When I joined zAgile in May 2008 to drive its marketing, I knew I had my work cut out for me. Although zAgile clearly has a unique, differentiated vision to unify software engineering environments, equally compelling messaging was required to describe that vision. Today's software delivery teams use all sorts of different tools that are often not integrated making it difficult to synchronize the data across them, different methodologies are unique to each organization, and typically those teams are geographically distributed which makes communication and delivery consistency major challenges. The problems that zAgile addresses seem clear enough. But because no category or product today addresses all of these problems, the value propositions of zAgile overlap with some existing narrowly defined categories while bringing some totally new innovation to the table. Therefore, as we all want to immediately categorize something in order to grasp it, I knew the challenge would be to express the value proposition of zAgile in simple terms.
zAgile can be described in a variety of ways:
1) What is zAgile, in a short blurb?
zAgile unifies software engineering environments by contextually integrating all aspects of software delivery including teams, tools, processes, and knowledge
2) How would software industry analysts categorize zAgile?
zAgile delivers on the ALM 2.0 (Application Life-cycle Management) vision defined by ex-Forrester analyst Carey Schwaber. Carey described ALM 2.0 as the "glue" that ties the software delivery tools together. But she admitted she did not like the ALM 2.0 term, presumably because it brings along the baggage of ALM which infers inclusion of tools in such a solution. zAgile does not include tools. zAgile is the contextual glue to integrate teams, tools, processes, and people, precisely as she describes ALM 2.0.
Gartner would probably exclude zAgile from both SCCM (Software Change and Configuration Management) and PPM (Project Portfolio Management). Although zAgile does neither source code control nor project management, it can immensely help stakeholders with each, for example, by giving composite views of all source code related artifacts for a given product or a portfolio overview of all projects or integrate multiple heterogeneous source control repositories to provide a composite and coherent view.
3) Is there a market for what zAgile is delivering? What other offerings are similar?
zAgile delivers what IBM Jazz has been promising since it was first described in 2004, but in a much deeper, broader, and open way. IBM Jazz is the technology platform on which Rational Team Composer products are built. The first Team Composer products became available in June 2008. While one might find it surprising that IBM is charging customers for integrating its own tools, it seems to be getting a lot of buzz. And at $2,000 plus per seat, apparently IBM sees a market there. zAgile does too. The part that seems to be missing from Jazz is the part you would likely most expect: deep, contextual integration across all tools without having to upgrade your tools to get it. This is what zAgile delivers - and more.
4) Can you offer any analogies as to what zAgile is like?
zAgile does for the software engineering stakeholder what CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) products such as Salesforce and Oracle/Siebel do for the sales and marketing folks. For example, when your company runs a campaign, those leads go into the CRM, and the leads are matured over time through various sales and marketing actions. Eventually, leads become contacts, opportunities are identified, a pipeline is developed, and a predictable revenue stream is generated. Today, nothing exists for engineering teams except to a limited extent for those who have all tools from one vendor. There is no way for example, for a CEO, VP of Engineering, or VP of Products to get a dashboard view of how customer enhancement requests map to a product release or see a composite view of the software delivery status.
5) So what are some tangible examples of what zAgile delivers that we don't see anywhere else?
a) "Water cooler" for distributed engineering teams
Synch-up meetings are great -- once in a while. But too often, they are over-used and take people away from actually getting work done. For smaller, centralized teams, people synch-up at the water cooler, in the hallway, or passing by each other's desks. With a zAgile portal and collaboration features, stakeholders can contextually see, with appropriate access rights, what each other is doing, whether following an instant message chat, viewing status of task assignments, seeing what someone is working on, displaying what was most recently achieved, etc. For distributed teams (and over 70% of teams are distributed), this is perhaps the only way other than lots of late night phone calls across geographies.
b) Extreme traceabilty for all software delivery information
With zAgile, you can contextually browse the software delivery environment with ease. But sometimes you may want to do an ad hoc search --- and you don't want to look through multiple systems or ask multiple people which can take hours or days. With zAgile's integrated information repository, a single query can provide the needed information, for example: make one query to view bugs for Single-Sign On (SSO) for a project called Jaguar. zAgile will explore each tool semantically, and it returns:
- a list of SSO bugs for Jaguar
- the SSO product specification
- the list of patches related to SSO
- the SSO developer and his/her profile
- developers that have skills to fix SSO bugs … and their availability to work on SSO in the future
c) Tap unstructured content and integrate it into a comprehensive knowledge base
Collaboration tools are really catching on such as wikis, instant messaging, and 'enterprise-Twitter' widgets like Yammer and SocialText. While those are certainly useful for "the moment" when capturing information or communication, they simply create new silo's of information that are nearly impossible to mine for information in the future. zAgile lets you contextually integrate information from those tools so that they are no longer information black holes in your organization. Check-out the zAgile CEO's blog on the semantic wiki and semantically enabled Atlassian Confluence.
d) Provide a dashboard / composite view of your software engineering environment
As described earlier about the analogy with a CRM, zAgile provides a dashboard so that you can see the status of your whole software delivery environment in one view.
e) Methodology capture, management, instantiation, and tracking
zAgile lets you easily capture your organizations' methodologies (or processes, depending upon your terminology), in a way similar to IBM's Rational Method Composer. But whereas, IBM's products have proprietary format and limited integration points, zAgile allows you to capture any methodology by building resuable method components and publish them to a variety of media (eg, wikis) in open formats. In addition, and here's the even more interesting part, you can instantiate a specific methodology into a project and configure it in all of your software delivery tools, ensuring consistency across all projects. Finally, everything can be tracked because it is captured in the zAgile repository.
So what is zAgile? All that Jazz ... and a heck of a lot more!