Archive for the ‘Tasktop Sync’ Category

Why Integration requires a combination of linking and syncing

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Since its inception, Tasktop has been involved with Open Service for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC). We co-authored the original specification with IBM and continue to work on the OSLC core technical committee. OSLC provides a set of open standards for connecting lifecycle tools to enable cross team traceability and collaboration. Based on the W3C linked data specification, OSLC enables links to be established across tools, repositories and projects. Those links include semantic information that allows the consuming tool to access not only the data, but also what that data means.

The objective of OSLC is to provide a set of standards that allow all lifecycle tools to connect information in real-time. Imagine a requirement linked to a test case where, in the requirements tool, the test information was accessed and presented to the user without duplicating the test information in the requirements tool. These external links are not just links to HTML pages, but via the specifications provided by the OSLC standard, they also enable the requirements tool to receive certain information from the testing tool. This enables the requirements management tool to do something with this data, such as provide the data in a rich hover for the user, or programmatically update a status field in the requirements tool.

OSLC, however, has been very slow to take off. Vendors are skeptical about the motivation behind OSLC–viewing it as an IBM driven standard. Without strong vendor support, customers don’t see the value. Without customers driving adoption, vendors will not support its adoption. This creates a textbook chicken and egg problem. No motivation to adopt by the vendors, and because of limited adoption by the vendors, no customers asking for it. Complicating the vendor adoption problem further is the fact that customers are not actively looking for a cool architecture for linking data. They simply need to find ways to solve immediate integration problems. They need a lifecycle integration strategy, and OSLC is not an integration strategy. A lifecycle integration strategy is a combination of decisions around workflow, with reviews and discussions about things like how reports are created and what tools do to support traceability with respect to compliance and governance. OSLC standards provide a set of technical capabilities that support aspects of the strategy, but they are not a complete strategy. This fact is also highlighted in the work of the EU Crystal project –a project focused on solving lifecycle integration problems in the area of systems engineering.

By partnering with our customers, Tasktop is able to see OSLC in the context of the integration needs of diverse organizations. This real-world view clarifies the ways that OSLC and linking fit into a broader strategy.

A top down approach

For any strategy to be successful, you need to begin with the needs of your users. Integration is a huge and complicated subject. Each customer organization has its own set of scenarios. Requirements may include:

  • Flowing data:  When a ticket’s state in tool X becomes ‘defect’ create a defect in tool Z.
  • Reporting: Create a report that includes data from discipline A, B for projects Q and R across tools Z and X.
  • Traceability: Link a requirement in tool X to a series of tests in tool Z.
  • Collaboration: When comments raised about artifact B appear in tool X and Z, allow users of those tools to respond and collaborate in the context of that artifact in the tools they use.

Of course, many integration scenarios are a combination of these requirements. For example, customers may combine flow and collaboration, or reporting and traceability. OSLC can provide support for all of these different types of requirements, but the reality of many tools, coupled with the detailed requirements for each type of need, make OSLC the natural choice for enabling traceability. Traceability is all about linking artifacts – OSLC extends that to enable tools to link a semantically rich connection. And linking is important to any lifecycle integration strategy to support traceability, and help define and structure the flow of information. In fact, since the release of OSLC, Tasktop has been on a journey to better understand the relationships inherent in any lifecycle. This understanding has been the driver behind adding capabilities to Tasktop Sync.

