Rally Software this week rolled out a cloud-based data warehouse as part of the new third generation of its Agile ALM solution, which also includes new social media tools and role-based dashboards.
The data warehouse will allow agile organizations to go beyond status, canned reporting to analyze processes and find root cause analysis, according to Richard Leavitt, executive vice president of worldwide marketing at Boulder, Colo.-based Rally. The data warehouse is the result of Rally's previous acquisition of 6th Sense, and a move in the company's direction toward forecasting and predictive analysis, he said.
"If agile promotes constant inspection and adaptation, then the needs are changing by definition all the time," Leavitt said. "So rather than a status view, when you see that velocity is low you can ask why. It's a direction for us; not all the features are in place yet, but we want to help people ask why, to find out why there are so many open defects, etc. From there you can get into forecasting and predictive analysis; that's where we're going."
Erik Huddleston, CTO of Inovis Inc., a provider of on-demand business community management solutions based in Alpharetta, Ga., said his agile teams have been using Rally for about two years, and he is "chomping at the bit" to use the new data warehouse to solve some significant problems the agile process creates.
A data warehouse "is not a typical feature of an agile platform, but it does solve a couple of massive problems that are occurring in the agile world," Huddleston said. "When organizations adopt agile you have loads of benefits, but there are a couple of really bad things that happen. First, while communication gets incredibly good between team members, it gets really bad outside of those team members. It's difficult to explain to stakeholders what you're doing and when you'll be done. The solution they [Rally] built around the metadata from the information from the collaboration inside the team produces amazingly good information to outside stakeholders."
He continued, "Second, when you adopt agile all of a sudden you create all this white space and dark, shadowy corners in the development process, and it's hard to have a quantitative inspection/adaption process for continuous improvement; you no longer have Gantt charts or Microsoft Project." With a data warehouse, he said, "you now can get same quantitative information in your agile environment, based on some byproducts of my team's executing inside the Rally environment."
According to Tom Grant, senior analyst at Forrester Research, "To prove the agile experiment is going well and where the points of adjustment are … you have to have some kind of data warehouse, and start honing your skills."
Huddleston expects that type of information will provide competitive advantage. "The name of the game is all about time to market and execution efficiency and eliminating waste in the process," he said. The types of questions he'll be able to answer with this analytics tool will be easier than doing it manually, which is what Inovis has been doing. "It's crazy hard to get all that data together," he said.
"It's the culmination of how we see the problem," Leavitt said. "There is so much data and so many trying to improve processes. We're tackling this with the ability to report on what you want."
And teams will be able to view that data through the new role-based dashboards that will allow them to access and narrow the information they need, he said. Other new features in the Rally Release 2009.4 and upcoming Q4 2009 releases include a recent activity stream that uses social media-style collaboration tools to surface the project activity that team members care about; a new time tracking feature; and a Kanban mashup for managing pull-based, Lean software development projects alongside other agile projects.
Rather than call Rally an ALM tool, Huddleston calls it "our agile execution platform." It drives the drive day-to-day execution of the business of developing software, he said, but it also acts as their requirements management repository, their scheduling tool and roadmap, their QA and quality platform. "It's a very broad tool for us."
Said Grant, "Rally has an interesting situation--their suite of products does a lot. They see themselves as a company you want to go to when you want to gain momentum with agile adoption, and there are many faces of that. Rally is in a position to say, 'We'll help you with agile adoption from start to finish,' and they don't say that's only product related."
Rally Community Edition is free for up to 10 users, and Rally Enterprise Edition starts at $35/user/month.