Announcing the Tasktop July 2016 Release and what it means to support Enterprise Agile

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As predictable as the arrival of the end of July, so too is the predictability of Tasktop’s quarterly release train. Every three months, we release our entire product line, adding additional endpoints, adding support for the new version releases for endpoints we already support and enhancing our products with features that streamline and automate SDLC tools into a fully connected software lifecycle.

It’s not possible to talk about all of these changes in one blog, but I do want to give you a taste of what’s in this release and point you toward more information. If you want to “cut to the chase,” you can read the following… and if that’s still not enough for you, each of the follow also links to the release notes for each of our products:

I also want to provide a little narrative about why some of the enhancements to our products seem a bit esoteric and hard to understand by folks who are not deeply steeped what it takes to perform enterprise-grade SDLC integration. If you’re curious about this, you can skip down to the section titled, “What it means to support enterprise-grade integrations.”

New Endpoint Tool Support
This release, we’ve added support for Zephyr for JIRA in both Tasktop Sync and Tasktop Data. This enables organizations that use this JIRA plugin for test management to share this information with other systems (using Tasktop Sync) and to incorporate activity on these artifacts into their metrics program (using Tasktop Data). See the video below, showing Zephyr test execution artifacts to HPE QC/ALM:

We also added support for Tricentis Tosca to Tasktop Data and the Sync Gateway.

Enhancements to Tasktop Dev
Tasktop Dev received some interesting enhancements, including extending its support for CA Agile Central (formerly Rally) to automatically augment commit messages with the information about the task being worked on. This enables traceability from code to task, and ultimately (using the rest of our portfolio), enables traceability across the entire lifecycle.

Enhancements to Sync and Data, or “What it means to support enterprise-grade integrations”
As promised earlier in this blog, I’m not going to run through a list of all the enhancements to Tasktop Sync and Tasktop Data. Instead, I think it would be fun to talk about why sometimes these enhancements seem a bit “down in the weeds.” The plain truth is, once an organization realizes the value of fully connecting their software development and delivery lifecycle, they also start to realize the value of doing it well. There is rarely a week that goes by without a prospective customer reaching out to Tasktop to help them fix a failed attempt at integrating the tools in the software delivery lifecycle. Frankly, it makes us sad to see organizations invest time and money on entry-level solutions that quickly run out of steam.

We understand how it happens. On the surface, it may seem pretty straightforward to mirror an artifact from one system to another. And for the simplest use cases, that’s absolutely true; it’s not difficult to mirror nearly identical objects from one tool to the next.

These systems, or integration “endpoints,” present to their users a defined set of artifacts with a specific set of attributes. Most of these systems also allow for customizations of these artifacts and their attributes. After all, no two organizations are alike and the differences in their software development processes require that these tools support these differences via customizations. In some cases, these customizations can be very flexible, very nuanced and as a consequence, they become very complex.

For an entry-level integration solution, it can be tricky to support all the potential customizations that can be performed on these endpoints. Often, their solution to this conundrum is to require the customer (or the vendor’s professional services organization) to write extensibility code to accommodate that specific use case. However, these kinds of work-arounds are not only expensive to design and code, but they are even more expensive to maintain over time. Each new release of the endpoint may make those work-arounds obsolete.

Tasktop’s goal as always is to support very complex systems, artifacts, attributes, artifact relationships and workflows – via configuration using our graphical editor, and WITHOUT asking our customers to resort to coding. This creates a much more manageable integration fabric, with a much lower lifetime cost of ownership.

For most of our customers, we’ve already anticipated and accommodated for these types of endpoint configurations. But occasionally, our customers leverage capabilities in their SDLC products that even we haven’t anticipated. So, in every release, we incorporate enhancements to our products that accommodate these requirements. I’ll describe a couple of these enhancements that are in this release:

As an example, it’s no secret that we have a very advanced method for synchronizing the relationships among artifacts, a capability called (not so surprisingly) “Artifact Relationship Management.” This capability goes way beyond being able to mirror artifacts in parent-child relationships. And with each release, we enhance this capability to make it smarter about the nuances in these relationships, and we provide the Tasktop Sync administrator finer and finer control on how to manage these relationships.

For example, in this release we’ve provided greater control when a relationship between two artifacts in one system is forbidden in the other. This circumstance can happen with one of the most common SDLC integrations: between HPE ALM and Atlassian JIRA. Without this kind of control, organizations are forced to either change the way they use one or both of the tools participating in an integration, or to endure low-fidelity, incomplete synchronizations.

A similar situation relating to the complexity of artifact relationships exists with IBM Rational DOORS NG. This product allows its users to create fairly complex requirement structures. Recently, IBM augmented this capability by adding a configuration management system for requirements. This enables DOORS NG users to create baselines of requirements as well as manage changes to and variants of, these requirements. This is a very robust management tool, with a vast array of configuration options. In this release of Tasktop Sync, we have enhanced our ability to support DOORS NG’s by adding support for “streams” and variant management. See the video below which illustrates synching between DOORS NG streams and HPE ALM projects:

A third example involves IT Service Management tools. Service desk tools (such as ServiceNow) have the concept of public and private comments. Organizations use these kinds of comments to suit their needs. “Public” may mean that this information can be shared with customers, or it can mean that this information can be shared with non-service desk staff… for example the development team tasked with fixing a problem. Allowing customers to have fine control over how, and if, public and/or private comments are shared with other tools and organizations, allows our customers to create integration strategies that match their business practices… again, without coding for “exceptions.”

Ultimately, an entry-level integration solution that does not easily accommodate for the vast choices in customization of and differences among endpoints, will simply become an unmanageable mess and its lifetime cost of ownership skyrockets. They may be able to connect two endpoints with limited customizations, but they simply run out of steam when supporting an Enterprise Agile deployment.

In this blog entry, I’ve described just a few of the enhancements that we’ve made in this release and they illustrate only a few of the capabilities that our products have for managing the challenges that quickly arises when integrating multiple tools that support a complex business practice such as software development.

For more information about this release, including a full listing of the new features and repository versions supported, please see the links at the beginning of this blog or contact us directly.