Q&A with Targetprocess Executives about Targetprocess v3
InfoQ recently spoke to Michael Dubakov & Andrey Mihailenko of Targetprocess about the upcoming release of the product, and their own experiences integrating user experience into their agile development process.
Targetprocess V3 is a SAAS agile project management tool which is configurable for multiple agile processes – it comes with preconfigured templates for Scrum and Kanban and can be adapted to whatever approach the customer wants to use.
InfoQ: Please tell us about the new release of Targetprocess – what’s new and different about this release.
Andrey: Targetprocess is an agile project management tool which, with a strong focus on two areas – visibility and flexibility.
Flexibility: we aimed to build a tool that will adapt to any agile process our customers choose to use. The product will adapt to your way of working rather than requiring the customer to adapt to the tool. Flexibility has been part of our vision since Michael founded the company in 2004. To this day Targetprocess is one of the most flexible tools available, truly able to adapt to whatever workflow, process and techniques our customers choose to implement. Targetprocess also supports organisations of all sizes, from the individual using Kanban for one to large corporations like Caterpillar where there is a need to have visibility across multiple programs, projects and teams.
The other part of the equation that is very important to us is visibility. Visibility is about allowing people at every level see the progress of work in a way that is useful to them. This could be a middle-manager looking at the status of a few projects, a developer looking at the work they need to get done today or a C-level executive seeing the portfolio of all the objectives for the business as a whole. It’s about providing them with the ability to see what matters to them in a way that they can make sense of the information, to cut through the clutter and allow them to focus on the important things that they need to make good decisions at whatever level they are working at.
What’s unique about our approach is the way we’re bringing the science of data visualisation into agile project management – Version 3 which is being launched today brings the work we’ve been doing in this area to the market.
InfoQ: That’s a bold statement – bringing data visualisation as a science into project management. What are some of the ways you are achieving this? Visualisation across all areas of an organisation is a big challenge – how are you tackling this?
Michael: Most organisations and most people think of visualisation as just a bunch of reports, maybe hundreds of reports. The reality is that visualisation needs to be much more than reports – it’s about providing a view into the data which you can use to see what you, and you can view the data in many different views – perhaps as a board, or a timeline, or a graph or simple report. The data needs to be live – if you need to make a change you can do so immediately from with the visualisation tool without having to switch modes. This is what we’ve built into Targetprocess V3. Visualisation is built into the core of the product, any data can be viewed in any perspective and it can be edited from within the view being used.
Andrey: To make this possible, and to provide our customers with ultimate flexibility, we have implemented a Domain Specific Language that gives them the power to build visualisations and views. The DSL is deeply integrated into the product and it allows customers to write very advanced filters and queries to access the data in ways that will be most effective for them.
InfoQ: So how easy is it for users to utilise this DSL?
Michael: The DSL is moderately complex – it’s not a novice tool. You have to learn the language, understand the commands and structure of the language. It probably takes an experienced user about an hour to learn to use the tool, longer to be proficient in designing visualisations.
For novice users we provide a number of preconfigured visualisations, the DSL is a tool for advanced users to build their own in a variety of formats.
We were concerned that the complexity of the DSL would put people off, but our experience is the opposite – many of our users have told us that they like the flexibility and power the tool provides them with, even if there is a learning curve involved.
Andrey: Deep down a lot of our target audience are developers in their hearts – they appreciate the power available to them.
InfoQ: What are some of the key features that Targetprocess 3 will have?
Michael: There are two key features in this new release:
Interactive Timeline – any data which has been recorded can be viewed as an interactive timeline, any event associated with a user story or other record can be viewed as a timeline. The timelines are interactive and allow editing of the underlying data. Any data in the product can be visualised and accessed as a timeline
Hierarchal Lists – While list views are certainly not unique, we present a flexible hierarchical structure which provides easy access to any data in the product and corresponds to the way our customers want to use the tool. A list view is extremely useful for backlog management, for example. This interactive capability is designed to be simple to use and is a result of much experimentation and UX work to make sure it works well for our customers.
So there are four ways to look at and work with the same datasets:
• Our existing boards view
• Interactive timelines view
• Hierarchical lists
• Customised views using the Domain Specific Language
Targetprocess 3.0 is available from 16 April.
The interview continued with a discussion of the way the Targetprocess development has integrated UX design with their agile development process used to build the product. That part of the interview will be published in the next two weeks.