Tasktop and Linking

In April 2014, Tasktop released artifact relationship management (ARM). The objective for ARM was to enable customers to express relationships across tools–even when relationship models in each tool were different. For example, RRC and HP ALM describe the relationship between a requirement and a test in very different ways. A customer who has requirements in RRC and tests in HP ALM requires the relationships to be described in a way that both tools understand and can act on (important not to lose the relationship between tools). Another interesting dimension of the ability to integrate links is how those links are stored. ARM enables users to store relationships differently–depending on whether the tool supports that artifact type or not. For example, the RRC data model does not support the test plan artifact. Doors NG is a requirements tool, and would expect a customer to use Rational Quality Manager (RQM) or another testing tool to manage test artifacts. HP ALM has a model representation for requirements and would expect the requirement to be stored within that tool. ARM enables users to express these different integration rules as internal associations (when the tool has the model representation) and external associations (when the tool does not). This means that sometimes internal links (links to artifacts within the tool) and external links (links to the artifact in another tool) make sense depending on the tool and what the customer is trying to achieve. Maybe it is better to provide an external link to a master artifact in another tool rather than synchronizing that artifact into the tool and using an internal link.

So what about OSLC?

Now that we have added context in relation to the customer needs for OSLC and how ARM supports linking, let’s circle back to how Tasktop supports OSLC. We introduced OSLC support in 2011 with our 2.0 product release. This functionality was driven by our commitment to supporting the standard, and to helping a customer who was experimenting with linking information. At that time, we introduced functionality that allowed customers to describe their mapping to a particular project and tool and make the mapping accessible via an OSLC provider. Tasktop Sync acts as an OSLC provider, allowing customers to create mappings for their OSLC interfaces without the need to write complex REST API’s. Tasktop also enables non-developers to create OSLC interfaces that can be consumed by any OSLC compliant tool (when this functionality was first added, only IBM Rational CLM tools were compliant).

Example of OSLC

Enabling OSLC external links

It is no surprise that Tasktop treats OSLC like any external link, enabling the link to be written in an OSLC form. Unlike many implementations of OSLC (where the link is added by the user of one tool), Tasktop Sync creates the links automatically, based on rules. By combining the external OSLC link with the OSLC provider that Tasktop Sync provides for non-OSLC tools, users  can create an OSLC link with ARM, which can then be programmatically executed by the user. One good example of this is DOORS NG to HP ALM. BAs within DOORS NG create requirements. A subset of the requirements information is synced to HP ALM allowing the testers to create the associated test cases. A traditional HP web link is provided to the HP ALM requirements, allowing the tester to see the requirement in RRC. Once the test cases are created within HP ALM, an OSLC link is provided back to RRC allowing RRC to execute traceability reporting. Also, because there is a model element within HP ALM that represents the requirement, it is possible to take advantage of HP reports and also add metadata to the model element that is synced back to DOORs NG. This metadata can include status or rollup test success that can be included in reports in DOORS NG or HP QC. This combination of OSLC and syncing provides tool admins with the flexibility to use the approach that best supports their needs. For example, it might benefit the BA and testers to include in-context collaboration. By having an artifact in HP ALM, comments can be written and then synchronized to DOORs NG, eliminating the need to use email to discuss a requirement. Synchronization of a requirement between RRC and HP ALM is programmatic– it only happens when key data is entered or the state of the artifact reaches a certain point. This allows process management to be undertaken with only certain requirements entering the tester’s backlog to be worked on. This process automation helps manage the volume of work and supports process models such as KANBAN or Scrum. It also allows organizations to set Work In Progress (WIP) limits, allowing the introduction of Lean approaches to the management of work.

OSLC diagram

It not about linking or synchronization it is about flexibility and value

OSLC, like any standard, has its zealots–people who think replication is evil and OSLC is the Holy Grail of integration. But the reality is that integration is a more complex problem than any one protocol or approach can solve. I hope I have demonstrated that our approach combines OSLC with other integration models allowing for a solution that meets customer needs. Customers have particular needs and look to integration to help them solve process, team-work, reporting and/or compliance governance problems. Tasktop is committed to providing the infrastructure that customers need to solve problems and achieve software delivery success. OSLC is a key protocol, and as its adoption grows and usage patterns emerge, we will continue to extend our support for the protocol. It is clear from our support for OSLC that there is the need for infrastructure that connects the protocol and associated interfaces with the reality of the legacy tools and schemas. OSLC will continue to be a fundamental part of our infrastructure solution and Tasktop is committed to help drive the standard to be more inclusive of the realities of customer tool situations. I write this as both the Chief Product Officer of Tasktop AND a member of the OSLC steering group.

