CollabNet ALM Upgrade Adds Dynamic Planning

CollabNet will let development teams using its TeamForge application lifecycle management platform manage and model a project's scope and timeline through a single user interface.

The capability, which the company calls "Dynamic Planning," will be added to the next version, dubbed TeamForge 5.3, set for release in December. CollabNet, best known for starting the open-source Subversion project, unveiled the new release at its annual ALM EXPO 2009 online conference last week.

 "About eight months ago we decided that we really needed to bear down on the particular patterns required for Agile development," said Chris Clarke, CollabNet’s VP of product management and strategy. "So we did an extensive and competitive analysis of a lot of different tools, to see which features were ‘must haves’ and which were ‘nice to haves.’ We ended up zeroing in on a fundamental agile architecture that involves the way you manage time and scope in your agile development lifecycle. Dynamic Planning came out of that analysis."

Dynamic Planning maps the stream of project scope -- which in Agile would include things like epics, stories, tasks, defects, and tests -- into a flexible hierarchy of what Clarke called ‘time boxes,’ which are similar to an Agile-development component called "backlogs." In the SCRUM Agile development methodology, backlogs are evolving collections of prioritized requests for work the team will do sometime in the future. SCRUM teams use product backlogs and sprint backlogs, for example.

"We concentrated on the mechanics of what were essentially two hierarchies -- the feature tree, which tracks the scope of development, and the planning tree, which tracks development backlogs," Clarke explained. "And we came up with a single compact interface that allows you to manage these two trees in a seamless way."

The TeamForge 5.3 release comes with a best-practices project template designed to help dev teams kick-start their Agile projects, Clarke said. The template includes pre-defined tracker types (epics, stories, tasks, and defects), a set of Agile roles and some process guidance. All aspects of the template are customizable, he added, and can be used as the foundation for new templates as companies refine their development methodologies.

This release also allows dev team managers to create sets of planning folders for their particular release management practices, including Agile, waterfall, or others. That flexible methodology support might be seen as an acknowledgement of the mixed environment in which most enterprise development takes place today. Forrester Research analyst Dave West said that pure Agile projects are still a rarity in the enterprise.

Speaking recently at an online conference held by Hewlett-Packard, West cited a Forrester survey that found Agile methods were more often used in combination with sequential methods, such as waterfall, in enterprise app-dev shops, creating a hybrid approach.

Butler Group senior research analyst Michael Azoff agreed. "Although Agile is now mainstream, it has not simply replaced the waterfall process," he said. "Most organizations will continue with some form element of waterfall, and the balance is still in favor of non-Agile, including waterfall, RUP/Spiral/RAD/iterative processes, and ad hoc and custom methodologies."

CollabNet is late to the Agile party, Azoff added, and may not have appreciated the impact of Agile on ALM at first. "I believe they are now correcting that situation and are able to exploit its products in this market," he said.

CollabNet’s original ALM product, SourceForge Enterprise, was rebranded and released as TeamForge 5.2 in April (see CollabNet Bolsters ALM Platform). With that release, the company began providing developers with tools for defining and modifying profiles and software stacks provisioned on both physical and clouds. The company’s OnDemand Cloud service uses Amazon’s public EC2 cloud service, but also works on private clouds. 

CollabNet’s core platform is based on Subversion, the open-source version control system, and is designed to connect geographically distributed software development teams, said Victoria Griggs, CollabNet’s senior director of product marketing. The Subversion project was started in 2000 by the company’s founders, technology book publisher Tim O’Reilly and Apache project co-founder Brian Behlendorf. CollabNet continues to be an important contributor to the Subversion project, Azoff said. Griggs added that the Subversion code continues to lie at the heart of CollabNet’s products. "We continue to be the primary sponsors very involved in the Subversion roadmap and direction," she said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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