Serena to offer free apps prototyping tool

Tool aims to solve the problem of business users not describing everything they want in an application

Serena Software plans to release Serena Prototype Composer this week, a free tool intended to make it easy to prototype business applications.

Prototype Composer is a requirements visualization and prototyping tool designed to simulate how applications will look and function before a developer writes any code, Serena said. The intent is to ensure that an application will meet business requirements from the onset, thus avoiding costly, time-consuming rework.

With the Prototype Composer product, Serena is attempting to solve the problem of business users not always describing everything they want in an application, or being cryptic about it, Nathan Rawlins, Serena senior director of product marketing, said.

"What I've needed all along is an app that's as easy to use as Microsoft Office that allows me to drag and drop controls and screens together so that it looks like a real app," Rawlins said. The resulting prototype can be turned over to a project manger, business analyst, or developer who can then build the application itself.

"Our mission here is really to bridge the gap between business and IT," by making it possible to create high-fidelity prototypes of applications before code is written, Rawlins said. Working prototypes are produced that function like a real application.

Users can design the application interface and the flow of interaction with other applications.

By offering the Windows-based product for free, Serena hopes to entice users to purchase its other software, such as application lifecycle management and project and portfolio management products.

"Most application development organizations out there are using some sort of Serena app," said Rawlins.

An analyst viewed Serena's plans as a requirements management move for mashups.

"The goal of Serena Prototype Composer is to facilitate the requirements gathering process in the context of mashups," wrote analyst Melinda Ballou, program director for the application lifecycle management service at IDC. "Since communication between business users and technologists is often challenging and/or fraught, IDC sees the emergence of more intuitive approaches to requirements gathering, management, and analysis to increase the applicability of software projects.

"Our research indicates 80-plus percent of software development failures result directly from poor requirements gathering, management, and analysis, so improving business/IT communication is key," she said.

Serena recently made a splash by introducing Serena Mashup Composer, for point-and-click development of mashup applications.

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