Dave West Tasktop CPO and OSLC steering group member

Tasktop Sync 4.2 Released

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

I’m thrilled to announce the latest release of Tasktop Sync; as always, we have a terrific mixture of enhancements! With each release we typically add new systems to the Sync Integration Network, as well as adding additional features for systems that we previously added. And Tasktop Sync 4.2 is no exception.

Support for New Systems

As you know, Tasktop Sync now supports over 30 systems and the list is growing fast! In this release alone we added four new systems. Our focus this release was twofold. First, we wanted to expand our support for test management systems. To that end, we added support for IBM Rational Quality Manager and Microsoft Test Manager.

Think of the possibilities! Imagine finding a defect during testing, and having it automatically mirrored from Rational Quality Manager to your development tool of choice… whether it’s JIRA, Rally, TFS or any other of our supported systems. Even better, imagine the comment streams, attachments and the status seamlessly flowing between RQM and your developer tools.

Or, imagine another scenario, where your organization wants to let different teams use various test case management systems, while still keeping a central source of record for all tests. No problem. Teams that want to use Microsoft Test Manager can synchronize those test cases to your organization’s “testing system of record” (such as HP Quality Center) and, again, have seamless flow of information between the two systems.

Our second focus was to increase our support for the ServiceNow platform as they expand into new market areas such as Project and Portfolio Management and Agile Planning (SDLC). If your organization uses ServiceNow SDLC to manage your Agile projects but your test teams and business analysis teams are using other tools, you’ll want to think about setting up this integration. Use Sync to allow your development teams to use ServiceNow to manage their sprints but sync defects and requirements to your test management and requirements management tools.

Maybe you’re embarking on using SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)? Do it with confidence knowing that you can synchronize high-level business epics originating in ServiceNow PPM, to your Agile planning tool of choice. There, your developers can break those business epics down into features and stories – keeping both the development teams and the PMO happy and productive!

Of course, all our connectors are built to support a wide variety of artifacts, so there are many more interesting scenarios you can create with them. Think of our connectors as a toolbox that allows you to craft integration scenarios that meet your particular business situation.

New Artifacts and Attributes

The second area of enhancements is to extend the support of previously added systems. As we learn more about how our customers use Sync, we add new support for additional artifacts and attributes to existing connectors. To whet your appetite, below is a subset of scenarios that we now support:

VersionOne Tests
It’s all about collaboration. Especially when it comes to effective test case development in an Agile world. With our new support for VersionOne tests, developers and testers can collaborate by having tests synced between VersionOne and their test management tool of choice.

JIRA Cascading Select Fields
Dealing with cascading select fields can be tricky! They dynamically update based on choices made in previous drop down fields (for example, choosing your country and then choosing your state/province). Now we support these complex fields, making your integration even more robust!

JIRA Comments resulting from state transitions
Now whenever JIRA is configured to require a comment as part of a status change, both the status change and the comment are synced to whatever system you are connected with. For example, a development team might want to enforce a policy requiring that a comment is entered when a defect is determined to be a “Won’t Fix,” or a Story is moved to “Not Complete” at the end of a sprint. Now, both the attribute and comment will always be synced together.

CA PPM Incidents
CA PPM can be used for more than just traditional PPM capabilities. We are seeing more customers use CA to manage “Incidents” – so we’ve added support for that artifact type. Imagine, now you can have Incidents automatically create a defect in your defect management system – cool!

CA PPM Dynamic Lookup Fields
Have a lookup field with options that are constantly changing (such as Charge Codes)? These are different than your typical lookup list that always returns the same set of options. These fields are populated by a continually changing list of options. Now we support these fields to enhance your integrations.

Our mission is to Connect the World of Software Delivery… with this release, we’re connecting more of that world, and making it easier to do so!

