Look for ThoughtWorks to add to the agile project management space this June. Called Mingle, this new tool will be the first product of the global IT consultancy's new Studios software division launched this month.
ThoughtWorks has been using and recommending agile methodologies for about 10 years, and its best practices are rooted in Extreme Programming (XP). The Studios division is productizing the IP ThoughtWorks has created in the course of its custom application development work, according to Cyndi Mitchell, global director of ThoughtWorks Studios, who is based in the company's London office. ThoughtWorks also has offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Canada, Australia, India (Bangalore and Pune) and China (Xian).
"The primary focus [of ThoughtWorks Studios] is to help customers innovate. We've got practices and processes, and now tools," Mitchell said. "The themes that run across our tools are the themes that run across our projects -- high collaboration, a lot of automation, rapid feedback loops and high visibility."
The idea behind Mingle was to develop a project management tool that itself was agile, meaning it is lightweight and has the ability to change as the team and project changes and incorporates some traditional agile tools. Existing agile project management tools, according to Mitchell, are "too prescriptive about the way the software development process should work. These rigid tools become a barrier, and people stop putting information into the tools."
A key practice of agile development is the concept of reflection and learning, so an agile project management tools needs the ability to respond to changes that result from feedback loops, according to the company.
The goal, Mitchell said, was "to make a tool that molds and shapes to the way a team works, to not be prescriptive in the order of how things are done, how you define and characterize requirements, where you put it in prioritization. [Mingle] is geared toward changing as the team is changing, [while] providing enough tracking and traceability that an enterprise really needs, from requirement to code, roundtrip, but not restrict the way the team puts information into the system."
Mitchell said ThoughtWorks used the practices included in tool to develop the tool. "It takes into account that there is no one best way for an agile team to work; you tailor what you do to the situation you're in. Building good software is about interactions and focusing on the business problem."
Mingle also incorporates the concept of index cards, a key tool of XP. "If you've seen a card wall, that's what it looks like inside the tool. It makes use of Web 2.0, Ajax and rich client stuff," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said other Web 2.0 concepts are applied to Mingle such as intelligent tagging and labeling and the use of visualizations. "We're trying to emulate what you see in an agile project team room inside the tool so it's engaging and makes sense to the context of the project team."
ThoughtWorks faces existing competition in the agile project management tools space from products such as Microsoft Visual Studio Team System; Rally from Rally Software Development Corp. in Boulder, Colo.; and V1: Agile Enterprise from Atlanta-based VersionOne.
"But the space is big enough, and there are enough different user objectives in the tools that there is room for all approaches," Mitchell said.
Mingle will support any methodology, Mitchell said. "You don't need to be using agile. It's geared toward iterative development, user stories, small requirements. It's not tied to any methodology."
Demonstrations of Mingle will be available on the company's Web site soon, Mitchell said. The first version of the tool will be available in June, she said, but the enterprise version for larger-scale projects won't be available until the second release. ThoughtWorks will offer Mingle as a hosted offering as well as licensed versions for Java Enterprise Edition and Ruby. The company has not disclosed pricing yet.