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Closing the Gap

Third Trend: Teamwork and Collaboration

The increased growth of UML and the arrival of cheaper, more powerful UML tools bring Millar to the third trend in his "quiet transformation:" a shift towards teamwork, collaboration and improved quality. When Millar works with clients to create their in-house wish list for improving the process and selecting modeling software, he finds that a "strong, robust capacity for collaboration" is usually at the top of the list.

The shift towards teamwork in IT is much broader than simply UML case tools or modelling -- but in the context of UML tools -- the current best-of-breed can improve team performance by providing:

  • Integration with industry-standard development environments like Java/Eclipse/J2EE, IBM WebSphere, Microsoft Solutions Framework and Microsoft's Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) and the related Team Foundation Server (TFS) and .NET, and Oracle/TOAD and UML models.
  • Complete work item traceability created, maintained, and updated by all team members.
  • Built-in online, cross-team discussions that involve everyone -- local or international -- in an open chat that references (and is linked to) all work items using an extended UML model.
  • Shared Model Driven artifacts -- documentation (conveniently in RTF or HTML); software code; business rules; UML diagrams -- readily available to all team members.
  • Tools for accurate team based project management -- supporting resource allocation, work in progress, backlog items, velocity, quality indicators and highly accurate use case cost estimates.

Every week, as Millar's consulting practice takes him to a new work group in a new city, he sees more and more evidence of the shift towards more IT collaboration. While this kind of culture change is never easy, he said his clients share a strong recognition of the need for change.

Millar also sees evidence of this culture change in the evolving makeup of audiences for his mentorship and consulting work. Six years ago the typical client work group consisted almost entirely of object-oriented software engineers and their software managers.

Today that profile is changing. In 2008 the typical client working group includes not only software engineers but also business analysts, requirements analysts, project managers, design architects and testers. "This just never happened before the availability of affordable, collaborative software development tools started bringing everyone in the team together, as opposed to earlier tool solutions that split us apart with too many expensive, hard to use, and badly integrated tools." said Millar.

Under the Radar

Millar says the reason he characterizes this transformation as "quiet" is because the adoption of next generation UML tools and best practice techniques -- and the changes they enable -- is largely happening incrementally and under the radar. This is because many of the best tools are less expensive and so acquisitions are happening without high level approval. On top of this many companies are secretive about their work in this area because they see it as a significant competitive advantage. He illustrates this by citing one of his favorites amongst the new-generation modeling tools: SPARX Systems' Enterprise Architect .

Millar often demonstrates SPARX Enterprise Architect in his webinars to provide an initial overview to clients who are just beginning to explore UML tools to adopt standards. "The high-level presentation almost always leaves the IT workers astonished," he said.

"People new to UML tools, or people who have only used older tools, have no idea how the newer tools have evolved," he said, adding the characteristics that consistently cause a buzz with newcomers typically include:

  • An open and shared SQL database (and other collaboration tools) that unites the entire software development team;
  • Comprehensive integration of a single, versatile model that creates Model Driven Architecture used to transform and generate code, create documentation, publish websites, deliver test plans, specify use-case contracts and deliver project-management reports;
  • Ease of use -- intuitive productivity features that enables team members to learn UML rapidly.
  • The combination of agility, flexibility and power at an affordable per-seat cost.

Millar agrees that final proof of his view that a "quiet, major transformation" has actually arrived lies in front-line practice, and not in classroom theory. "If it's all talk, then it's a little early to call it a transformation,'" he said. "However every week I see people and organizations 'walking the walk.'"

International Institute of Business Analysts

The recent certification for Business Analysts is another indicator of the software industry's recognition of the importance of closing the gap between business requirements and code. Business Analysts may now choose to be certified by their own professional association: the International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA).

People have really struggled with IT going in one direction and the business going in the other.

Adam Honoré, Senior analyst Aite Group

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