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ThoughtWorks Studios moves from agile tools vendor to ALM market

Thoughtworks ventures into the ALM market while maintaining strong roots in the agile development front, with their latest offering Adaptive ALM. Adaptive ALM will offer tools capable of correlating developer task completion into marketable results tracking for managers, making it possible for better communication between vendors and clients.

ThoughtWorks Studios, the products division of global agile consultancy ThoughtWorks, throws its hat into the application lifecycle management (ALM) ring today with the announcement of Adaptive ALM. The new offering is the integration of ThoughtWorks Studios' project management, test automation and release management tools, designed to automate and streamline the agile software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Cyndi Mitchell, managing director for ThoughtWorks Studios, said the integrated offering brings together agile practitioners and management, bridging the tools gap between top-down solutions designed for management and point solutions used by the development team.

"We saw two different classes of tools, neither working well enough to give stakeholders what they need," she said. With top-down tools made with managers in mind, "people put data in because they're required to so management can report on data for a status meeting, but it's not giving you any real information about what's going on in project." These top-down tools "aren't suitable for practitioners."

With what she calls bottom-up tools that address a specific problem, like continuous integration or functional testing, the problem is that "while it's useful to that team in their context, there's no sharing of information across tools or teams, and it's difficult for management to get a consolidated view," she said.

Adaptive ALM comprises Mingle (project management), Cruise (release management) and ThoughtWorks Studios' newest offering Twist, an automated functional testing platform announced this April. "Each of our tools is designed to run and add value as point solutions in their own right, but the sum of them together gives customers greater value," Mitchell said.

"Twist was the crown jewel in completing our ALM solution," she said. "Automation needs to be a big part of functional testing. Twist allows business analysts, testers and developers to together author scenarios, functional tests and code in a single integrated environment. Business users can express the intent of the requirements in English, testers can generate tests for those executable business scenarios, and developers can generate the code. The collaboration becomes tighter working in same tool; and it's also easy to refactor their requirements, code and tests using the tool."

Mitchell said there are two themes behind Adaptive ALM. The first is adaptability. Agile teams are continuously learning, she said, and the way they work on day 10 is different from the way they worked on day 1. "The tool needs to go with them on that journey," she said.

The second theme is good engineering practices. "Enterprises are getting mixed results in their agile journey because they're not understanding the importance of good engineering," she said. "The key message is engineering practices do matter, and tools need to support good engineering practices."

ThoughtWorks Studios is moving in the direction the agile market is heading, according to Dave West, senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "In general we're seeing the major vendors starting to move into agile space heavily, like Microsoft investing heavily in tooling around [agile]; we see the Rational Jazz platform built around agile; HP is more into that space, and also the project management vendors moving into that pace."

At the same time, he said, "the agile tools vendors are broadening their offerings to allow scalability, for many teams, many locations, and to allow different process models to be supported. It's more like an agile blend, what we see with ThoughtWorks. I really like the ThoughtWorks testing offering. It's interesting because it's a domain-specific language—you have the ability to write tests in a test-oriented language."

Danube Technologies Inc., a Scrum project management vendor, is another example of an agile vendor scaling up for the enterprise. The Bellevue, Wash.-based company recently rolled out ScrumWorks Pro 4 aimed at larger groups managing multiple projects and multiple teams.

To date, the agile movement "did well with companies trying to get agile iterations up and running, and the prioritization of work items and release planning to some extent, but where it got challenging was how to coordinate multiple groups trying to work together toward common goals," said Victor Szalvay, CTO and co-founder of Danube.

ScrumWorks Pro 4, Szalvay said, "enables high-level planning at the release level, across multiple projects and component teams working toward a common goal." New features include program management, high-level feature decomposition with epics, release planning view, flexible modeling of development organizations and enterprise reporting.

"Danube is focused on enabling teams as they scale," said West, and competes with companies like Rally and Version One.

With vendors broadening and deepening their offerings for the agile market, "it's a challenging time for customers to pick which toolset [is best for them]," West said. A lot of the functionality is now paralleling, he said, with many products offering "the ability to manage releases, the concept of multiple projects, some level of resource planning, some level of traditional project management, and connecting to the overall development process."

While choosing may be challenging, all in all, West said, "it's an exciting time."

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