Software development tools add a view for CIOs

New products aim to give CIOs and other managers inisghts into the state of software development projects.

In recent years, the view of development has expanded from a narrow one that focused on developers to a broader one that encompasses the full development team, including testers, project managers, and analysts. Get ready: The view may expand yet further.

A slew of application lifecycle management-related product moves, taken together, show that CEOs, CIOs, and CMOs (chief marketing officers) may soon gain a deeper and more detailed picture of the development project queue.

HP has new management capabilities that span project and portfolio management, ALM, and IT service management.

As well, some of the third-party tools linked to IBM's young Jazz developer platform promise better development process insight for individuals across the organization.

Meanwhile, Borland introduced Borland Management Solutions (BMS), billed as a software delivery management platform that enables better orchestration, measurement, and prediction of development team efforts.

"This has been a trend going on for a while," said Melinda Ballou, program director for ALM Research at IDC. "There has been a coming together of ALM tools for different phases, and underlying that the emergence of project portfolio management with a dashboard view."

What we are finding right now in a difficult economy is that organizations are being driven to find better ways to prioritize the projects they fund, she continued.

Project and portfolio management

Spearheading the prioritization trend is HP Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) Center 7.5, featuring new integration with HP Service Management Center, HP Quality Center, and HP Universal Configuration Management Database. The goal is to help CIOs get better visibility into applications and operations that are often described as black holes. The software combination seeks to create role-based dashboards supporting ALM. It includes a slate of best practices for quality management.

"PPM extends the life cycle to include the activities of the CIO and PMO," said Ken Cheney, director of product marketing at HP. Cheney described the present state as a variation on the traditional plague of "islands of automation."

Today we have islands of strategy, applications, and operations, he said. A solution, he suggested, was the "role-based dashboard" that PPM, together with Quality Center and other suites, can create. Great portions of the present suite are built on a Kintana portfolio and change management software, acquired by HP along with its purchase of Mercury Interactive in 2006.

Project collaboration

Rational, now part of IBM, influenced the early trend toward management overview and full-team collaboration. The company is cautiously rolling out products that fit via its Jazz development server platform. Third parties, too, are hooking into Jazz to provide the wider organization with a development view.

For example, Java-.NET integration house Mainsoft has taken its portal-spanning capabilities to the task of exposing Jazz project metrics and dashboards in Lotus QuickR and SharePoint. So, any SharePoint client can become part of any development project.

It was always true at ISVs, but now, with the advent of Web commerce, even non-software companies must schedule marketing and related activities around software launches.

"Many non-technical people are now part of a software launch," said Yaacov Cohen, president and CEO of Mainsoft. "Almost 50% of people involved with delivery are not developers. Marketing must work with product management on requirements; you have operations involved to maker sure it is a reality. There are a lot of logistics around the launch."

At the same time, said Cohen, "SharePoint and Microsoft Office are everywhere. The Office worker is using SharePoint to collaborate [on] product requirement documents. The QA team is using Excel to do analysis. And the marketing people are doing PowerPoint."

This led Mainsoft to work with IBM to create a software delivery process that is more inclusive across disciplines, he said. Cohen indicated that the Mainsoft SharePoint integration with Jazz, due later this year, allows teams to define development methods in IBM Rational Team Concert, while using a SharePoint workflow process for work item approval. "That is an example of an inclusive collaborative approach," he said.

Executive view

Borland Management Solutions software, due this fall, is an important product rollout for a company that has already staked its future on team-oriented tool sets, as opposed to desktop-oriented tool sets.

From one perspective, the software, which is based on Borland's Open ALM Framework that employs Eclipse-style technology, brings together a collection of suites the company gained through acquisition. But it is also described as an application for IT executives to run the full business process of delivering software.

Among the models in the new set is TeamDemand, which is intended to help business users collaborate with IT and development. A TeamAnalytics business intelligence product aims at similar goals.

"Borland TeamAnalytics is about trending information so you can create patterns and compare results," said Rick Jackson, senior vice president for corporate strategy at Borland. "It gives me a chance to compare to see if projects are in trouble. That's great for risk management. We are focused on building profiles for the decision makers."

Jackson said the Open ALM Framework allows non-Borland tools to hook into the overall system. A data warehouse sits atop the framework, feeding information to business intelligence dashboards.

There is an urgent need to better understand the application life cycle, but organization change is needed to, according to IDC's Melinda Ballou.

"We are seeing a further evolution of something that has always been going to happen. The problem is that it is easier to integrate the tools than to get the people to change their behaviors," she said.

But, Ballou added, it's a good step to have technologies that are beginning to work more effectively together.

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