Friday, January 26, 2007

Agile CM/ALM in 2007

Every January at the CM Journal focuses on CM predictions for the coming year. My contribution for this year is Agile SCM January 2007 - Looking Back to Move Forward where I reflect on the previous two years' predictions and update them just a bit, with lots of emphasis on Rational Jazz and MS VSTS:

ALF and Corona? or Open-Sourced Jazz?
While there has been activity on the websites for the ALF and Corona projects, we havent been hearing so much about them in the media outside of Eclipse-centric conferences, and press-release announcements from yet another vendor with an Eclipse "compatible" release of their software. While this certainly doesn't shatter the prediction, there has been more attention (perhaps due to more marketing?) about the upcoming ALM collaboration framework from IBM Rational called "Jazz."

Based on the RDSC 2006 Day 2 Keynote presentation (and also at JavaOne), Jazz is touted as the next generation of the Eclipse platform and the team based software development platform. Rational will of course provide a tool-set to go with it, but says it plans to release the overall framework (and code/APIs) under Open-Source. The claim is that the result is an ALM collaboration architecture which is inherently scalable to provide true support for geographicall dispersed development projects in a true collaborative fashion. Well known names from Rational have been presenting Jazz at various conferences throughout 2006 and generating lots of "buzz," as evidenced by articles and blogs like the following: Interestingly enough, with all that marketing buzz, Rational was also very clear about that fact that Jazz would not be released until after 2006. So look for even more "hype" and "hope" in 2007 when the first releases of Jazz become available, and especially when the core Jazz infrastructure is released as open-source under the auspices of Eclipse project. It will be interesting to see the impact this has on the Eclipse ALF and Corona projects (which Jazz doesn't currently use, althought it could conceivably make use of Corona in the future) and the Eclipse BIRT project (which Jazz does make use of). Current marketing would suggest that Jazz is the new vision, or more aptly, more likely, the new open-source hope to slay (or at least compete with) MS VSTS

The site founder, Patrick Egan, usually also initiates a discussion thread to engage the readership into the topic, and this year was no exception, as Patrick asked us What needs to change in CM and ALM for 2007. At the end Patrick added "How does CM fair in an increasingly Agile world?"

This sparked the perennial debate about "Agile CM" and whether or not it's any different from more traditional/mainstream CM. Folks wanting to read the whole thread are certainly welcome to do so. I'm going to excerpt what I think are some relevant thoughts from what I posted ...
My thoughts are much along the same lines as Frank's posting. I think we need to raise the level of abstraction of our thinking and problem solving. There are tools that do this, but the problem is that until the "lowest common denominator" tools catch-up, the majority of the state of the practice won't move too far past that (IMHO).

I do think its a good thing that two of lowest common denominator tools on the version-control side seem to be in the process of being supplanted with successors that go further in this direction (CVS -> Subversion, and VSS -> MS VSTS). I don't see as much on the change-tracking side, and integrations still aren't very integrated for the most part.

Regarding "an increasingly Agile world" ... as more and more shops and companies (and vendors) say they are "Agile", the more the term "Agile" becomes diluted and branded, and more of a marketing term than anything else. And that does do damage (as Joe mentioned); In fact it does the most damage to those that are doing it justice.

I do however think that the increased emphasis & visibility on frequent automated integration is a good thing, and that the trend of not only doing more of that, but using that as a mechanism of generating and reporting more (and more accurate) metrics is also a good thing. ...

The term "Agile" and the ideas behind it is no better or different from other "fads" like Object-Orientation or [software/design] Patterns. They had lots of hype and buzz, they had some legitimate improvements to contribute to the state of the practice (even if the ideas themselves weren't new - that's not necessary in order to have great impact/influence), and once everything was all "hyped out" they faded into the woodwork, as a natural, acknowledged, part of the fundamental knowledge we should use+apply everyday.

Increasingly, software CM implementations & deployments will need to better accommodate an increasingly Lean/Agile world (and it will be more important to know the difference between the pretenders and the real-thing). While I agree with Joe and others that the basic tenets of what CM is and what it is supposed to be don't change because of Agile, the fact remains that the norm for how CM is actually practiced and implemented in many shops will need to change.

Many tools/vendors are already headed in that direction, and have recognized the trend foretold by Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat), Peter Fingar (Extreme Competition) and others like Dan Pink, John Seely Brown, and more. With CollabNet, MS VSTS and Rational Jazz, the emphasis is on connecting and collaborating. And ways of doing software development and CM that fail to acknowledge that, and at least the first five of what Steve McConnell calls The Ten Most Important ideas in Software Engineering are going to have a tougher go of things than they have in the past.

As to whether or not "Agile CM" does (or will) exist, that will be determine by the people who end up actually doing it, and defining it. Anything claiming to be "Agile" will need to legitimately embrace the ideals of collaboration and the human element that Agile emphasizes, as well as at least the first 4 of the 10 ideas McConnell identifies. It will also need to embrace Lean principles and techniques. And if I get to have any part in shaping it, I think it should also include heaping helpings of Theory of Constraints (including Critical Chain) and Six-Sigma as they apply to CM and the "throughput" of change-flow, and change management.

All those things have something useful and important to offer us, and for those that can sift thru the hype and wannabees, there are huge gains to be had (whatever the trendy term end up being). I also agree with Bill Langston that there are some relevant standards (as well as "classic" ideas & methods) that are important to maintain, and which must "temper" the application of the newer and trendier (instead of always going back and forth between rigid and unyielding extremes).

Maybe it should be "Jeet Kune Do" CM instead of "Agile" CM :) Because we need to look at the new things and "keep what is useful" without abandoning the old so we can adapt and change as the speed of business and technology mandates.

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