Reg Dev: And is any of this necessary, or even feasible, for small companies?
Gilbert: The core questions of who, what, when, why, and how apply regardless of size of company or project team. Do smaller companies need requirements management or an ALM solution? Then, if the answer is yes, do they need a toolset to assist? Well, that depends. Small doesn't mean simple – many a small company run into the complexities of remote development and perhaps outsourced testing. In which case, a cohesive communicative repository of information is essential and that's what requirements management gives them.
Reg Dev: I suppose we should get onto RM tools before we finish. For a start, are tools always necessary? Is there work that users can do on developing/organising the way they run RM planning meetings (perhaps using white boards, a camera and a Wiki) that can make them more effective - without buying (and learning) an RM tool?
Gilbert: The great thing about a tool, if deployed and used correctly, is it promotes discipline. Requirements management can, to a certain degree, be achieved without using a tool; but referring back to the leading requirements management tool – Office – would you truly want to invest the time and effort needed to get it to collect and audit your essential company's needs. Let alone expect it to notify all stakeholders of any changes they may have a stake in. Not to mention, expect to it to produce impact analysis and traceability matrices and be available to all on the web.
Reg Dev: OK, fair enough - is there a single 'best of breed' RM tool?
Gilbert: Not as such, the number of requirements management tools available has broadened significantly in recent years with some of the tools specialising in particular areas of requirements management, for example requirements capture. Our job at Xeau is to marry out knowledge of the marketplace with the needs of our clients to assist them select the right tool for their requirements management needs. As always, solving the requirements management need isn't just about buying a tool; after all a fool with a tool is a "less well off" fool.
Reg Dev: As well as Contour, Xeau has experience with users of Caliber (now with Borland), Steeltrace (now Compuware OptimalTrace, Telelogic Doors and IBM Rational Requisite Pro. How do you distinguish the 'purpose each of these tools is fit for'?
Gilbert: The tools mentioned are exceptionally good and invariably end up on the short list of many potential buyers. To differentiate them here would take too long. But users should look at the maturity of the tools, whether the tool suffers from [the use of] aging technology, what user interfaces are needed, who will actually use the tool and in what context, what integrations are required with the tool (with test tools, for example) and of course, which tool fits your budget.
Gilbert: Telelogic clearly realised a gap in the requirements management market had arisen. For something web based, easy to deploy and use; but more than just a web based repository for line items. The customer base for Doors means it will carry on being used for many years to come. As for FastTrack, I hope IBM continues developing the product because we feel this addresses an ever increasing requirement in the requirements management tool sector, much the same as Contour does. We'd relish the competition.
Reg Dev: Finally, how do you see RM and ALM developing over the next, say, 10 years?
Gilbert: Ten years ago I remember organisations questioning the merits of using configuration management tools, today you struggle to find development teams who don't use them. Much the same will happen with the ALM/Requirements Management toolsets. ®
Jama Software, which writes the Contour RM tool resold by Xeau, is trying to crystallise a requirements management community around it here. Early days yet, but it could grow into a useful resource.