Meaning of life—a.k.a. The value of Application Lifecycle Management systems

Marc Girod's picture
Marc Girod asked on February 19, 2011 - 10:11am | Replies (7).

I recently assisted a presentation of Rational Team Concert, and I am shocked.

It could have been, I am sure, some other product. I don't intend to bash RTC.

Only, here is a large vendor which spends large amounts of money (I assume) to produce something I believe and I hope can only be a terrible flop. Nobody will buy that, will they?
Only, they won't buy it for the wrong reason: because it costs money, and the market of ...CM/SCM/ALM/whatever has now gone such a way that nobody will anymore pay anything for that. Everybody knows that whatever allegedly useful there might be in that domain has to be free (like beer, not like speech).

No, my problem is elsewhere: this big company must have targeted a potential customer base, and beyond that, well, somewhere *users*. But who would *use* that?

It is the answer to that question which is frightening.

Pseudo-management. People who would be completely helpless faced to software development, yet in a situation of having some hope to survive this obvious fact in the context of some organization.

The kind of tools I am talking about is meant to hide incompetence, by creating a virtual reality from quantifying the activity of others (developers?) without needing to understand anything of what it consists in.

There are several problems bound to this.

This is not only useless, but lethal. It creates a reality made of amounts of resources, of milestones, of names, of tokens of various kinds, of percentages (passed tests ratios, coverage, numbers of lines of code changed, etc.), which takes precedence over the primary reality made of semantics and of symptoms. It eventually makes it impossible to analyze issues, to fix code, to discuss the compatibility of options and the propagation of changes.

The ultimate problem lies in the paradox that organizations which could put such a dangerous amount of power into the hands of structurally irresponsible people do not seem to fear facing quick bankruptcy. Quite on the contrary.

Stalin has come back?



7 Answers

bglangston's picture
bglangston replied on February 20, 2011 - 11:07pm.

Don't know about the "Stalin" part and you and I have certainly disagreed upon occasion, well, almost always, but here I think you have something.

I once wrote a rather lengthy post decrying the antics of tool vendors. Now I know you don't really like CM, but I think this might be one time when the two sides of that coin can agree on decrying their actions. It has been my observation that most CM-related vendor sales people (and marketers for that matter) are rather like snake-oil salesmen of the old west in the U.S. or like "barkers" at the strip clubs on Rue de Bourbon (Bourbon St.) in New Orleans. The former promises an elixer that will cure all ailments from sore toe to cancer and the latter promises features and abilities beyond your wildest dreams.

In the end it's a lot of razzle-dazzle without much real utility (assuming the buyer knows how to harness all the razzle-dazzle power. Don't know if this product actually fits in that category, but your description certainly sounds like it might.

Bob Aiello's picture
Bob Aiello replied on February 20, 2011 - 11:27pm.

come on guys - I have been involved with three RTC implementations now from the very large to a tiny SCRUM. In my opinion, RTC is a fantastic product with a compelling use case. It is also the only product on the market that can scale from a mainframe to i-series to Linux/Unix to Windows.

I found the template customization to be a bit quirky but loved the well defined SCRUM/RUP templates that come straight out of the box.

It is also a great platform to integrate toolchains and non-IBM products. Now I use Subversion a lot these days and grew up on ClearCase. I am knee deep in implementing Git as well. We have some great version control and code management solutions out there. From commercial products (and I only named a couple) to open source with great support and even greater popularity.

But seriously, this is CM Crossroads - can we please be specific about what we like and not like as technology professionals and maybe leave the references to world dictators out of the discussion?

In technical and use case terms - what do you like or dislike?


Marc Girod's picture
Marc Girod replied on February 21, 2011 - 3:44am.

Hide incompetence, by creating a virtual reality from quantifying the activity of others (developers?) without needing to understand anything of what it consists in.


Bob Aiello's picture
Bob Aiello replied on February 21, 2011 - 7:08am.

Marc - the workflow makes it very easy to see what people are doing. The manager, PM or SCRUM master creates workitems (e.g. defects, tasks, epics, stories etc.).

The developer creates a server side workspace (best practice is to do this from a stream). Then loads the server side workspace into his Eclipse workspace (I cover this in my training classes). The developer makes changes which are then delivered back to the parent stream and shared by all.

It is very easy to see what people are doing because you have incoming changesets which you can then review using tools similar to the ClearCase diff - which is well regarded. There is a ClearCase UCM feel to the usage, but it is much more scalable.

Now with ClearCase you need a day or two of hands-on training. (I trained over 800 people to use ClearCase and another 100 to use RTC). With RTC - you need 1/2 day to a full day of training to be able to use it without tripping.

But it is very easy for a manager/colleague to see what everyone is doing. It scales well and uses http/https instead of ONC RPCs for communication (huge plus!).

I am sorry that you may have had a bad experience and I admit that sometimes the sales guys need help with the demo, but the product is excellent. The Community version is free for 10 people. Contact me offline for help with getting started.

Bob Aiello
Skype: BobAiello

bglangston's picture
bglangston replied on February 21, 2011 - 12:26pm.

I stand by my statement. I'll add that I have been involved in several situations where the "she walks, she wiggles, she jiggles, she crawls on her belly like a reptile" approach was used.

I won't mention the product for one situation, but when I spoke up and ask a question about utility for "our" unique situation, which had nothing to do with metrics, the response I received was first a blank stare and then, "Oh, you should see the metrics. We can compile lots and lots of metrics and report them out any way you would like. We have over xxx canned reports and if necessary can tweak them for you."

On another occasion, a vendor rep (from my favorite CM toolset by the way) asked what we wanted to do in the CM arena. I tossed down a copy of EIA-649 and said, "That!"

Again, I got the blank stare for a few seconds and he went off on licensing costs.

I have sat in on presentations to groups of CM specialists. Almost inavariably, they vendors talked about the razzle-dazzle. Most of my fellow CM professional sort of sat back and yawned in most of those meetings. I finally talked to a couple of those reps after a meeting. I reminded them that the people in the meeting were in fact CM professionals. As such, we were more interested in the nuts and bolts of the product and how to administer the tool. One of those vendors, at their next presentation about six months later, came in a summarized the "features" and then went through a "tool administration" presentation. I didn't see a napping head in the house!

Now, I'll grant you that those aren't technical details that you asked for. But then again, I didn't address any shortcomings of RTC in my thread above either.

To clarify my issue, vendor reps by and large sell the razzle-dazzle rather than the substance.

Bob Aiello's picture
Bob Aiello replied on February 21, 2011 - 12:31pm.

so if we switch the topic to "sales guys don't know their products" and "techies should run the discussion" - then I am totally in agreement.

But that is true for lots of product vendors. I just got off the phone with a sales guy who thought that baselining within a version control tool was the same thing as conducting a physical configuration audit.

Using Standards and Frameworks is a fantastic way to measure the functional requirements of CM tools. We should have more discussions about that.


jptownsend's picture
jptownsend replied on February 22, 2011 - 8:18am.

Bob and Billy,

I think we should change the topic to "a bag full of cheese puffs." From some peoples view (sales and marketing) it looks like a lot of substance and some folks (non-techies) at many organizations think that as well. Then when you break down the bag of cheese puffs you realize it was nothing more than a lot of air, corn, and orange powder, i.e. looks like a lot but there is nothing there.

I think that is irresponsible at best and highly unethical at worst. Not all sales folks are the same and there are salespeople that actually care about your success. However, one must remember that ultimately their job is to sale more products i.e. as Billy calls it "razzle-dazzle." What is the one thing sales reps are always told, sell more product, more than you did last quarter, and sell "services" as well.



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