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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Ryan Polk on the Rally Product and the CA Merger

Ryan Polk on the Rally Product and the CA Merger


1. Good day, folks! This is Shane Hastie for InfoQ and we're here at Agile 2015. I'm talking to Ryan Polk. Ryan, you are the VP for Product for Rally?

Uh-hmm. So I run the product organization for Rally. We own the strategy and roadmap for the Rally product and our Flowdoc product as well along with a couple of other smaller products that fit inside of our portfolio.


3. What's in the current release?

So "release" in an interesting term for us. We're continuous delivery company and so we're continually delivering features to our product. So you're never going to see a large batch features dropped into our product but we do follow a pretty standard Scaled Agile way of working.

We work in quarterly time boxes. We plan in quarterly “big room planning sessions” as we call them. Our last quarter, Q2, we shipped a considerable amount of functionality around the program level of our product. So understanding how to do good program and product management, build good roadmaps, understand the capacity of your larger organization or a group of Agile teams, then understand how you're going to deliver towards that capacity through a period of time like a quarter is key to the functionality that we’ve shiped inside of our product.

So we're majorly pushing forward with that level of functionality. How can we be good at program and product management and how can you then tie that to what your teams are delivering overall?

We're going to continue to push on that this next quarter, in Q3 for us, but we're all shifting gears a little bit. We're shifting gears towards a perspective on team and improving the team-level capabilities inside of our product and really driving towards how do we make the team member's life better, including things like evolving how time tracking is done inside of our product to make that easier, pre-populated, maybe even get rid of the concept of time tracking overall for customers.

So we're looking at lots of ways we can improve that team member persona inside of our product to make life better in the future. So that's going to be a big investment for us over the next couple of course.


4. Anything else on the product you want to talk about?

So right now, we're looking at additional functionality really bolstering our message around portfolio as well, how to do portfolio-level capacity planning. How do you lay out that capacity and get the right work to the right areas in the organization.

We're also looking, of course, with the CA acquisition, additional functionality and how we integrate with the rest of the CA product suite. So we, of course, have a great set of DevOps products inside of the CA products family but we want to look out how we leverage and how do we crate integrations.

I mean good integrations because we don't want to just integrate to any old product just because we can. We want to look at how our product helps in a DevOps perspective and how connecting to those products will make people's lives better as part of using our product suite, not just trying to check the check boxes on different integrations.

Of course we have the CA PPM product and their IT Service Management products as well that fit right alongside a product like Rally. So we need to figure out how we create a more cohesive product suite between those three products as well. So there's a lot of great things to do inside of CA. We fit as kind of the center of a CA products portfolio and we've got a lot of work to do there to make sure that that center is whole.


5. At one level, there is a perceived almost contradiction between a lot of the ideas of Agile and flow and continuous delivery and the IT service management ITIL philosophies. How do we merge that?

What's interesting there is that ITIL and service management are processes that, to some degree, are moving so quickly that they lose the concept of evolution. So when we're looking at an Agile perspective on those, we need to consider how we evolve their practices, how we give those teams time, how we figure out how to limit their WIP.

So there's a lot of Agile principles that need to be injected into that area and we need not only the ITIL world to start to work in an Agile framework and work in a more Agile way, we also need to give them tools and capabilities that allow them to actually think about their WIP, understand how their work flows, and visualize those in effective ways. And really, the Agile field hasn't really tried to tackle that.

Understanding Queuing Theory and how fast things are moving in the ITSM world or the ITIL world is something that we, as Agilists, have not really worked to tackle. We were constantly kept kind of at bay by that field because they believe they don't have enough time to improve. We need to figure out how to give them that time and how to help them improve.


6. Thank you for that. So let's deal with the elephant in the room, this huge merger. The why, what, how. So why the merger with CA?

Well, there's couple of things. We're one of the largest acquisitions that CA has made in the last ten years or so. Rally is a highly valuable company. We fit right in the middle of the Agile market. So our value to CA has a lot to do with our brand and where we're going as an organization and our connection to the Agile market overall.

