Blueprint rolls out Requirements Center 2010

Colleen Frye

Blueprint Requirements Center 2010 from Toronto-based Blueprint launched this week with new features targeting the needs of distributed teams and offering enhanced stakeholder collaboration.

According to Tony Higgins, VP of products at Blueprint, four themes drove this new release of Requirements Center: distributed teams, application modernization/consolidation, agile and outsourcing. "Every one of those has to deal with requirements," Higgins said.

Aiming at distributed teams, new features include instant search that delivers results as users type their queries, improved traceability and business process diagrams. Now requirements authors can graphically design sequential flows, including with swim lanes, decision trees and specific rules.

"It's not for BPM or

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business process reengineering," Higgins explained. "We added it so people can do lightweight sketches of the business process to get everyone on the same page to help define the software requirements. It's light and super easy to use, so it can be used in elicitation sessions that are highly interactive."

For enhanced collaboration, Requirements Center 2010 now includes multi-aspect requirements simulation for visually pulling together and presenting user experience, process flows, data, roles and decision trees. "You can mock up the UI, either in high fidelity or lower fidelity wireframes," Higgins said. Also, the new track-changes feature enables all stakeholders to visually see edits and modifications. And with the custom document generation, stakeholders can receive requirements documents in a traditional format.

Higgins said Requirements Center 2010 also targets agile development teams, as well as organizations moving to agile. "The biggest chunk of the market is those in between," he said. "One big thing with agile is the ability to see something, touch it, poke it. In the past, that meant late in the lifecycle. Requirements Center lets you get feedback earlier with the simulator." For organizations is transition, "they can do agile just in the requirements definition phase if they want, and get all the benefits in that phase."

According to Tony Baer, senior analyst at IT research company Ovum, Blueprint and its competitors in the requirements definition space are all trying to address what he calls "business whiteboarding."

"It kind of started with iRise," visualization software, he said. While there are a variety of approaches to this requirements definition problem, "the common thread is that there is a communications block between business and the software developers. They're trying to figure out not so much how gather requirements, but how to state them properly in order to development an application that meets what the business needs."

When whiteboarding, Baer said, "sometimes you have statements, sometimes diagrams. "Blueprint takes input, in multiple forms, and helps generate a use case. From the use case it provides visualization, simulating the look and feel of the application. They're playing catch-up to iRise, which is the gold standard [in visualization]." However, Requirements Center "covers more landscape" than iRise, he said.

Baer said Requirements Center competes most closely with Rational Requirements Composer. In that head to head, Baer said Blueprint is stronger in visualization; whereas Rational Requirements Composer "tends to do more things," but with less depth.

As far as Requirements Center's new functionality, Baer said the business process diagrams are "interesting, but not hugely useful. To anyone doing process modeling, that's probably not going to cut it."

More useful, he said, is the ability to generate use cases and visualizations, and provide the requirements in different outputs. For instance, he said, testers and developers typically need requirements in different formats. A tool that can deliver that automatically "answers a real need."

Blueprint is tightly integrated with HP Quality Center and participates in co-marketing activities. Higgins said Blueprint also partners with IBM, and is "looking to broader our relationship with Microsoft."

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