… But it’s not!!! Since the beginning of my career at Axen, I’ve worked for 4 differents customers including the one I’m currently working for. And it always amazes me to see how difficult it is for them to deal with such a basic need as project management tooling. And apparently, judging by a few discussions I’ve had with a bunch of colleagues in the consulting busines, it’s not only the customers I work for!
The thing is that, even if Agility is gaining more and more attention these days, with tight collaboration and cooperation at heart, most companies out there are still managing their IT in a very procedural way. They have project baselines and plans, forms, excel sheets and time sheets everywhere. Every decision has to go through the proper validation channel, and believe it or not: it’s slowing down their business. All those mandatory procedures create an enormous need for tools that can make it simpler and more effective to create, share and collaborate on project-related information. Source code assets, planning, documentation, issues, releases are amongst the most redundant tasks in IT projects, tasks which need tools like version control systems, wikis, issue tracking, release management, etc.
You could think, where there is such a need, there is a market, and where there is a market, there are solutions available! Wrong! Or to be more precise, there ARE solutions, there are too many of them, and the worst thing is they’re incompatible with each other.
Let me give you an example. On the project I’m working on right now, we needed a version control system. The company-wide default one didn’t suit our Java development needs, so rather than trying to force a cube into a circular hole, we chose not to use any version control system… until recently. Now merging code from all the developers is really becoming a big issue and we are losing a lot of time and money on it. So rather than staying in that situation until a new company-wide standard VCS is chosen, we proposed to install Subversion. And believe me, that’s a huge step forward!
But recently, there was a demo of the application and the project lead noticed a few bugs while using it, a few bugs that he naturally wrote down in a non-collaborative but so common Excel sheet. And now he realizes that, if he wants the bugs to be fixed, we need to have some sort of system to register and monitor those bugs, in other words, an issue tracking system. First integration problem: we need an issue tracking system that is compatible with our version control system so that, when a code change fixes a bug, there is a link between the commit and the issue it fixes. And that of course is totally independant of the fact that we need an issue tracking system that makes it easy enough to register new bugs, so that users and developers are not slowed down on the way.
But wait a minute: now if there is a version control system, and an issue tracking system, everybody has to know where they can be accessed. That and the documentation for the project, like design specifications, requirements, coding conventions, and all the information that the teams needs to know in order to work efficiently. First reflex, why not a wiki? A simple editable website where anyone can create and modify pages with just a few clicks. Sure thing! But hey, it must use the same user base as our version control and issue tracking systems. Are you getting it?
Yes, there are a lot of tools out there, both commercial and Open Source, for version control, issue tracking, documentation management, release management, planning, and so on and so forth. But believe it or not: for each of the projects I’ve worked on in the past five years or so, I have looked for a single platform that could integrate all of those very common tasks into a single consistent environment, something so easy to install, maintain and use that it would just… work! I’m not saying it does not exist, but I don’t see it anywhere, and judging by the amount of time I dedicate to technology watch every single day, I think that if such a miraculous tool existed, it would be everywhere!
Well, you know what they say: if you’re not happy with a situation, what prevents you to change it? In that case, nothing! And that’s why I’m currently working with Axen on such a platform. All I can tell you right now is that it’s called Basement PMS (Project Management System), and I would love it to be open-source. We just have to figure out a few details, and I’m working on a proof-of-concept to show off. But I’m convinced it’s gonna be awesome.
What do you think about that problematic? Have you ever encountered or worked in a company with a single, consistent and reliable IT project collaboration environment?