DevX Skillbuilding for IBM DeveloperWorks
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Change Management for Changing Times
Change is a constant of software development. Tracking defects, issues, and feature requests is a critical component of project success. When bugs are resolved early and quickly, lower development costs, higher quality products, and faster time to market are the likely outcome (along with the attendant boost to your team's reputation). The question is how one successfully manages change in today's complex heterogeneous development environments. 

Given the importance of change management it is surprising how many developers have yet to adopt a robust change tracking solution. Yes, you can theoretically track the status of bugs and change requests using an Excel spreadsheet or homegrown database. But if you do so, prepare for the tedium and confusion that lie ahead. These methods are unable to provide the real-time information and process automation capabilities that more specialized tools offer. As with most things in software development, good tools pay for themselves through increased productivity, improved product quality, and faster delivery cycles. So don't be shy about investing in a change tracking system that will likely make a substantial difference to your team's effectiveness.

Since change tracking solutions come in many flavors you might ask, "Which tool should I use?" Well, the answer is, it depends. You can start by looking at open source solutions such as Bugzilla or Trac. Or you may find that although open source tools are enticingly "free", they don't have what it takes to meet your needs (such as the ability to customize workflows and robust integrations with other development tools). Regardless of where you are in the selection process, you should take a look at IBM Rational ClearQuest. This solution has been around for many moons and has proven a worthy pick for organizations large and small.

The Quest Begins
At its heart, Rational ClearQuest is really just a flexible and configurable workflow automation engine. The automation is what makes your job so much easier. Homegrown and less capable change tracking systems focus mainly on storing and managing data (defects, feature requests, and so on), not ensuring that the right actions are taken at the right time by the right people. Rational ClearQuest effectively stores and manages data and provides process automation capabilitiesā€”helping to move changes through the pipeline so they don't just sit there waiting for someone to notice their existence. At any time, the team knows the 'who', 'what' and 'when' of development activities.

Rational ClearQuest shortens development cycles by unifying your entire team in the process of managing software change requests.

  • Project leaders and managers can get real-time information at a glance to help them allocate development resources. Allowing them to quickly view project status, understand trends and accurately determine release dates and assemble project metrics to meet compliance mandates.
  • Developers can identify and prioritize their development tasksā€”they know what to work on and when.
  • Quality engineers and testers are notified when change requests are ready for testing and validation.
  • Technical writers can locate development activities that require changes to the documentation, as well as be notified of change requests pertaining specifically to the documentation itself.
  • Schema designers can configure and customize Rational ClearQuest to fit an organization's development processes and workflow and additionally integrate it with existing tools.

We could wax on endlessly about Rational ClearQuest's features and benefits (you can get the full scoop at IBM's Website), or just confidently point out that Rational ClearQuest has been successfully deployed at thousands of varied software development organizations across the globe. And let's not forget that Rational ClearQuest is IBM's standard tool for managing change across its own development efforts.

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