Closing the collaboration gap
SourceForge Enterprise Fusion and Merant Professional bring distributed development teams together
Poor planning and miscommunication can set any software development project adrift, and missteps can be even more costly when programmers are spread throughout the country or across the globe. The success of distributed software development depends on effective Web-based tools for team collaboration and project management.
Two of the top SCM (software configuration management) applications rising to meet this challenge are VA Software’s SourceForge Enterprise Fusion 4 and Merant Professional 8. Both solutions provide a shared repository of source code, related documents, and project communications; tools that allow project managers to define workflows, assign tasks, and track progress; and, in these new releases, an enhanced Web-based client designed to improve accessibility and productivity for remote workers.
Merant Professional consists of three superbly integrated applications for issue/defect tracking and task assignment, source code management, and software build processes. It offers a large number of supported platforms, clients, and IDEs, excellent security and LDAP integration, and several performance enhancements, including a new file server that uses HTTP streaming, that make it a highly scalable solution for large-scale enterprise development.
Professional 8 also implements a new file architecture that splits revision data from its descriptive metadata, resulting in faster execution of global operations, such as bulk relabeling across an entire project.
Newly re-architected, SourceForge sheds its PHP past for J2EE and now allows developers to extend its features via a Web services API. Features such as bidirectional support of Microsoft Project files help it to slip into existing routines without much effort.
Both of these SCM tools can help refine your development processes while remaining neutral to your development style. They will reap rewards through improved communication, efficiency, cost control, and software quality, whether your consultants reside in India or Indiana.
Tapping the Web
The easy-to-use Web interfaces of SourceForge and Merant will have your project teams up and running quickly. SourceForge’s My Page provides a personal work environment for each user, consisting of current tasks and artifacts drawn from his or her projects. For example, during my test project, I could see the items awaiting my approval and, with a single click, view at-a-glance graphical depictions of recent activity, task status, and hot spots across all of my active projects.
Similarly, SourceForge’s project-specific home page delivers current project news with rudimentary graphics of recent project activity. Although users cannot drill through to underlying data, the well-defined interface does help them become productive without extensive training.
Merant’s issue tracking and task assignment application, Tracker, lacked some of the graphical niceties of SourceForge, but its Windows Explorer-like interface was welcomingly customizable — similar to IBM Rational ClearCase Explorer. As in SourceForge, workers can see pending tasks and assignments, report their progress and method of resolution, and escalate issues through reassignment.
For project managers and team leaders, SourceForge provides at-a-glance task progress, percent completed tallies, estimated hours to completion, and color-coded representations of project health. Tasks can be monitored by group and individually, and changes in status can trigger e-mail alerts — a useful feature that’s available throughout the application.