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IBM Pitches Tool for Tighter App Dev

Software development can often be downright wasteful, with more than a third of software development projects at Fortune 500 companies being abandoned because user requirements cannot be verified.

But with the recession drying up credit and putting a focus on squeezing out every last bit of productivity, that kind of waste is rapidly becoming unacceptable.

To combat the problem, IBM (NYSE: IBM) yesterday unveiled the IBM Rational Requirements Composer, an application built on its Jazz platform that enables business analysts to capture user requirements and better ensure that programmers adhere to those needs throughout the application development process.

Requirements Composer helps all members of an application development team track changes and progress in a software project, and trace an application all the way back to the original business requirements to ensure that those requirements have been met, Ashok Reddy, IBM Rational's director of offerings management, told .

This dramatically increases the chances of creating an application that fills the user's needs, Julie Craig, a senior analyst at research firm Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), told InternetNews.com. The end result can be money saved and projects completed more quickly.

"For developers to be able to see the same representation as their team managers of what the code should look like, it makes development better," Craig said.

This capability comes as enterprises and software developers are struggling to find ways to streamline their businesses in a competitive market made all the more difficult by slashed IT spending and R&D expenses.

Jazz is IBM Rational's technology platform for collaborative software delivery targeted at distributed teams of developers. Rational Composer also enables developers to do in-context collaboration, so a team in one country can take up where its predecessor in another country left off, Reddy added.

A tool that enables better collaboration and closer adherence to business requirements in application development may also prove especially helpful in another way. Many companies are looking to outsourcing to make the development process cheaper and more efficient -- using different teams in different countries, so they can take advantage of round-the-clock development and the lowest cost of labor. And using a tool to keep everyone working in sync could make sense, Craig added.

The greening of application development

"Each of the teams can see what the other's doing and the hooks they have to write to connect to each other's modules, and, when there's 25 people working on different parts of an application, this makes it easy to fit the pieces together," Craig said.

Further, Rational Composer also aims to make it easier to capture requirements -- while also offering a green alternative to traditional methods of application development, Reddy said.

"Usually, people use whiteboards and write down requirements and draw sketches on paper, then everybody prints out a copy of the latest requirements," he explained. "Rational Composer lets you create storyboards that you can share electronically."

IBM partner iRise, which offers an application visualization solution, will integrate its product into Rational Composer.

"We'll embed live iRise simulations directly inside Composer's screen," Mitch Bishop, chief marketing officer at iRise, told InternetNews.com. "It's like a YouTube screen, where developers will interact with iRise visualizations fed directly into their Composer screens."

The iRise application enables business analysts with little programming ability to capture user requirements using drag-and-drop techniques. They then create visualization out of the requirements and embed that into the Rational Composer screen.

Developers can then work with Rational Composer to create the application.

"We solve the problem of building the right thing, and IBM solves the problem of building the thing right," iRise's Bishop said.

"Developers understand application development and businesspeople understand the business, and often, bridging the gap between the two is difficult because they speak different languages," EMA's Craig said. "Now, iRise helps bridge that gap."

Visual forms of application development are catching on because they are seen as a solution to the wastefulness of normal application development. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has unveiled Oslo, a tool that helps with model-based application development, which includes a technology code-named Quadrant that lets users define and interact with models visually.

There are several competitors to iRise, including Blueprint, which offers four purpose-built modules for business analysts, and Serena, which has a variety of products covering various parts of the application development process.