IBM Aligns Software Development with Business

Businesses need to understand the cost and value of the software they have and are developing. With that need in mind, IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced several upgrades to its IBM Rational software family at the 2009 Rational Software Conference.

The upgrades build on tools such as the IBM Rational Requirements Composer, announced late last year, that help companies track application development by tying together collaboration and logging software.

“Up until this point, organizations have been lax in measuring the business value and discipline of the processes they use to deliver software assets. Classic metrics in software engineering largely ignore the importance of actual business outcomes,” Daniel Sabbah, general manager for IBM Rational Software, said in a statement.

“Our clients are now beginning to realize that the software they build or assemble must be treated as a strategic business asset. IBM is committed to helping them make the right decisions and improve the successful outcomes of this newly emerging business process discipline,” he added.

The announcement comes as most software companies are pitching cost savings from software, including the savings that virtualization can deliver.

At the top of the IBM stack is IBM Rational Insight, which provides the dashboard to display data stored in and queried through IBM Cognos.

Specialized products serve specific needs. For example IBM Rational Focal Point for Project Management helps people work together at every level. “It empowers the CTO to make informed decisions about the projects they’re working on, helping align the business strategy with real-time metrics through quantitative assessment,” Dave Locke, director of marketing at IBM Rational, told

The software tracks requirements, replacing the guesswork of status meetings with real data, according to Locke. Instead of “relying on humans to put their finger in the wind and give assessments,” the system uses data from the actual developer project.

“The project manager can see: do I have the right resource on it, is it working efficiently, will I make my milestones? It’s not just a cross-team meeting where I’m hoping the manager tells me truth,” said Locke.

Underlying the software is a strategy for continuous improvement of the software process called the Measured Capability Improvement Framework (MCIF). The strategy, Locke said, consists of four stages: identify goals, prioritize goals and decide how to overcome anticipated issues, accelerate the adoption of tools and services, and then report, analyze and act.

He said the final step is the most important, when companies monitor their investments to see whether or not they’re getting the ROI they need.

In other upgrades, IBM Rational Team Concert gets a big boost in scalability from handling hundreds of developers to handling tens of thousands.

IBM Rational Requirements Composer, software that allows people to collaborate on setting requirements for projects by enabling managers to change requirements but everyone to comment on them, gets a browser-based client instead of requiring an installed application.

IBM Rational Focal Point for Product and Portfolio Management tracks the cash outlays.

IBM Rational System Architect (where system means the entire spectrum of interactions between hardware and applications) has a new workplace feature that allows system architects to design multiple workspaces, visualizations of alternate possibilities.

At the conference, IBM will be demonstrating preview releases of cloud versions of Rational software, with formal betas due at the end of this month.

The company also announced that IBM Rational Software Architect and IBM Rational Focal Point for Product and Portfolio Management will be available on mainframes for IBM System z customers.

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