Tasktop turns 6, plays well with others

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January 17th marks the 6th anniversary of Tasktop’s inception, and has given me an opportunity to think about the past 6 years, and the next. All technological revolutions require a new kind of infrastructure. This decade will mark the shift to the software economy, with traditional companies turning into software delivery organizations. The problem is that, outside of ISVs who have glued together their own ALM processes, we’re not all that efficient at building software.

The generation before ours mastered building cars, managing just-in-time inventories of parts, as well as complex supply chains. And yet we’re still seeing software collaboration across companies and departments being done via spreadsheets and email threads, today’s equivalent of carrier pigeons. While the rest of the ALM industry sorts out the new generation of systems of engagement to make developers, Agile project managers and other stakeholders happy, Tasktop’s mission is to create the infrastructure that glues together this new breed of tools, with tasks as the new currency of planning and collaboration.

When staring out the window at our new Vancouver HQ, I often fixate on the orchestrated flow of cargo ships routing containers–the abstraction that has come to define the shipping industry. Rob Elves, co-founder of Tasktop, joins me in the picture below, as we were reflecting on our journey of the past six years. We validated the need for a layer of infrastructure between the developer and the various ALM servers by shoehorning it into the Eclipse desktop client and giving it a single and collaborative UI called Mylyn. That paved the way for our first commercial product, called Tasktop Dev, whose success was not just in laying our commercial foundation and revenues that drove our growth, but in allowing us to learn what a mess software development outside of the IDE really is. In our mission to connect the world of software delivery, the next step became overwhelmingly clear. A new infrastructure for connecting the software siloes within the organization, and increasingly across the chain of software suppliers, is now the bottleneck. Even the cars that previous generations learned to build so well now depend on dozens of software suppliers working together. Without automating the interaction between these suppliers in a way that supports collaboration and lean delivery across organizations, innovation is being stifled.

As Neelan reported in the Tasktop Year in Review, 2012 was huge for us with with 250% growth since our last birthday. A portion of the year went to thinking about what shape this new task “container” has in the software lifecycle. But it’s now clear that the problem is not the container, as the Mylyn model is nearly expressive enough, and our work with IBM in OSLC and W3C Linked Data is a good start to defining things like common query APIs. It turns out that the biggest gap is the lack of infrastructure for shipping this information between people and tools, and supporting the many previous attempts by each vendor in defining their own APIs specific to their specialization in the software lifecycle.

In 2012, Sync became the lifecycle integration platform of choice for numerous Fortune 100 companies. We got to learn what it was like to be building infrastructure and digging canals between vendors while becoming a mission critical component of the stack, which resulted in Sync’s transition to an enterprise-scale lifecycle integration bus. We’re looking forward to scaling this new kind of collaborative infrastructure in 2013, and making your software lifecycle as orchestrated as the flow of container ships through Vancouver’s magnificent harbor.