CM Generations and a Vision for the Future


"Smart client" technology and other such techniques are used to off-load the server and network. Local caching and, where necessary, data replication are used to ensure point-and-click performance capabilities. Data redundancy, transaction journaling and automated data recovery capabilities ensure that outages do not occur across the entire development team, and can be recovered from in minutes.

As CM repositories grow in size, and with a high transaction rate, advanced backup capabilities are required which require no down time and which are quick to backup and easy to restore. It is not feasible to do nightly backups of hundreds of gigabytes of project data. Nor is it reasonable to require dozens of incremental backups to be retrieved before a project's data can be restored in response to a disk crash. Reasonable disaster recovery support must be provided, not just by the IT department, but by the CM tool itself, as it is now a key component of the IT strategy.

It Keeps Getting Better
The thing about 3G CM is that, although it is handling an ever increasingly complex set of problems and capabilities, it is easier to use, and user acceptance becomes much less of an issue than with a 2G tool. What are the barriers? Is it slow, complex, non-intuitive, insufficiently flexible? Key criteria in the area of usability include:

·         Accessibility from all major platforms, especially Unix and Windows

·         Rapid performance supporting point-and-click navigation of data

·         Flexible reporting and interactive query, with well-designed pre-packaged reports

·         Support for advanced merge capabilities such as change propagation/yank and product-wide operations

·         Provision of context-sensitive on-line help, preferably in the form of process guidance

·         User-selectable differencing and merge tools

·         Good remote access performance using IP-based protocols (not requiring disk mounting)

·         Operation across multiple sites

A 3G CM tool must support, at a minimum, 3 types of user interfaces: Unix, Windows and Web. Ideally, these are all the same or at least very similar in look and feel. In particular, Web based access should bridge legacy platforms where native interfaces are otherwise unavailable. Please don't tell me that I have to learn a new interface because I've moved from one platform to another.

The 3G tool provides good management level reports: metrics, change summaries, release note support, SVD/VDD generation. Reports are needed which are specific to each area of the tool: requirements, project management, problem tracking, change management, build and release management, test suite management, and perhaps other areas. Even more important is the need for good interactive queries. Not just single point data retrievals, but multi-axis summaries which can easily be drilled into for more detail. How about graphs which are interactive so that they too can be queried - I really want to know what is making that bar of the chart so big. This is the generation where paper and softcopy reports largely give way to interactive queries. Why? Because they are more flexible - you choose what you want to see on the fly. You change data as you identify the need, for example, to raise the priority of a problem. Instead of coming away from your change control board (CCB) meetings with a set of actions, implement the actions at the CCB and interactively show the results. Use interactive metrics to learn about your project behavior, to identify your process problems and successes, or just to satisfy your interests.

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