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Borland releases requirements definition simulation tool for teams

Borland's new browser-based requirements definition simulation and collaboration tool, ups its competitive ante in the hot application lifecycle management (ALM) area.

Borland, on the heels of its announced acquisition by Micro Focus, today rolled out a new browser-based simulation and collaboration tool for requirements definition. TeamDefine, part of Borland's application lifecycle management (ALM) ALM suite, allows development project team members to drag-and-drop screen elements and assemble connections to data and logic.

TeamDefine "allows non-technical users to describe UI's and workflow items, and then you can go through it with the end user, hit the simulate button, and it will produce HTML and a fully interactive interface," said David Wilby, senior vice president of products for Borland. Once a simulation has been created, TeamDefine enables anyone in the organization with a Web browser to comment. TeamDefine can manage all of its storyboards and simulations as a standalone product or integrate in real time with the Borland CaliberRM requirements management product.

"The visualization aspect is common in the business process management world, but only now in development are we beginning to address [visualization] in the early-stage requirements," said Michael Azoff, senior research analyst at the U.K.-based Butler Group. "It's designed to pin down the quality aspect; it provides tools that pin down miscommunication through visualization that different stakeholders can discuss."

According to Mary Gerush, an analyst at Forrester Researach, there is "definitely a big interest" in the simulation area for requirements. "Requirements definition tools and practices in general have become a large focus of not just vendors but clients, recognizing that it's really difficult to make sure you get requirements right. The simulation tools we're seeing are really interesting, blending requirements practices with user experience and interface design. The real benefit is to be able to show something very visual very quickly to stakeholders, so they can react and refine their vision to meet their needs more quickly than with wireframes and storyboards."

Wilby said TeamDefine competes most closely with iRise and Blueprint. He calls TeamDefine's simulations "pragmatic fidelity" vs. the high-fidelity of iRise. TeamDefine "allows customers to get enough out of it."

Gerush said Axure RP from Axure Software Solutions and the upcoming SketchFlow from Microsoft also offer requirements simulation capabilities. However, she added, all of these newer requirements definition tools "are so different they're hard to compare, but this is a growing and changing market. People out there trying to define requirements need help. It's kind of an exciting time for tools in this area."

TeamDefine is part of Borland's continuing movement of it ALM products to the newer Borland Open ALM Framework (BOAF). Borland's existing requirements definition product, DefineIT, a static storyboarding product with modeling capabilities designed for individual users, will still be available for those who want it, according to the company

The roadmap for TeamDefine, according to Wilby, includes leveraging the open framework to integrate with other requirements management tools such as IBM Rational DOORS or RequistePro. He said later in the year Borland will make available a fully published API and SDK to "extend it to anything."

Wilby said requirements definition will continue to grow in importance as more organizations embrace agile and lean development methodologies. "Lean methodologies let you fail faster, but you still see [requirements] pitfalls. User stories are smaller and development teams are more focused, but you still need to see the big picture. Requirements definition and management are going to have a renaissance as lean methodologies are adopted across the industry."

Borland itself has been transitioning to agile development, and developed TeamDefine using agile methodology, said Michael Klobe, development director at Borland. The TeamDefine project took a little over a year to complete, he said, starting with an initial team of four developers. Today there are 10 developers working on TeamDefine.

Klobe said they are now using TeamDefine to work on the next release of the product. For example, he said they are working on a feature they've dubbed "swim lanes" for the scenario pieces. Instead of one big canvas for drawing boxes and connecting them with lines, these swim lanes will be labeled by role, such as purchasing, external vendor, etc, "so it's obvious who's doing what immediately," he said.

After talking about the features with some team members, Klobe said one of the developers put together a simulation of what the swim lanes would look like and sent it out to the organization; anyone could comment using TeamDefine's built-in feedback mechanism. "After a week or two we went in and created a story which we started implementing," Klobe said. "People like using the product to demo the product. And the QA guys like it, because they can look at what is going to happen long before story time, and when we were doing estimates they were there with the developers with a good idea of what to test."

Before TeamDefine, Klobe said Borland had a usability group that would "put together screen shots and some visual examples, and emailed the screen shots. Without active simulation running in the background, it was just bunch of text and screen shots."

Another feature the team is working on for a future release of TeamDefine is test case integration, Kobe said, such as with HP Quality Center. "You will be able to generate test cases from scenarios and simulations," he said.

TeamDemand is available immediately. Introductory promotional pricing starts at $3,000 per user with an unlimited number of free simulation reviewers.

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