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IBM Rational Team Concert gets more 'social'

IBM Rational Concert, developers and testers gain access to collaboration, social networking tools and blogs thanks to IBM Lotus Connections software, beneficial for agile teams needing to be in constant communication to keep track of iterations and project status.

Software development teams working in IBM Rational Team Concert will soon have direct access to IBM Lotus Connections social features such as blogs, wikis, communities, activities and profiles from within the development environment. Mainsoft Corp., an IBM development partner, announced a technology preview of the integration today, which was developed in conjunction with IBM Lotus and IBM Rational.

"The vision is to blend collaboration within the software delivery process," said Yaacov Cohen, president and CEO of Mainsoft, based in Milpitas, Calif. "Today software delivery and the development of software is the most important business process in the enterprise, and it needs to be fully integrated in the broader business context within the enterprise."

For agile development in particular, "being able to collaborate with the business experts is very important," said IBM Rational's Dave Johnson, who is an expert in the IBM Rational Jazz platform on which Team Concert is based, and who worked with Mainsoft on the integration. This integration, he said, allows the development team to reach out to the broader community that may not be using Team Concert. "With agile you need constant interaction with the business folks, and sometimes it's hard to find experts or get their time. Social software can help you find experts in different areas."

Johnson said software in general is becoming more social, especially on the Web. "For developers, the concepts in social software make a lot of sense." For example, he said, "You can use activity streams to track what's happening."

There are several reasons why social technology is a good fit for software development, said Jeff Hammond, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. "Software development is a very social activity—it's hard for single person to develop any kind of software project of note." While there have always been software teams, he said, today those teams are more distributed. "Even when the team is co-located you'll have someone working from home, someone on the road. The important thing is to communicate in context. Being able to quickly get a handle on exactly what's wrong is what developers/testers find value in."

As a result, he said, more products are looking to incorporate social technology. Hammond said IBM is ahead in terms of deep integration, but said the integration of Atlassian's Confluence with JIRA is another example of this type of capability.

Collaboration within a broader community has also been ongoing within open source projects, Hammond said. "If anything it's commercial software taking cues from open source strategy."

Mainsoft's Cohen said the plan is to build an integration for Microsoft SharePoint social software as well. There is already an integration with Team Concert and SharePoint document management.

In terms of public social networks, Cohen said integrating with them would be "a natural step, at least the professional ones."

Forrester's Hammond said development teams are already starting to utilize public social technology to some extent. "Folks have been playing around with surfacing build notifications in Twitter," he said.

If something like Facebook or Twitter "is a context you use to communicate, why create a completely different environment for development activity," Hammond said. "The key is to surface technology so you have it in the IDE." For example, he said, someone from a project team might be about to get on a plane, get a Tweet that someone broke the build, and be able to make a quick phone call on his or her iPhone to see what's going on.

In the end, though, Hammond said that project teams have always had conversations around projects, "but through the phone, face-to-face, sneakernet—all we're doing is finding new ways to improve the productivity of the conversation we've always had around developing software."

IBM Rational expects general availability of the Team Concert-Lotus Connections integration in the first half of 2010.

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