No Time to Wallow in the Mire: DOORS Opens Windows Development
For many companies, e-business has cut the typical product development cycle from months to weeks. To avoid hair-pulling and costly mistakes or misunderstandings, many development teams are looking to project management methodologies to avoid costly errors or duplication.
Requirements management -- through which developers generate documents that enable them to double-check or sign-off on changes -- helps keep development efforts in check. However, separate teams or departments often generate their own requirements management documents, and vital project communication is lost.
Quality Systems and Software Inc. (www.qssinc.com) recently launched a toolset targeted at keeping those lines of communication open during e-business development cycles. The Dynamic Object-Oriented Requirements System (DOORS) Enterprise Requirements Suite includes an enhanced version of QSS's flagship requirements management product, DOORS, as well as a Web-browser interface and toolset for creating Microsoft Word documents.
QSS's goal is to extend the software development process to as many people as possible -- including end users. "If you start to exclude people from the process, then it becomes very expensive," says Paul Raymond, product manager for DOORS Enterprise Requirements Suite at QSS. "Those people don't know what changes have been made, and they're working in the dark. You have to include everybody."
The ability to import documents from all across the organization was appealing to IIT Research Institute (www.iitri.org), which develops software for government organizations such as the Internal Revenue Service. The firm scanned the requirements management market, which includes tools such as Integrated Chipware Inc.'s RTM Workshop (www.chipware.com), Rational Software Corp.'s RequisitePro (www.rational.com), and Technology Builders Inc.'s Caliber suite (www.tbi.com). The firm found no tools were optimally suited to every phase of a software development project, notes Mark Rothstein, senior advisor at IIT.
IIT found that DOORS was more customizable, and therefore more capable of importing an assortment of file types. "Our primary selection factor was whether or not the requirements management tool could import existing Word, outline-text, spreadsheet, and graphics documents," Rothstein says. "We chose DOORS because it provided the easiest method for importing legacy requirements already captured in Word, Excel, and Visio." Rothstein notes, however, that DOORS still "has some limitations in user availability, user familiarity, and ease-of-use," which had to be overcome with additional customization work.
"Projects have been growing larger, and they've been growing more complex," QSS's Raymond says. "There is now much more pressure to bring in projects on shorter time scales. Customers need to get to grips with requirements management process right up front, communicating what needs to be done, and collaborating on tasks so they do get done in the same way by everybody."
The DOORS suite runs on Windows NT/2000 as well as Windows 95/98. The system can also be deployed on Sun Solaris, HP-UX, and Digital Unix. The suite uses a proprietary database repository at this time, Raymond says. "We are internally reviewing the possibility of using a commercial database at some time in the future," he notes.
This cross-platform functionality helps developers in heterogeneous environments, Raymond says. "Traditionally, a lot of larger organizations have focused their development on Unix platforms, but their management has been on Windows, resulting in a large disconnect between developers and managers. They couldn't communicate very well because the tools they were using didn't cross those platform boundaries very well."
A component of the DOORS suite for remote and offsite users, DOORSnet, includes a Web browser interface that enables continued involvement of the reviewing process from any location over an intranet. "We can reach all levels of the enterprise to help everybody, regardless of their experience levels, get to take part in the definition of the validation -- that the product we're developing is the right product, first time and every time," Raymond says. The DOORS suite was scheduled to ship in June.