Compuware Revs Business Requirements Tool

Compuware upgrades OptimalTrace 5.0 for BRM.

Compuware Corp. has upgraded its Optimal Trace tool used to help organizations address the problem of propagating business requirements into the app dev process.

The Detroit-based company's new Optimal Trace 5.0 now includes wizards to import and classify documents and text from a variety of document types, notably Word, Excel and text files. The new release also creates a structure on the spot, using folders such as Requirements, Performance, Business Rules, Customer Maintenance and Business-Domain Entities.

Optimal Trace 5.0 falls in the mid-range of a cadre of tools that include Borland Caliber, IBM Rational RequisitePro, Kovair Global LifeCycle/Requirements Management and Telelogic DOORS.

Optimal Trace 5.0 is intended for business analysts who typically enter information into familiar applications such as Word and Excel. However, that data often must be re-keyed into enterprise business requirements management (BRM) packages.

"Word and Excel are the de facto capture medium for analysts," says Forrester Research Inc. analyst Peter Sterpe. "Text is not the best medium, but we're living with it, so a requirements management tool needs to make things easy for you."

Users can create subfolders for each folder. They can also use those folders to segment sets of requirements for specific delivery. The folders can be defined and customized for all the requirements within them.

"The folders are as deep or shallow as you wish," says Optimal Trace Product Manager Fergal McGovern. "In Extreme Programming, they're referred to as 'stories' -- details, steps, descriptions, branches, refinements. Each step you take is building a business process."

To make things easier, Optimal Trace 5.0 has built-in templates, including QA and Scrums, and users can also create their own, McGovern says.

The tool also lets users moving from traditional development processes to more agile ones such as Scrum create a hierarchy of requirements and define them flexibly. Users can also represent business intent directly in delivery requirements, by propagating requirements into the application delivery process through the Optimal Delivery Manager Suite.

"It's not enough to, say, put a database on requirements and manage them; the core problem is that the business need is not adequately articulated so that it can be put into your IT systems," McGovern says.

Scott Sehlhorst, founder and president of business analysis and software development process improvement services consultants Tyner Blain LLC in Austin, Texas, agrees.

"The challenge comes from communicating [business requirements] to people who will act on [them] -- develop software, documentation, fix bugs and so on," Sehlhorst says. At the same time, business requirements will keep on changing, so analysts have to "keep everyone current with this moving target," he adds.

Critical for Compliance
Optimal Trace includes change management features and is strong in baselining -- the ability to take snapshot requirements -- Forrester's Sterpes says. It also supports traceability, which Sterpes says is critical for compliance with regulatory requirements such as SOX and HIPAA, as well as for internal auditing for QA purposes.

"You not only want the history of change of requirements, but also the ability to trace requirements to as far as looking at whether test cases have been written," Sterpes says. "You can trace through whether this test case confirms that requirement."

Vitalie Temnenco, a systems architect with the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board in Toronto, has been using Optimal Trace for the past four years, and praises "its simplicity, features like functional-requirements gathering and connectivity." He says the new release has "even more on the management and capture sides" than the previous version.

The software costs $3,800 per named user and $6,400 per concurrent license.
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