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What is Software Lifecycle Integration ?

Software is an essential component of many businesses these days. Many organisations only exist due to software that has enabled them to provide services and products that were not  previously possible, or they have re-imagined a service and improved on it by creating a software enabled self services.

One thing that hasn't changed though, is that developing software is difficult.  The complexity faced by software developers and software development teams can be attributed to integrating the plethora of tools,  platforms, architectures and frameworks, which ironically have evolved to help make things easier, in order to connect teams and processes.

We need to mix into the soup an ever-increasing demands of  scalability, productivity, efficiency, quality, regulatory, compliance, transparency and above all else sanity.  Organisations also realise that the number of stakeholders in an average software development project have increased.  It is also common for these stakeholders to be distributed either by geographic separation or maybe even organizationally.

Organisations will often attempt to try to use one Application life-cycle Management tool, but will very often run into complications and limitations introduced by their tool.  Organisations meet the limitations of a tool, not because the tool is of inferior quality, but rather that a tool is may be purposely designed to fulfil a purpose and most of the functions and capability within those tools are designed to fulfil criteria within a niche.   The vendors of these tools may attempt to add functionality to enrich and enhance capabilities of these tools, but despite all their best intentions the enhancements may be particularly aimed at  specific skill or niche market segment.

We have to also bear in mind the mindset and skills of particular users of tools. The average software development project or team will be composed of members with a number of skills and specialities. The tools and applications they will prefer to use, will undoubtedly be tailored to their specific skill sets.  For a number of these trades specific tools have become their skill set defacto tool.  For instance, many Quality Assurance professionals may prefer HP ALM while software developers will be inclined to use Atlassian JIRA and your Business Analysts, Project Management and Management may prefer to use Blueprint .

Inadequate tooling

At a superficial level, it may seem possible for organisations to standardise on just any one of these tools, the true pain only starts expose itself later in the cycle, when each of the disciplines try to manipulate the tool to meet their specific requirements.   Often this manipulation introduces additional complexity which leads to confusion.  Often, manual workarounds are introduced which often  result in "Status" meetings or "Catch Ups" . In the worst case scenarios, as I have witnessed over the years,  individuals have been assigned to monitor these manual processes and are responsible for sending detailed email reports on call external activities beyond the scope of tools.

To add further complications, not everyone working on or have some obligations assigned to the project may have access to the system. For instance, external vendors or service agencies, who may have a pivotal role integrating  a vital component.  These interactions may be coped with external emails, phone calls or other interactions. However, vital information may be unintentionally omitted.

The other downside to the one tool approach, is that it does just limit teams to the resources enabled by the tools itself. It's just a pure simple straight fact that one tool vendor cannot supply or develop all the cutting edge functionality users may require. In a large majority of cases most tools may excel in maybe 2-3 areas of expertise and only have minimum coverage of the rest.   This requires often leads to users exploring alternate means to cover the areas that are lacking.

The silo effect

Organisations looking to overcome the limitations of the tools, may tend to introduce several tools. This approach usually introduces a whole new set of challenges.  They soon discover that vital information is now stored securely and staff are productive, however information is not easily accessible or shared by the organisation as a whole.  

Reporting also becomes difficult, primarily because not all the information is accessible and at worst is out of date.  The long term disadvantage of this approach is also placing too much load on the chosen tool because it is not only used for day to day activities but is also the primary reporting engine.

Connecting the lifecycle

I could elaborate further on issues encountered with tools , but I am sure you're much prefer that I just go ahead and provide you a solution to just put you out of your misery. The answer is quite simply Tasktop Technologies suite of tools.  The key tool in question here is Tasktop Sync , enabling you to connect the tools your team uses so your team can experience the benefits of better flow, trace-ability, visibility and efficiency.   Tasktop sync combined with Tasktop Sync Gateway enables your team to connect all your tools and synchronize key data required by these tools.

Tasktop Sync combined with Tasktop Data will help your team to augment the reporting, dashboarding and analytics capabilities to ease reporting burdens. The ability to extract information from your existing application life-cycle tools and store it to your own central repository and enabling you to create reports using your own BI tools provides a tremendous boost to your trace-ability, visibility and efficiency initiatives.

The connected application lifecycle is about ensuring that all the Application Lifecycle Management tools are able to easily synchronize vital information about the status of the application at any stage.

Gary Woodfine
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