CM Tools and Transparency in IT Governance


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:  he entertainment industry. This persisted for many years, though it was complemented by many movies that were also "outside the box".  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.  Or 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 and vendors realize that the business world is not disjoint from development.  CM has clearly grown in scope to ALM
and third and fourth generation products will cover a much wider portion of the business model.

The Basics
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 that actually improve productivity while improving process. This has to be accomplished while providing the flexibility to model the required processes precisely.

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


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