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In-context collaboration within an Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) solution.

  • 02/09/2011
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR

Very often conversations in email lose the context of the discussion or mostly likely are lost in mailbox.  With in-context collaboration, conversations are kept with the artifacts. Decisions are documented in the tool and can be linked back to the conversations that drove those decisions. Never again will you need to re-visit a decision because someone was on holiday or wasn’t paying attention.

The need for in-context collaboration is more important than ever. Today’s software teams are more distributed than ever before, as two-thirds of organizations have teams that work in multiple locations.

Distributed teams give organisations the flexibility to:

• Leverage technical and business talent wherever it is located.
• Fast-track projects by quickly onboarding additional resources.
• Include the right stakeholders in business-critical decisions.

But with these benefits come challenges. Many organizations rely on email, spreadsheets or loosely integrated tools as their collaboration infrastructure. These may seem like the most cost-effective solutions, but often result in lower productivity from individual team members as they spend more time searching for and sending emails, populating spreadsheets for status and cutting and pasting data from one tool to another.

A collaborative ALM environment can help team members focus on the task at hand while capturing a “single source of the truth” on technical and business decisions. For example, as team members discuss a new requirement, they should be able to see the business motivation for the requirement, identify who else is or will be working on the requirement, chat in real-time, and jointly review design and requirements artifacts. Capturing discussions and chats within the ALM environment helps everyone understand what is being done and why.

Collaboration isn’t just about being friendly and collegial with each other. Collaboration contributes to higher quality and improved value to the stakeholders, which means that team collaboration is a key to innovation. Collaboration tools within an ALM solution can improve a team’s ability to connect with each other, to respond to changing events, and to improve project predictability.

Collaboration tools can also help teams focus on what matters. Teams should seek every opportunity to automate manual, non-creative tasks. A good ALM solution enables build and test automation, but automation can also apply to status reporting and information access. Project and personal dashboards play an important role in bringing automated information to the team by providing transparency into their work and access to real-time data with team reports and queries. A well-designed user interface automates access to information, by bringing information to the user instead of forcing a manual ‘context switch’ to access another application. This form of automation naturally leads to better collaboration.

DON’T create an environment of silo’d teams and disconnected data that is hard to access by other members of the team.

Track all tasks across the disciplines across the life cycle.
Unified team shares linked data. Use lifecycle queries to answer more meaningful questions such as“Which requirements are affected by defects?” Hovering a mouse over link provides information about the artifact at the other end of the link.

DON’T manually collect status reports.

Collaboration is also about knowing what is going on without having to ask, team activites/events and changes are easily accessible and visible to every one.
Dashboards and lifecycle queries provide real-time status of the team’s progress. Mini, personal dashboards are always accessible through out the user interface.

DON’T rely on email discussions.

Important discussions are lost to email and chat archives – project records are missing the “real reason” for decisions.
Ensure all discussions are recorded in work items integrated on the plan.
ALM environment becomes an essential “archeological tool” for understanding the past, speeding later enhancements.

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