Integration: The biggest roadblock for users of ALM solutions and other lessons learned in recent Tasktop webinar

by Neelan Choksi, April 24th, 2012

In what was my favorite Tasktop webinar to date, we received a number of insights from Tasktop CEO, Mik Kersten, and our featured speaker, Dave West, VP and Research Director at Forrester Research. This webinar on the future of ALM is titled “Getting ALM2.0+ to work: Breaking down the silos to provide an integrated value chain for software delivery and beyond“. This was our 16th webinar to date; if you missed any of our past webinars, they are available for viewing on the Webinars Page.

Webinar: Getting ALM 2.0+ to work

Ever since Tasktop started in 2007, we knew we were onto something that would transform application development and delivery. Mylyn, Tasktop Dev and Tasktop Sync have been delivering on that promise and we are very proud that our customers are seeing significant ROI with the use of our products. The webinar series has been a great channel for gathering external feedback that the benefit of the products that we are delivering for customers is very real. In last week’s webinar, we got further confirmation that the ALM integration problem we are solving for our customers is increasingly being acknowledged as a major pain point for the entire industry. In this screen capture from the webinar, Dave West highlighted that Forrester has uncovered integration as the largest roadblock for deploying ALM solutions. Features like the latest Agile planner are what gets talked about most, but integration is what’s needed to get the benefits of Agile deployments and the ROI of ALM modernization efforts.

Biggest roadblock for users of ALM is integration

There were numerous other insights that we gained through this webinar. I summarize a few of those insights below but encourage you to watch the webinar recording itself.

The modern software development world is marked by a desperate need to deliver software faster. There has been a fundamental shift in the cadence of software delivery driven by the proliferation of platforms, faster iterations and Agile development methodologies. In this new world order, innovation and speed has overtaken cost as the core measuring stick for software development organizations.

As Marc Andreessen wrote, “software is eating the world“. It is ubiquitous and growing ever more complex. The latest Mercedes Benz car comes with 20 million lines of code included. But if software is truly the differentiator, why is it always late, frequently unreliable, and usually of poor quality? Why do 30-70% of software projects fail?

The core premise is that many organizations haven’t kept up with the changing times. Software now comes from a variety of sources which creates dependencies to the broadening ecosystem. In the past, software managers ruled with an iron fist, controlling everything. In today’s world, control is a fallacy, and the best way to manage the ecosystem is with acceptance and visibility. However, today’s dev organizations don’t always have the discipline to be successful but instead go through the motions with what Dave refers to as “process pantomime”. The handoffs aren’t well defined, and developer chaos rules. In an interesting twist of fate, Agile is actually providing some of the discipline that has been so sorely lacking.

Dave further highlights that Agile has been the catalyst for a lot of the changes we’ve seen. Traditional ALM focused on traceability, workflow and reporting. All that made sense when you were only talking about 1-2 handoffs every 6-12 months, as outlined in the waterfall and other legacy methodologies. Today, ALM is characterized by lots of handoffs in the same time period and hence modern ALM is about augmenting the traditional view of ALM with automation, work planning and collaboration. Another issue that Dave raises is one that is near and dear to our hearts at Tasktop: he highlights the holistic view of a task that provides the context for effective collaboration linked to the work that needs to get done and linked to the steps in the software development and delivery process. Dave adds that seamless integration and ALM automation is critical for success in this Lean, Agile, fast iteration world which is exacerbated by disciplines that use completely different tools. This aligns perfectly with our mission at Tasktop as we spend a lot of our days striving to help companies through ALM Automation™ and Task Federation in order to practically ensure that the information from any one tool doesn’t stay stovepiped but rather is accessible by all constituents via the tools they already know and love.

Increasingly, getting all disciplines to work together by integrating the value stream is the key challenge. This is Tasktop’s primary focus, as we’ve learned that part of the battle is building tools to facilitate this challenge. We’ve also learned that in building these tools we’ve exposed the mess that arises during the collaboration between the siloed departments involved in software development and delivery. This has been exacerbated by the fact that the stacks of tools in each silo have been changing rapidly. In many organizations, ALM architecture is lacking and no one is responsible for the holistic process and cross-departmental workflows. At Tasktop, we’ve augmented the Tasktop Sync solution with Sync Studio to provide visual and monitoring tools to address the mess that we saw.

The entire process of developing and delivering software is disconnected and lacks visibility and traceability. The historical attempts at integration are manual or broken, and things are getting worse as the lifecycle is getting more complex. Despite all of the challenges, we are starting to see some best practices such as having an ALM Architect on staff who is responsible for the entire software value chain (this sounds like a topic for a future blog). We are also seeing some patterns emerge on how to deal with the chaos more effectively:

  • Pattern 1: Defect Unification
  • Pattern 2: Planning Visibility
  • Pattern 3: Requirements Traceability

In conclusion, I really want to encourage you to watch this webinar recording. In addition to the details of the patterns, there’s a ton more fodder in the webinar that I don’t even mention in this already too long summary blog, including interesting stats on usage of ALM components, introduction to flow-based ALM, a discussion on batches and reducing batch sizes, and devOps place.

Finally, congrats to Don B of NC for attending the recent Tasktop webinar “Getting ALM2.0+ to work: Breaking down the silos to provide an integrated value chain for software delivery and beyond” and winning the iPad. Don’s name was randomly selected from the list of attendees of the webinar.

If you want to learn more about Tasktop Sync, the Ovum Technology Audit for Tasktop Sync provides another independent view point. You can also visit the Tasktop Sync page for more info or to request a demo.

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