With business software shifting to the Internet and software development projects moving at Internet speed, software change requests are coming faster, more frequently, and with greater urgency than ever before.
Everyone knows that change is inevitable, but those of us in IT also understand that when change isn't managed carefully defects inevitably result. The last thing a software development team wants to worry about, aside from fulfilling a deluge of change requests, is a poorly implemented change management and defect tracking system -- or worse yet, one that does not exist at all.
Rolling with the changes
For software development projects to be successful and for customers and end-users to be satisfied with the end result, development teams need a change management system that does more than simply track the bugs exposed during a project.
The system should manage all types of requests, specification changes, documentation changes, and so on. Furthermore, it should be capable of providing the detailed reports that project managers and developers need to track and analyze what has been completed and to determine what has fallen through the cracks.
Rational ClearQuest v2001 from Rational Software Corp. meets all of these requirements, making it easier than ever for managers and developers to report changes and defects and keep other project participants in the loop.
ClearQuest provides software development teams with not only a powerful and flexible defect and change tracking system but one designed for the dynamic, interdependent nature of software development. The net result is a change management system that will help development teams stay up-to-date with changes throughout the duration of the project and ultimately deliver higher-quality software.
Easy to implement and use
Building on an already impressive tool, Rational has not only expanded the types of databases ClearQuest supports but also has enhanced ClearQuest's Web interface both in terms of functionality and general usability.
Users will note that the improved interface now closely approximates a Windows interface and provides an intuitive, context-sensitive toolbar to perform all major operations, including submitting and finding records, creating and editing queries and reports, and creating shortcuts, to name a few.
ClearQuest is also easy to deploy across an enterprise, regardless of location, thanks to native support for Windows, Unix, and the Web. This cross-platform capability enables integration into today's heterogeneous business environments and ensures that all team members are tied in to the same defect and change request process.
On the downside, we were disappointed to find that Linux was not one of the many platforms supported despite its growing acceptance among corporate corridors.
ClearQuest is now capable of working with almost as many databases as it is platforms, including Oracle, IBM's DB2 Universal Database, and Microsoft's SQL Server and Access, in addition to the bundled Sybase SQL Anywhere.
Furthermore, ClearQuest is quite capable of integrating with a variety of other development solutions, including configuration management, automated testing, and requirements management tools from both Rational and third-party vendors.
For example, ClearQuest works seamlessly with ClearCase, Rational's software configuration management solution, as well as with Microsoft Visual SourceSafe. In either case, the combination allows development teams to easily associate change requests with an ever-evolving code base.
For those looking to extend or include ClearQuest functionality into their own applications, a fully documented COM API is provided, enabling integration into call center, front office, software testing, and other third-party applications.
ClearQuest passes the test
To test ClearQuest, we deployed the solution on a Windows NT server running Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS). Although we tested the solution on the Web as well as on Windows, we would have preferred to run it on a different Web server, but unfortunately the product works only with the Microsoft solution -- a huge limitation in our eyes.
We found ClearQuest to be useful right out of the box, thanks to numerous predefined processes, forms, and associated rules provided by Rational. Of course, if you desire more granularity, as we did, you can make use of ClearQuest's Designer component to customize individual database fields, processes, forms, and rules.
For a defect tracking and change management solution to be effective, it must be able to highlight progress in the form of either charts or reports. Here ClearQuest shines. We found reporting to be both extremely easy and powerful, thanks to the inclusion of Crystal Reports.
Similar to other Rational products, ClearQuest's hard-copy documentation and online help are exemplary. In all, we found Rational ClearQuest v2001 to be a big hit and gave it a score of Very Good. Its fully customizable interface and workflow engine make the solution capable of adapting to any development process. Were it not for its lack of support for Web servers other than Microsoft's IIS, this change management system would surely merit a score of Excellent.
Tim Fielden is a senior analyst for the InfoWorld Test Center. Send him comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD
Rational ClearQuest v2001
Business Case: This powerful, flexible change management system can ease the reporting and management of changes and defects associated with large software development projects, helping to keep project team members up-to-date, reduce development costs, and improve software quality.
Technology Case: ClearQuest provides a central database for reporting, tracking, and managing software changes. It can be accessed via Web or desktop, customized to suit any development project, and integrated with other development tools from Rational and third parties.
+ Intuitive Web and desktop interfaces
+ Highly customizable database, processes, and forms+ Easy and powerful reporting+ Excellent documentationCons:
- No support for Linux
- Web server support limited to Microsoft IISCost: US$1,295 per node-locked license; floating licenses available for $3,295Platform(s): Windows 95/98/2000, Windows 2000, Solaris 2.5.1+, and HP-UX 10.2+Rational Software Corp., Cupertino, Calif.; (800) 728-1212; www.rational.com