Have you ever played "the telephone game"? The one where there’s a group of people, and somebody whispers a message to one person, who whispers it to another, and so on around to the last person. That last person invariably receives a different message than the first one, sometimes with a totally different meaning! When I was a child I looked forward to the final result because it was always funny.
The Telephone Game
The Software Development Game
I worked once in a company that had lots of tools. It was a tools chaos! Every team used a different one, there was no communication across them. I would write my requirements in one tool, the developers would use something else, and the QA team yet another one. QA had access to my tool to mark the requirements as done. I had hardly any visibility in the other tools. There was literally no way to trace all the implementation details. We relied a lot on verbal communication.
The result was all too often a scenario like this: my project manager informed me that a requirement was not implemented as requested, but it was marked "done". When I raised the "problem" in a meeting of senior managers, the engineering chief got miffed. "It's marked as done. There's no problem. You're wrong!" In the absence of data, s/he who is higher up the power ladder wins. I felt like I was playing the telephone game, except it wasn't fun anymore. When the stakes are high, garbled communication can hurt you.
Have you ever been in difficulty because of the lack of complete information across tools? What’s the solution for connecting the silos and accelerating collaboration, integrity, innovation? Is it even possible?
Barriers to “better”
When I joined Polarion two years ago I discovered its unified ALM solution for all the teams I was working with. Everything that I needed was in one place. I felt relieved, I felt protected from entering into another difficult situation like I had been in before. I wished I had had Polarion years ago.
But despite the clear benefits, reality is that the companies face many barriers in adopting a single, unified ALM solution. Let’s look at the main ones:
The agile practices that are very popular today give teams autonomy and self-organization. Therefore they can choose their preferred tools. When the teams are geographically distributed, or are part of different departments, there’s even more chance for them to choose different tools.
“The shortest path is the one that you know”. Many people are reluctant to change, even to a better solution, because they don’t like to go out of their comfort zone, or they fear the short-term costs involved in disruption and training.
Organizations rarely start with a vision of massive enterprise deployment; instead, they seek to solve specific problems. As a result, they end up with several overlapping solutions rather than a single unified one.
“Don’t take away my tool!”
People love their tools... and for quite good reasons. How many times in my career has a colleague come to me very excited about an "amazing tool!" s/he had found? Lack of tools isn't the problem. What's missing is a way to connect tools to provide full-spectrum information for the entire product team. People do want to use preferred tools, but not as disparate tools. They want them work together like a single solution... one that lets them work the way they want to and still have the benefit of complete, relevant information.
Excited as I was about Polarion, it became clear to me that integration with other tools was still needed. More than 30 extensions were a proof that Polarion was already addressing this need. The question was, to what extent?
What’s wrong with extensions?
One of the things that I did was to look at the analysts:
2011 Ovum: “ALM integration has been a perennial problem in the industry.” (Software Lifecycle Management 2011)
2012 Forrester: “ALM vendors have acknowledged the inevitability of integration with other commercial and open source tools. However, we’re a long way from arriving at a common integration strategy that makes it easier for customers to select ALM tools based on their individual merits outside of integration”. (The Forrester Wave™ Application Lifecycle Management Q4 2012).
2013 Gartner: “[Integration] while tools provide the basic facilities, the pictures are often better than reality.” (MQ for ALM Nov 2013).
All analysts had consistent reports: there were unresolved challenges with integration.
Why were they saying that? What was wrong with the extensions? And then came the “a-ha!” moment. There was nothing wrong with the extensions... they were just not enough. There was a lack of focus on the integration. What Polarion needed was to change our approach: instead of seeing integration as a mere “extension”, we needed to make it an important piece of our unified solution. We needed an integration strategy that would make it easier for us and our partners to build new integrations and actually make them work together like one solution.
And so we started to engineer the Polarion Integration Platform. What is so special about it?
“Connecting the dots”
Traditionally, integrations connect applications through so called “point-to-point connectors”. Their problem is that the cross-tool communication is difficult because they communicate in pairs only, and the implementation and maintenance are costly because they require development for each pair of tools.
Polarion’s integration platform uses an integration bus to connect the applications.
Polarion's Integration Bus concept
Because data is managed centrally and not in multiple points, the communication across the applications is easier and more robust. Development and maintenance are faster and easier because you only have to build the connection to the integration bus to get out-of-box access to the other integrated applications.
The beauty of this architecture is that you don’t need to care about any other applications that may be integrated on the platform. This opens new possibilities: end-to-end traceability across multiple tools, a central way to define conflict resolution mechanisms, process automation and centralized dashboards.
Our vision is for Polarion to offer you an umbrella solution, meaning a complete ecosystem addressing any software development need.
With the new Integration Platform we give you a unified integration solution that will accelerate integration. You will be able to give your teams autonomy, to contain your costs, and to work with your tools as with one single solution. By connecting the silos you will have access to complete and accurate data so that you can make the best decisions. The telephone game will finally disappear from your organization, or it will be only a fun game for your team building events.
This exciting innovation is coming your way along with Polarion version 2015 early next year. Find out more about this release on our Polarion 2015 Early Access Program microsite.