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VersionOne Publishes Agile Tool Evaluator's Guide

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on Sep 25, 2006 |
VersionOne Software has recently published an Agile Tool Evaluator Guide intended to help organizations in choosing software to support their Agile teams and processes.  Although obviously a marketing tool for their own Agile product, the Guide can serve team leads and other decision makers by pointing out areas to consider during tool selection, whether or not VersionOne is under consideration.

To maximize value from an agile deployment, VersionOne states that six key criteria should be considered when selecting an enterprise management tool:
  1. Iterative, Feature-driven Development
    Although it may seem to be an obvious mismatch, many teams attempt to use a series of traditional tools that complicate their work because they don't support basic Agile practices.

  2. Integrated Lifecycle Management
    Tracking project information in multiple tools can inhibit accurate, real-time visibility.

  3. Cross-Functional Teams
    True support for cross-functional teams means consolidating and facilitating the project planning and tracking needs of customers, product management, project management, programmers, testers, etc. in a single environment for improved collaboration and consistency.

  4. Flexible Configuration
    A scalable management tool should allow organizations to define, organize, and plan according to their unique organizational requirements.

  5. Simplicity
    Like agile development, the more simple the tool the better. Most importantly, tools should never replace the benefits achieved by using the Agile practices - an Agile lifecycle management tool is only as good as the process it facilitates and the people that use it.

  6. Enterprise Scale
    An agile tool for deployment within an enterprise must be able to handle a sophisticated project structure and thousands of features and defects. 

With these criteria in mind, the Evaluator Guide outlines a detailed set of features an enterprise Agile management application should enable for scaling Agile planning, tracking, and reporting across an organization.  It includes both functionality needed as a team begins to implement an Agile management tool as well as longer range functionality associated with overall project and reporting structures, program management and integration as the Agile process matures.

InfoQ interviewed Michael Leeds, co-founder and VP Sales and Marketing at VersionOne, about their Agile Tool Evaluator Guide.

Deborah Hartmann for InfoQ.com: Who is the intended audience for this Guide?

Michael Leeds for VersionOne:  It's intended for anyone involved in examining Agile development and enabling tools to help maximize the value Agile delivers to their organizations.

InfoQ: How did you compile this list? Is it simply a list of V1 features?

VersionOne:  A little background is important:  VersionOne has been built from the ground up to support agile teams.  Although I have lost count, we have likely spoken with more than 3,000 teams since 2002. Based on this feedback over the years, we developed the “Key Criteria” which you see in the evaluator guide [editor's note: excerpt listed above], to highlight areas important in delivering value to teams of all sizes.

The “Top 10” checklist in the Evaluator Guide is something for every team to look at, but is not a list of things ALL teams need.  For example, some agile teams do not track defects separately from other work items – they simply treat defects as work to be done just like any other work.  For these teams, the defect management functionality in VersionOne is not a top priority in their selection.  But, if those teams need the defect functionality in the future, it is something they will be able to take advantage of as the need arises.  

InfoQ: I understood that this list was partially the product of talking to conference participants at Agile2006? How did that change the product?

VersionOne:
Yes, we did receive a lot of excellent feedback at Agile 2006.  I would say the feedback has more to do with depth than breadth.  For example, let’s look at resource planning:  VersionOne handles all of the agile things you would expect, so the requests we get are for more depth, for example: around resource planning.  As a general rule, we hear more from teams that are trying to further hone their processes rather than trying to add more and more functionality.  A key thing we focus on is simplicity and we try to help teams not get in the situation where the tool adds so much overhead to the process that is does not continue to add value.

InfoQ: I notice that V1 has a check mark beside every item :-)  Still, if people use this to evaluate other tools, they may find that there are features missing from V1, which therefore don't appear on this list.  Are you open to input for rounding out the Guide, by taking suggestions from our readers?  (Of course, they might want to discuss ways to improve the list here, as well).

VersionOne: Suggestions? Absolutely – we welcome feedback!  People can contact me.  We have learned quite a bit from our customers over time and use feedback to continuously improve our product and services. 

VersionOne is an Atlanta-based provider of enterprise project and lifecycle management solutions for agile development, with more than 1,000 teams in 30 countries using their software, including 20 of the Fortune 100.

