Q

How ALM teams benefit from social media features

In this expert response, Kevin Parker explores the current and potential uses of collaborative social media tools for ALM team members, including Twitter and instant messaging.

What types of social media features are being added to ALM tools, and how do they help development teams better collaborate?

Just about every trick in the social media repertoire is finding its way into ALM tools. The question is, when do they add benefit to the task, and when are they just a novelty? We can justify the use of all social media features, if we try hard enough, but we need to see them being exploited if we are to calculate their individual effect on productivity. My view is to bring them on and let the teams exploit them. Here are a few examples of what is being done.

Tribal Knowledge: Many teams find themselves spread across the planet, and frequently they are geographically dispersed from their business users at one end of the lifecycle, and the operations teams at the other end. Project wikis and blogs are fast becoming the standard for capturing all the tribal knowledge about a system and its development. They give all the team, and extended team of business and operations, access to what is happening in the project and an opportunity to comment. This greater transparency and accountability take collaboration to a new level of cross-functional cooperation.

Tweet-on, tune-in, opt-out: This may have been what Timothy Leary might have said it if he were bringing counterculture to ALM. Twitter is a very useful tool, and it is possible to automate the generation of tweets from many of the tools in ALM. Having tools tweet (and humans too) about project activities allows stakeholders and participants to tune in to the kinds of information they care about. Instead of being drowned in every piece of project chatter, the individual can select the #hashtags they care about and receive real-time updates and act on those that matter to them.

Is anyone there?: The most ubiquitous of the social media tools is instant messaging. With its ability to detect the presence of a colleague, it makes global collaboration as easy as when the team members were in the same room. When a team member is stuck for an idea, it is easy to see who is there and get the question answered in real-time, rather than send an email and wait. Remember how we thought email was so much faster than the regular mail?

If you want to know what’s next, look to your kids. How are they exploiting the technology they touch every day? Massive online gaming brings us leaderboards, badges and points we can redeem for stuff: is that coming? Apple’s Siri lets us ask for what we want: will we talk to our ALM systems and will they talk back? “ALMa, tell everyone the code is frozen and send it to QA please.”

For a comprehensive resource on social media, see Social media: A guide to enhancing ALM with collaborative tools.

This was first published in December 2011

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