Do online development workspaces make sense?

Assembla, Elementool, RallyDev, and ProjectLocker all want to be your developer team integrator

In the last month or so, I've heard about Assembla, Elementool, RallyDev, and ProjectLocker. Each one of them wants to be your online developer team integrator and has impeccable reasons why.

According to Andy Singleton of Assembla, most software shops spend too much time on unnecessary management activities: interviewing developers, for instance. Andy says it's a waste of time; instead, give them a little task and see how they do with it. What else is unnecessary? Estimation. Why waste 20 percent of your time figuring out how long a job will take? Just do it in the right order. There's more about what not to do and why not to do it in Andy's recent blog post "Stick your con call up your estimate."

Andy also points out that most development teams are geographically distributed. Most Agile processes, on the other hand, require developers to be collocated so that they can have stand-up meetings, do pair programming, and informally share information. Andy's company has an alternative distributed agile process, which works well in his experience.

Yaron Sinai of Elementool makes his pitch in terms of ROI. According to Sinai, developers waste time on numerous small things that could be done for them automatically, such as handling file attachments, creating reports, and requesting additional information about bug reports. From streamlining these alone, companies can save $1,000 per developer per month, according to Elementool. In addition, Elementool has the benefits of providing instant status reports and prioritizing bugs, both of which, according to Elementool's ROI worksheet, are "priceless."

Rally Software is a well-known Agile and Lean software training and coaching company. Rally also offers Agile lifecycle management solutions at two levels, Community (free for up to 10 users) and Enterprise. Rally's Agile Vendor Evaluation Guide makes the case (and stacks the calculation) for why Rally should be your Agile vendor. In addition, uTest, the crowd-sourced testing company I discussed in March, is now "seamlessly integrated" with Rally Software Development’s Agile ALM solution.

ProjectLocker, a suite of hosted software development tools offered by One Percent Software, has essentially the same story to tell as the others: an enhanced Subversion or Git repository, defect tracking, communications, and automated continuous integration for .Net and Java projects. According to Damon Young, ProjectLocker is different because of proprietary tools such as Subversion Analytics reporting and the MyProjectLocker team management interface. He claims that "the acutely affordable rates available through our ProjectLocker Lite service line makes us more than competitive with the low cost hosting providers, while our resilient and scalable infrastructure, coupled with our record of less than 12 total hours of unscheduled downtime in the last 5 years, gives ProjectLocker a story on par with any enterprise solution."

There you have it: four SaaS developers, all of which claim to be the best available. Are any or all of them a solution for the problems facing your organization? Let me know in the comments below, via e-mail to, or via Twitter to @meheller.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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