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"Development as a team sport" theme plays out at IBM Innovate event

The cause for software productivity was forwarded this week at the IBM Innovate 2011 event in Orlando, Fla.

IBM Rational executives forwarded the cause of software productivity this week at the IBM Innovate 2011 event in Orlando, Fla. Though short on new products, the Rational group's contribution to the productivity push was borne on the back of several enhancements to its Jazz collaborative ALM tooling platform.  

Integration of such tools is a major key to productivity advances, according to IBM. At the Innovate event, the IBMers will consistently call for making development ''a team sport,'' rather than a solidarity endeavor. ALM tools are posed as the means to that end.

To further the interoperability of IBM and outsiders' tools, IBM proposed a new Eclipse project called "Lyo." This is an Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration-enabled (OSLC-enabled) SDK that helps developers implement OSLC integrations between tools. At Innovate, BSD Group demonstrated an OSLC-based integration bridge that linked some HP test tool data to OSLC.

The present software development collaboration and productivity push comes in the wake of a recent IBM CEO Study that finds more than 62% of development projects fail to meet the intended schedule and 30% of project costs are caused by ''rework and poor execution of requirements.''

Better software productivity

Better software productivity is essential to most organizations today, said IBM's Walker Royce. Flexibility and better communications between developers – as well as better communications between developers and others in the overall organization - are essential, he indicated.

Improving software economics has long been Rational's mission – ''economics'' here meaning more value for less resource, said Royce, Chief Software Economist, IBM Rational.

''When we talk about collaboration we are talking about improving team productivity, not [that of] an individual tester," he said.

At an Innovate reporters' panel, Royce maintained that software development is still a case of trial-and-error, with less kinship to engineering than has sometimes been proclaimed.

He pointed to the ascent of agile methods as an antidote.  

''Modern governance techniques recognize that solutions emerge over time. It can't be specified all upfront. You need to take a modern software design through multiple progressions and digressions,'' said Royce.

He suggested that, going forward, integration testing will take a greater role, perhaps surpassing unit testing, one of the key tenets of agile development, in overall importance.

"We are reaching the limits of individual productivity improvements,'' he said. "If you really want to make the transition from conventional governance to modern economical governance, integration testing should precede unit testing. ''

How do you do that?

''The way you do that is you plan on it,'' he says.

''Unit testing for all possibilities is very expensive,'' noted Royce. ''To spend on [extensive unit testing] before knowing the interfaces have high fidelity is poor economic judgment.''

''When you can get requirements analysts to work on the most important usage models and use cases and integrate them with the testers earlier, this is the transition from conventional governance to modern economical governance," he said.

Among Innovate 2011 software releases aimed at addressing the issues Royce raises were a Rational unified development platform for Collaborative Lifecycle Management that brings together IBM Rational Requirements Composer, IBM Rational Team Concert and IBM Rational Quality Manager. Also on tap are new integrations between IBM Connections social networking software for business and IBM Rational Team Concert.

Collaboration and software development processes

Improved collaboration tools can boost successful productivity and bring isolated developers into the mainstream of activity in an organization, according to one software manager. "Our focus is no longer on individual activities, but on achieving the end goal," said Peter Rasmussen, Development Director at Danske Bank, Copenhagen, Denmark, who appeared at Innovate.

He said the Danske Bank development group's first step in this recent journey was to create a common development process based on Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI). The bank's development group chose function point metrics to gauge project performance. This was accompanied by a shift from homegrown tools to use of IBM Rational tools.

Rasmussen's analysis of metrics to date shows that teams run by highly experienced project managers are 50% more efficient than those run by less experienced ones. Moreover, smaller projects are twice as efficient as larger projects, he said.

Productivity issues still have to be balanced with the drive to innovate – and profit, he suggested.

"We've had to increase collaboration between our business units and the IT organization,'' he said. ''However, delivering the right solution at the right time also became a key objective.''

Refocusing development has required a massive cultural change with ''many ups and downs,'' he admitted, adding that he best remembers the ups.

Ed Note: Among other users of collaborative ALM tools at Innovate 2011 was General Motors, which described component reuse successes achieved in building its new Volt hybrid car.

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