In his CM: the Next Generation series, Joe Farah gives us a glimpse into the trends that CM experts will need to tackle and master based upon industry trends and future technology challenges.
When it comes to IT governance, a key issue is transparency of process and data, all the way up the chain.
Senior executives must be able to say: We understand the process, and the data confirms that we're following the process. The problem in the CM world has been that the
tools have been oriented to the design team, and not to the executives. Why is this and how can it change?
The why is simple. When the first movies came out, there was a theme: the world of entertainment - movies about broadway, about movies, about stars. The entertainment industry focused on what it knew best - the entertainment industry. And this persisted for many years, although it was complemented by many movies that were also "outside the box". Well it's the same with SCM tools. Our first focus was both on managing
software and on helping developers. It was not focused on the business side of things.
In the emerging 3rd generation of CM tools, we see a definite shift. Perhaps this is brought on by the understanding that to sell these tools, upper management must buy in. Perhaps it's just maturity. Perhaps it's because the scope of CM just continues to widen - CM is, after all, a backbone technology. In reality, it's all of these and in recent years, the IT governance issues of the business world has shifted the focus in each of these areas. Executives want to give more direction in tool selection; vendors realize that the business world is not disjoint from development; and CM has cleary grown in scope to ALM
and in third and fourth generation products will cover a much wider portion of the business model.
So what does it take to provide transparency of process and data up the chain of command? It takes a good combination of vision and technology. From a CM perspective, the processes must be integrated with the CM function without imposing undue overhead on the development team. The best way to accomplish this is to provide processes and tools which actually improve productivity while improving process. And
this has to be accomplished while providing the flexibility to model the required processes precisely.
The problems arise when we attempt to integrate tools together. Second generation CM tools performed tool integration with plenty of glue. The problem with glue is that it is inflexible, not to mention the time it takes to glue things together in the first place. A secondary and related problem was the lack of a single repository to hold all of the
CM data. Even when nice data-sourcing front ends can be applied to all of the underlying repositories, there is still a multiplication of effort and technology to address things such as multiple site operation, consistency of backups, security and access permissions, and
integrated process work flow. Most integrated toolsets do not attempt to deal with these issues across the board. The CM niche deals with file revisions and often advertises a multiple site solution based on this single slice of the pie. The result is a tool administration nightmare.
Third generation tools address these problems by ensuring:
- <Data> A common repository across the ALM spectrum and beyond
- <Process> A common process workflow engine
- <User Interface> A common user interface across the ALM spectrum
These are augmented with some level of flexibility that permit processes to be adjusted to meet requirements. A couple of Canadian vendors (MKS and Neuma) have extensive capabilities in this area, allowing not only the extension of existing process models, but also an expansion of the application set to address areas of the process that are more specific to a vertical market. So additional apps may be added to the