CA has a rather large DevOps contingent inside of their overall product portfolio. So how we combine the Agile market and the DevOps world and try and bridge that gap is also important. Not letting those two worlds split but trying to bring them back together to some degree. It's not just about tools and DevOps, it's not just about tools and Agile, it's about bringing the concepts of both fields back together.

So on the other side of that, Rally has a considerable amount of thought leadership build into our organization. So understanding that we do have some of the best experts in the Agile field in both Agile and Agile transformations and organizational transformation, CA recognizes that and sees the value in that and wants to bring that in not only to their customers but also to themselves internally. CA as an organization wants to evolve, wants to transform and why not work with the best people in the industry to do it?

We feel like a virus, I guess, inside of CA. We want to make sure that Agile is core to their being and bring that to such a large company. That's a huge challenge and it's very interesting to the folks inside of Rally.


7. One of the things that I've heard out there as a rumor, well not so much as a rumor, is that potential concern is can an organization culture like Rally's fit within the behemoth that is CA?

It's not fit. It's, can it help it evolve? So fitting is something that -- we always kind of take that working and we'd say that, "We have to protect our culture." Well, at Rally, our culture is the actions and the people who are involved. So we want to keep those people. We want to keep them engaged but we also need to give them challenge of saying, "How do we take that Rally culture and inffect something like CA?" How do we bring that to the rest of the organization?"

In the end, the cultures, as they merge, will probably look considerably different on both sides. We'll have to consider how that happens over time. But protecting the Rally culture and saying, "We must keep this crown jewel," is not our goal. We want to make sure that we bring that culture to the larger organization and CA as an organization, in fact it’s us as well. We need to understand how to deliver better inside of very large organizations. We need to understand how to do organizational change in an 11,000-person company. All of those things are things we need to tackle as a company, as Rally. To do that inside of CA is a great opportunity.


8. What are some of the pragmatic things that we're going to see out there in the marketplace?

We're definitely going to see a shift of our product as the Rally product into the overall Agile portfolio of CA. You're going to see a shift, definitely in their PPM products as well and the IT service management products into that Agile portfolio. Using the word Agile is really guiding us in the direction of how we think about those products and how those products are going to shift inside the market.

Now, you're also going to see a strong representation of the DevOps portfolio inside of CA, inside Rally product as well and inside of them. So you're going those two areas move together. It helps tie together the overall portfolio of CA to bring Rally in and put them as part of that.

The word Agile is going to be a stronger, much more prevalent in CA's overall messaging and you're going to see Rally as kind of the spearhead of that as well, but you're going to see a strong evolution of the other products around Rally as well.

The Rally platform is also key to CA. We've got an overall SAAS platform that is hosting hundreds of thousands of users and that is valuable to them to make sure that we can build future products on such a scalable and capable SAAS platform.

So one the other aspects of the merger that we're really excited about, especially from a Rally perspective, is that there are millions of users that CA services on a daily basis, large customers, that Agile is a new concept for them. So we want to make sure that we can bring that new concept into these companies and start to evolve them as well. It gives us access to very, very large organizations. In much of the Fortune 100, Fortune 2,000; that access is unprecedented. Giving us the ability to evolve those large companies, giving us the ability to access them, access them at every level is key to the evolution of Rally as a product and as a thought leadership company.

Shane: On that thought leadership point, one of the things we certainly see at this conference is there's a much higher prevalence of those very large corporations sending people. So yeah, maybe the time is right.

The time is right to understand how Agile affects an entire organization, how it affects a very large organization as well. We've done a lot of experiments in the Agile world and a lot of people have worked years inside of these large organizations but it really -- it's truly the time to be able to access all of them and access the whole company as well not just the engineering teams.

Shane: Great. Ryan, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. We really appreciate it. Enjoy the rest of the conference.

Thanks for your time.

Sep 24, 2015