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Paid advertising? by Steve Bate

The evaluation guide appears to be VersionOne marketing literature whose primary content was a product feature list. The article and interview gives the impression that it's actually a disguised advertisement for the VersionOne product. If it is, I believe it should be clearly labeled that way rather than giving the impression that it's generally useful agile development information.

Although Michael mentions in passing that some teams won't need all the features in his "critical top 10 list", I believe the evaluation guide gives the strong impression that agile teams typically need a complex and expensive project management tool when quite often they do not.

Re: Paid advertising? by Deborah Hartmann

Thanks for your input, Steve. Yes we debated this point. So I included a caveat emptor:
Although obviously a marketing tool for their own Agile product, the Guide can serve team leads and other decision makers by pointing out areas to consider during tool selection, whether or not VersionOne is under consideration.
From my own experience working with other emerging technologies, I felt this was worth covering. I have used similar lists to understand a new domain, as a jumping-off-point when there was little else to rely on. It provides buzzwords and concepts for the novice to use in their own research on what's out there.

It is definitely important to remember, when doing so, that this starting point is marketing material, so thanks for your note! It doesn't take too long, in my opinion, to do enough research to figure out fact from sales pitch :-) in these cases.

I'd love to see a product-neutral tools guide show up on the web... that would be really useful. Or, if anyone is interested to review or compare tools, do use the "Contribute News" button above to drop us a note!

Re: Paid advertising? by Michael Leeds

InfoQ was very focused on highlighting this was a document from VersionOne. About the comment below, it is hard to convey all the information you would like to convey in a short article, and I agree that many teams use only portions of the functionality in VersionOne. This is something you might expect from companies ranging from 5 to 20,000+ people. More broadly, I believe that teams should use VersionOne when it adds value to their process. We have received feedback from customers and non-customers that the evaluation guide is helpful in evaluating process needs, facilitators, and an understanding of where a tool can add value.

Re: Paid advertising? by Steve Bate

Deborah and Michael. I agree there was a clear caveat that this was a marketing tool from VersionOne. Similarly, the "State of Agile Development" survey from VersionOne could be used as a marketing tool, but it wasn't focussed on the specific features of their product. I thought that information was very interesting. This current article and interview in the context of a mostly product-specific article feels too much like an infomercial format for my tastes. However, that's obviously just my opinion and I may be the only person that feels that way. My question about whether this was paid advertising or if VersionOne is an InfoQ sponsor wasn't rhetorical. If either is true, I strongly recommend a clear "paid advertising" disclaimer as is commonly seen in print publications. Again, this is just my opinion. I think InfoQ is providing a valuable service so please consider this as constructive feedback. Regards.

Re: Paid advertising? by Deborah Hartmann

Hi Steve.
My question about whether this was paid advertising or if VersionOne is an InfoQ sponsor wasn't rhetorical

Thanks for clarifying this. I am responsible for this news item, VersionOne neither solicited it nor paid for it in any way. When I spot potential news, I tend to investigate a bit... this time it included an email interview to find out how the document was created. I then edited the interview to focus more on the report rather than the product.
I think InfoQ is providing a valuable service so please consider this as constructive feedback.
Yes, your feedback is appreciated.

Recent comments on InfoQ have hilighted that relatively impartial comparative info on Agile may be hard to come by. Neither bloggers nor businesses are free of vested interest, if they earn their living in the Agile arena. I can't fabricate news, but perhaps if we see enough of these cases someone will take up the challenge to create some more neutral data compilations. If you spot some, be sure to let us know here, using the "Contribute News" button at the top of the page!

On InfoQ, neither news nor content (articles, videos, books) are acceptable venues for commercial promotion, beyond links to sources of further information. Note that all content here is freely offered by its authors as a service to our community of readers, and so we feel it is fair to permit them to make their affiliations known. Given that we're all in business, it's impossible to escape brand names, and stories and case studies will involve real businesses, and sometimes consultancies.

Until this mythical "impartial" information emerges on the web (or perhaps our readers will offer to create some for us - we'd be interested!) I'll continue to look for ways to bring useful information to the Agile community... sometimes, in branded form. With caveats.

By the way... the VersionOne Agile Survey is on my to-do list. But people wouldn't be happy to see too much from one vendor in a given week either, would they? :-) And given the spate of recent surveys (this one makes 4) I thought I'd space them out a bit - it's a judgement call.

Keep the feedback coming. It's important.

deb

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