Southern Fried Agile: A shift in perspective

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

SFALogoIt was a day of firsts. It was the first time where the name and logo for the event indicated the lunch menu (Yes, we had fried chicken for lunch, of course.). It was the first time that I got to see Dave West, Tasktop’s Chief Product Officer, deliver one of his clever, information rich, and hilarious stand up comedy… err… umm… keynote speeches. And, it was the first time for me discussing agile metrics insights with a large agile audience since I left Rally Software and became Tasktop’s Data Scientist.

It represented a big shift in perspective for me — from the perspective of one of the leading agile application lifecycle management (ALM) tool vendors; to a more heterogenous perspective where there is both more than just one tool’s ALM data to analyze AND there is more than just ALM data from which to glean insight.

The perspective of others about me, I noticed, has also shifted. I was Rally’s quant. Now, I’m more of the agile community’s quant. One of the other speakers at the conference heard me speak for the first time and tweeted something to the effect that he would have normally skipped a talk by a vendor as not of much value, but that he was glad he came to my talk. Before, I was biased, now I am perceived as more neutral.

It’s amazing how a change of perspective can make all the difference.

Besides my personal perspective shifts, Southern Fried Agile was representative of a number of other perspective shifts ongoing in the agile community. The attendance was up by roughly 50% from prior years. They sold out in terms of attendance (over 600) AND sponsorship. I didn’t see a single room that wasn’t at least mostly full. Part of the credit for this goes to the excellent way in which it was run (shout out to Neville Poole and Kelley Horton, just two of the organizers that I had personal contact with). However, I think there is a shift in the industry going on here as well. We’ve been saying that, “agile is going mainstream” for a while now, but this is the first year where I think that’s totally true.

Beyond that though, I think there is a broadening of perspective occurring. It used to be that agile was the domain of developers with some input from QA. Now, DevOps, Architecture, Business Analysts, User Experience folks, and the rest of the business are getting into the act. We’re also using analytics more to make software engineering decisions. This broadening of the scope of agile is a definite change in perspective with significant repercussions.

There were many talks at the conference that representing this shift. The alternative title to Dave West’s keynote was, “Building a strategy that marries Scaled Agile, DevOps and Lean Analytics into a transformational approach that will kill any wicked witch”. Dave’s final advice was to focus on four things:

  1. Flow – How information moves around your organization
  2. Collaboration – How people cross teams communicate
  3. Reporting / Analytics – What information we need to see
  4. Traceability – How things are connected and governed

Roughly half of the talks at this conference represent this shift including:

  1. Eric King & Dr. Victoria Ann Kline: What Does Agile in the Non-IT Space Look Like
  2. Tim Wise: How to Successfully Scale Agile in Your Enterprise
  3. Roy Miller: NoOps: More Dev Less Ops
  4. Linda Butt & Todd Biedrzycki: Scaling Agile in the Real World
  5. Brad Murphy: Moving from Agile Software Dev to Scaled Business Agility & Radical Innovation

However, one talk more than any other represented this shift — Mark Wanish, David Poore, and Richard Thomas: “Optimizing the Whole” Development Business & Architecture Delivering in Harmony. I got the sense, both during their talk but perhaps more so when speaking to them outside of their talk that it currently takes a certain kind of leadership and a ton of determination to spread agile outside of the development teams at a larger organization like Bank of America, where they work. The first step was to get the infrastructure, DevOps if you will, to work in a more agile manner. Internal IT shops are competing with (or at least being compared to) hosted services like Amazon Web Services. If you can get a virtual machine in minutes and few clicks there, agile organizations shouldn’t put up with 3-6 month lead time for hardware. They seem to have gotten past that hurdle (or wave as they describe it). The next waves for them are architects, business analysts, and user experience folks.

Be sure to check out some of the presentations that have been posted. Keep coming back as they are still being added.

