Borland: Tools & Schools To Speed Results

Borland is poised to deliver a new approach to tools platforms and dev training that could make it tons easier for IT and business to deliver succesful software projects on time, and under budget. See more about Borland's role-based approach to technology, training and Best Practices.

Tags: Borland, Business, Managers, Architects, Core SDP, Customers, Integration,

Borland is poised to deliver a new approach to tools platforms and dev training that could make it tons easier for IT and business to deliver succesful software projects on time, and under budget. See more about Borland's role-based approach to technology, training and Best Practices.

The key to improving software development (and to better leveraging the software assets a company already has built) Borland says, is to get business managers and IT managers on the same page.

The focus on improved collaboration across different job types is what is behind Borland's two-prong push with a new tools (Borland Core SDP - Software Development Platform) and schools (under development) Borland University.

Here's a look at both:

Borland Role-Base Tools Platform--Borland Core SDP
Borland Core SDP (Software Delivery Platform) provides the next wave of integration for IDEs, going beyond simply integrating tools to integrating tools and people.

Working closely with customers, Borland says successful apps rollouts require cooperation and buy-in from four (4) main groups -- business analyst, architect, developer, tester. Borland's Core SDP offers a collaborative architecture for enabling all the key members of a development project work together through all its steps -- specify requirements, build, review, revise, deploy and test.

This role-based approach to software is designed to give all members of the project better visibility into what's going on with a project, and more hands-on control to make sure the project stays on track, Rob Cheng, Borland director of product marketing, told IDN.

"Successful software [projects] are all about providing both business analysts and technical staff visibility through the whole process, without overwhelming either group," Cheng said. "While each needs to work together at some point during the process, all the different roles don't see all the things." So, the balance for Borland in its Core SDP was to keep all these folks on the same page -- without giving any group too much information, or require any group to learn new skills.

Inside Borland Core SDP
Borland Core SDP provides a customized work environment for analysts, architects, developers and testers - optimized for specific job functions - yet integrated across the other roles within the application lifecycle. Through this architecture, individual job functions are given more focus while software teams are able to leverage enhanced workflow visibility to work more efficiently with each other and other teams within the organization.

"A developer doesn't want to see all the associated documentation around business objective, He just wants to see a very clear, well-defined use case," Cheng said. So, custom, role-based visibility is the key. "We're now mapping use case requirements to UML diagrams to code models and class diagrams, which keeps those business requirements and [technical] use cases synchronized."

As to how many new skills a developer will have to learn to use Core SDP, the answer is few to none.

That's beacuse the baseline technologies for Borland's Core SDP platform are the company's current suite of application lifecycle management products (CaliberRM, Together, JBuilder, StarTeam, and Optimizeit). But, Cheng insists Borland Core SDP is not simply a CD bundle of existign software. "We did not just bundle our current products together and say, 'There you go,'" Cheng said. "What we did do is bring these products together at a core functionality level, so that only the functionality that is needed by each role is exposed to that user. "

Borland Core SDP includes tool suites for the following roles:
  • Core::Analyst - Allows business analysts to clearly translate business objectives into functional software requirements, ensuring end-user expectations, compliance mandates and quality objectives are met. Users can capture and communicate application requirements, create use case and activity diagrams, and predict the impact of new requirements and changes on scope, schedule and budget.
  • Core::Architect - Enables architects to keep specifications, models and code in sync throughout the entire application lifecycle, even in the face of changing business requirements. Users can create architectural diagrams such as UML class diagrams, create developer projects and code-centric models that give clear guidance and direction to development teams, trace requirements from use case through to code, and run metrics that help ensure applications remain aligned with architectural and functional requirements.
  • Core::Developer - Combines best-in-class tooling with a developer-focused view into relevant specifications, change requests, and test cases. Development teams have integrated access to all of the information and capabilities they need to perform their job effectively - from the latest standards and design patterns to UML modeling, source code control, build and change management, defect tracking, code profiling, and up-to-date requirements.
  • Core::Tester - Guarantees applications achieve functional, compliance and quality goals by linking testing teams with defect tracking and requirements management. It enables an integrated development and testing process for cost-effectively identifying and removing defects early in the lifecycle, ensuring timely delivery of software that meets release criteria for performance, scalability and reliability.

    Commencing Borland University
    Also later this spring, Borland will cut the ribbon on Borland University, which inteds to bring a new, problem-solving focus to IT technical training.

    Borland University is being designed by Borland -- with advice from service partners and customers. The homework assignment for Borland U. is to deliver on what Borland execs see as two critical missions in the 2000s:

    1. Increase the success rate on complex IT projects, and

    2. Enable technical staff (architects and devs) to play more critical and strategic roles in making sure that apps meet business requirements.

    "With Borland University, we will go way beyond the traditional tactical 'point product approach' to training, where technical staff takes 2-3 days to learn how to work with a new product," Chris Barbin, Borland's Senior Director of Worldwide Services told Integration Developer News.

    "Historically training has been silo'ed by product or to just the developer. We want to leverage our whole range of resources to make better use of people, processes and technologies," Barbin said. "And that means an 'up-the-stack' approach that's focused on results, not simply products."

    Inside Borland U -- 2005's Face To IT Training?
    Barbin quickly notes that Borland will continue to offer developers traditional product-based training, but adds that Borland sees the need for something more for customers, especially those building complex, integrated apps and services.

    As envisioned, Borland University will deliver a customizable portal (or dashboard), stocked with a wide variety of 'live' and library online assets to help train, certify, test and educate teams on how to optimize their software delivery practices.

