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Tools bringing traditional, agile projects together

Larger organization's distributed teams, "stickies on the whiteboard doesn't cut it," said Todd Olson, of Rally Software. "Executives need a different set of tools." The addition of new tools will optimize agile usage for executives looking to track project progress.

For larger organizations with distributed teams, "stickies on the whiteboard doesn't cut it," said Todd Olson, product line manager at Rally Software. "Executives need a different set of tools."

How to communicate and report on the status of agile projects, particularly in the context of an organization's overall portfolio, is a challenge project management vendors are addressing, particularly in more traditional waterfall-like projects.

"The first thing about agile is that transparency requires information, and collaboration requires information. When organizations scale agility, analysis aspects around transparency become more important," said Dave West, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. "A lot of vendor organizations are adding capability to provide transparency and information for agile at scale."

Rally, for its part, recently announced new reporting capabilities for its agile application lifecycle management (ALM) solution, which integrates technology from the acquisition of 6th Sense Analytics.

The new reporting framework includes a single-source reports tab, providing both development and executives with more visibility into the status and quality of agile projects. New features include: iteration and release burnup charts, release defect trend reports, customizable program chart mashups and iteration dashboard mashups. In addition, all reports can now be saved and easily shared with stakeholders outside of development using a variety of methods, including PDF with annotations.

"The key thing here is teams wanting to share status with executives. These features help executives get the visibility they want into projects," said Olson.

"As agile becomes more mainstream, and starts finding its way into larger organizations, we're seeing different requirements," Olson said. "Before, it focused more at the team level with smaller pockets of agile, but now it's more broadly accepted, and we're seeing more demand for those style features—more executive level, more reporting."

Brian Lomeli, senior program manager in the service automation group at BMC Software, said the new reporting capabilities meet a need his organization has. "One weak side in Rally was the reporting," he said. "We're excited about the acquisition of 6th Sense, and a better capability to show the health and status of our projects."

Larger organizations with both agile and traditional development teams need insight into both. According to Forrester's West, "traditional PPM vendors are increasingly interested in agile as it becomes more popular. PPM vendors are offering abilities to merge all that data to one pain of glass."

Seattle-based Daptiv, an on-demand PPM vendor, recently announced Daptiv Scrum, an agile solution for managing, tracking and measuring application development projects from a business process perspective. Built on Daptiv's on-demand platform, Daptiv Scrum was initially developed for and implemented by Daptiv's own IT department.

"We used to use a Scrum tool here," said Tim Low, vice president of marketing at Daptiv. "It was pretty adequate for the Scrum team but from an executive point of view there was no benefit to us in using that tool. A lot of tools on the market haven't taken into account that there are strategic initiatives that these application development projects are for. We were interested in being able to create visibility so we could manage the business side, like go-to-market activities, more effectively."

He continued, "The problem plaguing those using agile methods is that the nagging complaint that it's tough for the business stakeholder or executive management to understand how the agile teams are progressing. The problem we solve is to help look at the progress and performance of Scrum teams in the context of the bigger IT portfolio."

Because Daptiv Scrum is delivered on the same on-demand platform as Daptiv's PPM solution, data models can be combined on the back end, Low said, enabling the creation of reports and dashboards that combine data from both areas.

Daptiv also has a new partnership with Bellevue, Wash.-based Velocity Partners, an outsourcer and consulting organization that originally engaged with Daptiv in a coaching capacity around Scrum. The ability of Daptiv Scrum to help organizations get an end-to-end view of their project portfolio is what organizations need, said Phillip Cave, director project services. "We have customers migrating to their first Scrum team, but still have waterfall or forecast-driven teams. The ability to use [Daptiv] for both sets of teams is very appealing."

Cave continued, "If your goal is to have a consolidated view into your portfolio, then prior to [this] it was difficult. One way was to create a spreadsheet, or create a separate report if you were using something like a Planview to report to the PMO [project management office]." Now, he said, "that extra step or disconnect with data doesn't have to be there."

It's not just PPM products that are bringing agile and traditional worlds together, however. Redwood City, Calif.-based Serena Software recently announced support for agile development in its software change and configuration management product, Dimensions CM and Express 2009 R1. The release adds multi-steam development and continuous integration capabilities. And now developers can utilize Dimensions from within their tool of choice, such as Eclipse or Visual Studio.NET.

"In heavily regulated industries they're still driven by mandates and the rigors of traceabilty—that doesn't go away," said Ash Owen, director of product marketing. "But [agile] developers want their SCM [software configuration management] tools to be hidden, to automate builds and releases and seamlessly hand off to QA. There are specialist SCM tools for agile, and more traditional SCM tools for waterfall, but we're finding many organizations don't want to swap tools. They want to accommodate multiple methods and processes."

Dimensions with agile support is available now and free for customers on maintenance; list price for new customers is $3,500 per user. Daptiv Scrum is available for $35/user/month. And Rally Community Edition is free for up to 10 users; the Rally Enterprise Edition starts at $35/user/month.

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