the high volume of which would make developing an comprehensive tool extremely difficult. I now see that software development and delivery involves more than Engineering and QA. Product, Business Development, IT, Management, Sales, Solutions, and Marketing, among others, are also at its core.

While developing any all-encompassing tool would be difficult, developing a high quality one that satisfied every team seems like it would be next to impossible. Before starting at Tasktop, I not only underestimated the number of teams involved in software delivery, but also did not fully grasp the fact that different types of teams (Product, QA, Engineering, etc.) have not only drastically different needs, but also different desires in terms of the functionality and mental model of a product. As I’ve seen at Tasktop, people with different inclinations and talents tend to have distinct preferences and to work in particular ways—and this is at a company that is small in size compared to many of its customers. Satisfying all of these predilections in a single tool would be quite the feat to accomplish.

Finally, I failed to discern just how engrained people could become in using a certain tool. The tools we use to do our job define our basic workflows and fundamentally affect our day-to-day activities. And if a given tool is serving your team well, why would you move to something else? Working is the software industry is demanding enough without having to learn a new tool simply to do your job. The bottom line is that change is hard. This is true not only at the team level, but also at the organizational level. Migrating any team to a new tool would be an expensive and exhausting effort and would significantly disrupt work; migrating all teams to this tool I originally envisioned would be all the more difficult.

As it turns out, developing such an all-encompassing tool would not only be a challenging endeavor, but would also be less than ideal. The need for integration will always exist. But this is not a bad thing. With solutions like Tasktop Sync, our partners can build tools that focus on solving problems for a particular set of individuals, rather than tools that fruitlessly try and help everybody. Though varied, the resulting tool landscape offers a strong set of options for practitioners involved in all parts of the process.

The beauty of Tasktop Sync is that it allows each team the freedom to use the tool they choose from this landscape, a valuable affordance that I only now understand, having lived the experiences of our customers first hand. The insight I’ve gained while working at Tasktop has given me an appreciation for the fundamental need for a software lifecycle integration strategy that defines processes and connects disparate tools and teams. It has also led me to empathize with the multitude of other knowledge workers involved in software delivery across the globe, an empathy that drives the work of myself of my colleagues everyday.

So, go ahead and keep working in your preferred tool–We’ll worry about the cross-team integration, and you won’t even know we’re doing it.

EclipseCon 10 years old

by Andrew Eisenberg, April 17th, 2014

This was the tenth year of EclipseCon and my fourth time attending. I have been using the Eclipse IDE for over 12 years and so much has changed with technology and developers’ expectations. At the beginning, just having a single Java IDE that was smart enough to edit, compile, run, and debug your code was a major breakthrough. And for many years, the trend was to integrate into the IDE, with the expectation that all tools be absorbed into the IDE. Now, this trend is reversing and developers are starting to expect IDEs that can seamlessly connect to tools, allowing developers to use the tools in the way that makes the most sense for them.

The most interesting theme for me at this conference was trying to figure out how developers will be working another 10 years from now.

The future of the IDE

The Orion IDE is a prime example of this reverse-integration trend. Orion is a hosted IDE with a light-weight plugin model. One way that the plugin model allows integration with third party tools is by linking out to them in other browser pages. This allows developers to do programming tasks in the IDE, but still have easy access to external tools for deployment, testing, and monitoring. Ken Walker gave a good talk showing this, cheekily called Browser IDEs and why you don’t like them.

Another example of this is the Mylyn hosted task list, which Gunnar Wagenknecht and I introduced in our talk Unshackling Mylyn from the Desktop. The main idea is that current Mylyn task lists are restricted to working inside of a single Eclipse instance, but developers are looking to interact with tasks outside of the IDE (in the browser, on the desktop, on their phones, etc). The hosted task list provides developers with this capability using different kinds of clients that all operate on a single notion of a task list that is hosted remotely. We provide a simple API so that third parties can provide their own clients. What we presented at EclipseCon was early work and we are looking forward to showing more of this at future conferences.

Lastly, Martin Lippert and Andy Clement, my former colleagues at Pivotal, introduced Flux, a novel approach to a more flexible development environment. The main idea is that developers may want the simplicity of developing in the cloud, but also don’t want to give up the possibility to develop in a more traditional way on the desktop. Flux allows you to connect your local workspace to a cloud host that provides services like editing, compilation, and refactoring. This way, you can work in the cloud while still being able to drop down to the desktop whenever you need to. Watch the screencast.

It is still early work, but it is quite compelling and I’m looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

Java 8

It shouldn’t be surprising that the Java 8 track was the most popular at EclipseCon this year. Java 8 was released in the middle of Alex Buckley’s The Road to Lambda talk. What I thought was most interesting about this talk was that it focused on the design decisions around implementing Java 8 lambdas, why it took so long many years to do so, and why Java is now a better language because of its relatively late adoption of lambdas. I found Let’s make some 0xCAFEBABE particularly interesting with its deep dive into byte code. Lastly, API design in Java 8 showed how libraries and APIs can improve by taking advantage of new language features.

Hackathon

This year, I helped organize an Eclipse hackathon. It was a great experience. We had over 50 attendees, split roughly evenly between project committers and new contributors. The goal was for new contributors work on some real bugs in Eclipse, while being helped by project committers who guided them through the process of setting up a workspace, choosing a bug, and submitting a patch. By the end of the evening we had 7 contributions accepted to the code base. It was encouraging to see so much passion about working with open source.

Everyone's hacking!

There are plenty more photos from the event on the Eclipse Foundation’s Flickr stream.

It was truly a wonderful conference and there was so much more including 3 excellent keynotes and of course lots and lots of beer.

Now that I’m back, I need to catch up on sleep, but I’m already looking forward to next year!