Note: I still owe this audience a description of why I left Rally and came to Tasktop. Now that we’ve released our Tasktop Data product, I think some folks can start to guess, but I’m now free to talk about that openly and will come back with a blog post on this topic before too long.

Connecting Microsoft TFS, Visual Studio Online and ServiceNow

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

I’m very excited to share this video with Tasktop followers, partially because I’ve been promising it for upwards of 3 months (Tom, Sam, and Will: sorry for the delays), and partially because this has been an interesting integration case that customers are asking for more and more.

Conceptually, large companies are having to deal with heterogeneous tool stacks where developers are in one tool, testers are in a second tool, and the help desk is in a third tool. When the tools are a mixture of on-premise and cloud, the problems are exacerbated even if the tool is from a single vendor.

In this example, we highlight an integration via Tasktop Sync among:
Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server (being used for test management by the QA team),
– Microsoft’s Visual Studio Online (being used for defect management by the development organization), and
ServiceNow (being used for IT Service Management by the Help Desk / Support Team)

visualizer

Sync Studio Integration Visualizer showing integration between ServiceNow, and Microsoft TFS and VS

Of course, every customer’s stack is different, and Tasktop’s breadth of connectors allows each customer and even each line of business within a company (and frankly, even a couple of teams) to mix and match from all of the integrations we support to make sure the right information is flowing at the right time regardless of heterogeneity of the stack. And we are coming out with new integrations on a regular basis, so if we don’t support your particular tool today, come talk to us and let us know what you are looking for.

The great thing about connecting development to test to service management and the help desk is that it really highlights a couple of the SLI/DevOps Integration Patterns we’ve been developing over the past decade. The patterns that are most relevant in this case are Defect Unification and Help Desk Escalation and the benefits are:
– making sure that when a problem is found in ServiceNow it gets to the developers who can fix it and testers who can ensure the fix is tested,
– making sure test and dev are in sync and the right actions happen at the right time, and
– closing the loop by ensuring that the help desk knows when a defect they’ve identified has been fixed, so they can let the customer (whether internal or external) know that it has been fixed.

Additional Screenshots

vso-from-tfs-sn

vso-from-tfs-sn-side-by-side

processing

mapping editor

Tasktop Teams up with Appfire – A Leading Atlassian Platinum Expert

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

We’re delighted to be kicking off a new partnership with Appfire to more effectively deliver DevOps integration to the Atlassian JIRA community. Atlassian has always done things a little differently from other vendors in this space. For example, while most companies’ top leadership wear suits, at Atlassian you can identify the most senior people by their Converse sneakers and hoodies. Another way Atlassian operates differently is by offering an almost entirely self-service model with no salespeople. Yes, Atlassian is dipping its toes into the world of sales with new Enterprise Advocates and Technical Account Managers. But there are currently only 7 of these folks in a 1000+ person company with a massive customer base and they are just scratching the surface.

So let’s say you’re a big bank with 60+ instances of JIRA and you need a little more help than just purchasing the software off the website with a credit card. Where do you get enterprise-level consulting to make this work? This is where the Atlassian Platinum Experts come in. The Experts are companies that partner with Atlassian to provide enterprise sales and services for large customers. And Appfire is among the very top providers for the Atlassian community.




Me and George Lannan from Appfire at Atlassian Summit 2014

Because Atlassian and their customers do things a little differently, it makes a lot of sense to partner with an organization that knows both the products and the community inside and out, including the dress code. Our new partnership with Appfire will make it easier for this community to discover and deploy Tasktop integration technology. More importantly, we’ll work together to help customers benefit from the ability to connect JIRA with the rest of the enterprise development tool stack without ripping and replacing existing investments. Exciting times.

For more information check out the news release or contact us.

CAST 2014 Retrospective

Friday, 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-upon 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 an equal part of the team and, selfishly, the 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.

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

Wednesday, 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

Friday, 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

Tuesday, 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.

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

Tuesday, 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.