Agile software development made practical with existing CCM tools

Leverage your existing configuration and change management software investments to deliver with agility

Agile methodologies are attractive to software developers in many different industries because they can provide a process that allows teams to respond to change and deliver higher-quality products that meet the needs of their stakeholders, on time. IBM Rational Team Concert helps to jump start teams on agile planning and management. It works well with Rational change and configuration management tools that you already use so that teams can leverage their existing investments and minimize their additional costs as they make this transition.

Leslie Ekas (lekas@us.ibm.com), Senior Development Manager, Rational ClearCase, IBM

Author photoLeslie Ekas joined IBM through the FileNet acquisition. She came from a long history of developing, delivering. and managing the Enterprise Content Management product line. Leslie started practicing scrum project management and applying lean development techniques to improve the effectiveness of her teams at the beginning of 2006. In 2008, she became a coach in the Agile/Lean Center of Competence and worked with teams within and outside of IBM to adopt lean and agile methods. Leslie became the Worldwide Development Manager for Rational ClearCase in 2010, where she promotes the culture of continuous improvement to invigorate innovation and keep IBM competitive.



06 December 2011

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Introduction

IT software teams, including software-intensive and real-time and embedded systems teams, can jump-start their transition to agile processes by using IBM® Rational® Team Concert for planning. Good tools support the "Agile Manifesto" goal of "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools." IT software teams adopt agile practices to deliver higher-quality products that meet the needs of their stakeholders, on time. Agile methodologies have been adopted by many different industries because they provide a process that helps teams respond to change. Transitioning to agile software development is challenging and can take time, so it is a business imperative to get early returns from the transition but not increase the cost to development. Rational Team Concert agile planning and management tools help them get value from the new processes early.

Rational change and configuration management (CCM) tools offer unique advantages for agile teams to share project assets and manage builds across them. Successful adoption of agile methods requires that teams work together closely to ensure that they produce working code at each iteration. This demands that teams have the ability to build early and often.

Rational Team Concert works well with Rational CCM tools already in place so that teams can leverage their existing investments and minimize their additional costs as they make this transition. Rational Team Concert and CCM products together provide built-in agile practices.


How Rational Team Concert jump-starts agile planning

In line with the "just enough" philosophy of the agile approach, just enough tool support is a good way to start. Teams can leverage their existing Rational CCM products to maximize the value of their investments and minimize their costs. They can practice agile development immediately with Rational Team Concert because it is easy to set up, easy to learn, and provides built-in development processes that can be applied quickly. Its rich work management system provides team organization and collaboration options, visible project backlogs, release management, story planning and tracking, plus defect and build management. The dashboards combine all of this information so that teams share real-time data and status updates.

Rational Team Concert agile planning starts with defining the project area, which includes all of the necessary agile "stuff:" teams, backlogs, iterations, stories, tasks, and defects. Teams and roles are easily created, and permissions can be defined for roles to ensure the right level of visibility and access.

In the recommended agile practices, teams work against a common, visible backlog that is prioritized with the items of highest value to the customer first. Rational Team Concert backlogs can easily be rank-ordered to meet this goal. The Scrum Process template predefines epic stories that the team can break into iteration-sized user stories that can be sized. Based on story sizing, the software provides a release burndown report to track progress.

The scrum team works together during each iteration to implement the top items on the backlog until they are "done." Everyone in the product community, including developers, managers, support teams, testers, and marketing personnel, should have access to the team backlog so that progress is visible. A rich set of viewing options display backlogs by work breakdown, team breakdown, or epic stories.

Releases define a view of the team areas, timelines, and project areas. Iterations are defined by start and end dates. Teams add stories to an iteration from the backlog and create linked work items that define the work required to complete each story. When the iteration starts, the team members mark the items finished as they complete the work. Rational Team Concert progress indicators provide easy tracking. At the end of the iteration, stories are demonstrated and marked as completed or moved to the next iteration.


The advantages of integrating Rational CCM tools

Rational CCM tools offer unique advantages for agile developers.

Rational ClearCase and Rational ClearQuest

The IBM® Rational® ClearCase® flagship capability, Dynamic Views, is unique in the software configuration management (SCM) realm because it gives developers immediate and transparent workspace access to their source code component and design libraries. IT software teams work with large code sets, and software-intensive systems development teams typically work with large file directory hierarchies. Developers who use Rational ClearCase can work with their files immediately because Dynamic Views eliminates the time spent waiting to copy the entire project. This is an important advantage for agile teams, because developers can start their work immediately and get to "done" faster.