    Now in "alpha" with select customers and partners, Borland U. will likely include these features and capabilities:

  • An online experience that can be tailored to a specific company's need (or the need's of a specific project team inside a company) to streamline the scoping and initial design of a project, as well as to provide technical and business managers visibility into the project's progress;

  • A host of Internet-based instructor led training (e-ILT) and a new Borland Professional Certification program;

  • Training will be "solutions-focused" rather than purely "product-focused." Key to this will be access to Borland's 20+-year "knowledge network" of Best Practices, methodologies, and processes for building software with maximum business value. [These resources, branded Borland Accelerate, will also include: strategies, goal-setting; new tools and technologies and implementation practices.]

  • Instruction tools to help devs and architects design, develop and maintain/update software that has continual business value. Skill will include mapping business requirements to code design, code testing, applications deployment, and change management,

    "When we talk about educational services, we truly mean providing a suite of offerings that will let the company's IT shop quickly become self-sufficient, and truly focused on the delivery of their project, not simply to know how to use JBuilder, as an example," Barbin told IDN.

    Borland U. -- Content Plus Community
    In addition to these content features, Borland U's designers also intend for the project to provide a 2-way feedback loop between Borland, and its customers.

    "Borland University will also be used as feedback mechanism enabling our user community to 'rate their experience' and provide ongoing input," Barbin said. " It's a fantastic means to get closer to our customers at every level. Taken as a whole, these steps will help us continually improve the value of our curriculum."

    Inside Borland U.: Reducing IT Failures
    Ask Borland execs why they see the need to change the face of IT technical training, and you get a simple answer: Today's IT projects just fail too often.

    Borland execs point to The Standish Group's latest CHAOS report (November 2004), which found a sobering 28% of all IT projects succeed.

    Further, Standish found that most IT projects (51%) are what the research group called "challenged" -- which means one of four things. The project was either
    (a) seriously late,
    (b) over budget,
    (c) missing some of the key features that were expected to be included, or
    (d) all of the above!

    And, if you thought it couldn't get any worse….try this stat. Standish found almost 1-in-5 IT projects (18%) are simply "cancelled before they're completed" They are either so late, so over budget or just so off-base, they're not worth finishing.

    The CHAOS report is based on a broad survey of some 9,000 projects. So, the stats are significant, and not just a flash in the pan. Borland execs say their approach to Borland University is born of the need to reduce such deep-rooted IT failures, as documented by Standish.

    "We feel there are three key elements needed to make a project successful," Glenn Weinstein, Borland's VP of Worldwide Technical Support & Services, told IDN. Among them, Weinstein lists:
    (a) Strong sponsorship by executive management at the outset of a project;
    (b) Strong support from both IT and business managers during the project; and
    (c) Visibility into milestones, as well as hurdles, of a project.

    Weinstein notes that these conclusions come from Borland's discussions with business and technology leaders, including CIOs, vice presidents and senior engineering staff.

    "Managers tell us that they want some level of reliability or predictability to software. Right now, for many IT shops that just doesn't happen, and so managers increasingly want some on-going reporting or visibility and communications back and forth between all the different roles -- the developer, the architect and the business manager," Weinstein said.

    Does Borland see the top level exec being the one who sits at the console? "I don't know the answer to that. Probably not top management. But some upper or mid-tier manager? Probably yes."

    The 'Real World' Seeds of Borland U.
    Beyond the wake-up call in The Standish Group's report, Barbin also credits Borland's engagement with British Telecom (which began mid-2004) with sewing the seeds for Borland University.

    At BT, the question was: How could Borland best deliver educational services (in conjuction with a large technology contract) that would truly bridge the divide between the different technical and business groups that are often co-responsible for a software project.

    "Going into BT, we actually did a skills assessment, which helped us drive a special curriculum for them. In turn, we built a special portal, which combined training resources, Best Practices from our knowledge base, and appropriate methodologies for testing and deployment," Barbin said.

    The approach gained high marks support from all corners of BT, both technical and business managers, Barbin added, and spurred his group at Borland to investigate how they could scale the approach to fit with other customers' needs.

    "Development Process" Assets Also Key
    There is another outside influence -- now part of Borland -- that will also enhance the Borland U. assets.

    Borland has gained a huge library of sought-after "software development process assets" from its recent acquisition of TeraQuest Metircs Inc., the Austin, Texas-based process consultancy.

    Accumulated over more than 10 years of enterprise IT engagements, TeraQuest brings Borland a rich set of transferable process optimization practice experience, including 30 formal courses on requirements setting, testing, change management and CMO. TeraQuest also brings: (a) templates for roles, (b) project manager checklists, (c) QA policies and guidelines, and (d) ways of capturing requirements documents that are easily accessible by all parties.

    "We do not do method consulting, the process work we do is in helping in architecting the project for success," Dr. Bill Curtis, TeraQuest co-founder and now Borland's Chief Process Officer. "Over the years we've learned that successfully improving a software organization's effectiveness requires the integration of business, development and deployment teams through a seamless process," Curtis said. We bring process assets to help people."

    Borland's Barbin said of the TeraQuest assets: "We were looking for ways to improve our process-focus expertise, and TeraQuest has the richest set of assets, that could be easily transferred to our customers, of more than 40 firms I looked at."

    The Upside for Architects, Devs
    Borland University's approach also echoes Borland's plans for Project Themus, which will offer role-based tools that offer slightly different views of a project depending upon whether you are a developer, team leader, architect or analyst.

    "Given this end-to-end view, that we'll offer in educational services, as well as products, I think there will be lots of opportunity, and incentive, for developers to look outside his traditional EJB [Enterprise Java Bean] role, for instance," Barbin said.