Rational ClearCase Version 7.1.2 introduced integration with the Cadence Design Framework II that provides analog, radio frequency, and mixed signal designers with an enterprise configuration and change management solution. Hardware designers can use this integration to continue to use their familiar Cadence design environment yet leverage the unique capabilities of ClearCase, such as Dynamic Views, to store their assets. Teams can use this solution to store their artifacts and create baselines that combine software code and hardware designs into a single version. Specific product variants can be stored as branches to manage ongoing support. Leveraging Rational ClearCase reduces the administration costs because the associated hardware and software artifacts are managed in one tool.

Rational® ClearCase MultiSite® replicates and synchronizes VOBs (versioned object bases, or asset repositories) at different locations so that teams can manage their shared assets seamlessly. Updates made to a component on one site will be accessible at another site after replication. ClearCase MultiSite enables teams in different time zones to work together as a whole team, because they can coordinate their work in a timely manner.

Rational ClearCase provides ways to reuse assets in the agile spirit of eliminating waste. A ClearCase view is a configuration of files that comprise a component with transparent access to files from any VOB. Project views can reuse components from existing projects without affecting the original files. To ensure build repeatability, staging VOBs informally refer to reusable build artifacts that are deployable for a given component, like a set of shared libraries. And read-only components such as text files or include files can be reused as-is in a black box scenario.

Rational ClearCase baselines define a set of versions of assets that are included in a particular assemblage that can cross VOB and team boundaries. The entire assemblage has a version label, no matter where the files are stored. Projects that include software and hardware can combine their artifacts to achieve a working product easily and often.

IBM® Rational® ClearQuest® ALM packages helps deliver software-intensive and real-time/embedded systems projects by providing workflow derived from their common process models.

Rational Synergy and Rational Change

IBM® Rational® Synergy and IBM® Rational® Change provide a framework and process for sharing components between teams so they can store, reuse, and distribute components in a flexible way, like enabling black-box components. All related artifacts for a component can share the same version, including requirements, designs, test cases, and documentation. Remote development teams working together use the DCM (Distributed Change Management) capability that sets up separate repositories and then distributes components among those repositories. Teams can search the central repository and subscribe to components to transfer those components to their local environments.

Rational Synergy components of any granularity can be combined from other components and then either reused as a unit or decomposed into constituent parts to enable versioning and reuse of the parts. Synergy tracks local changes and component updates on separate branches so that later merges can be handled.


Combining Rational Team Concert with Rational CCM tools

The following scenario demonstrates how well Rational Team Concert and Rational CCM tools work together to support an agile process.

A team defines a project area in Rational Team Concert, builds a backlog of epic stories for their next release, breaks the backlog down into iteration-sized stories, and rank orders the backlog. Scrum teams size the stories using story points so that burndown progress can be tracked.

  1. The first iteration is defined by using the start and end dates, and then planning begins.
  2. The team pulls stories from the backlog based on their velocity, discusses each story, and defines acceptance criteria.
  3. Linked tasks are created for all of the work required to finish the story.
  4. Then the iteration begins, and developers work on the tasks.

Developers link work items to ClearCase activities; this two-way, seamless access enables them to easily update the work items as the code is updated and provides traceability between the stories and the assets that deliver them. Rational Team Concert provides a built-in process to add approvers to work items and to notify them when the work is finished. They can then open the work items and get direct access to the assets required to complete their reviews. Testers can link work items to test cases in IBM® Rational® Quality Manager and achieve the similar seamless integration and traceability between a story and the tests that validate that it delivered high quality.

Rational Team Concert dashboards track the release progress with real-time status. Easily created dashboards display story progress, release burndown rates, Rational Quality Manager test progress, Rational ClearQuest query data, and more. Teams demonstrate how the stories work at the end of the iteration and mark them as Done or not in Rational Team Concert. Any story that is not complete can be moved to the next iteration with a single click in Rational Team Concert.


Summary

Rational Team Concert is a critical tool for agile planning, management, and tracking. It not only helps teams jump-start their move to agile development but also works well with Rational CCM tools. Using them together makes whole-team collaboration easy and accessible. The combination enables teams to leverage their existing software investments and to succeed sooner in adopting agile development methods.

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