Here is an interesting post by Christina Noren, Automating and opening up product planning. Yet another example of a team trying to hack and integrate a few existing tools to build a useful product management flow. The problem I have been describing in my earlier post, Think bigger, Think Agile Product Management. Seems like many teams face the same inconvenience and some new, more integrated tools could help.

So the experiment: We’re hacking Jira, our bug tracking system, in order to automate the entire product planning and marketing process and facilitate real-time communication back to customers, internal stakeholders and even the community at large via our public roadmap. 

This means that we setting it up to automatically bring enhancement requests from our SugarCRM system into a PM work queue within Jira; asking PMs to enter call reports and market datapoints; linking all of these to problem statements;

What I especially like about this post is that it confirms our efforts with our project Yoxel Systems. Yoxel is exactly that integrated system: request tracking, release planning/tracking, key CRM capabilities, and even customer portals! And if you really like your Jira, Bugzilla, Mantis, GNATS, Yoxel can connect to them too.

Customers with enhancement requests tracked through the support portal will be able to see how they’ve been triaged, how the problem has been interpreted, and what requirements are at what stage of delivery to meet the request.The public roadmap will be maintained in real time, with the potential for drilldown into more of what’s behind each listed feature. 

Once again, Bridging the worlds of PLM and CRM  seems to be creating value and helping you build better products.

Check out our demo accounts as http://yoxel.com

As you may know, our project Yoxel Systems has been mainly focusing on agile product management solutions for software companies. You can think of our flagship product YOXEL SW as of an open source alternative to commercial tools like RallyDev or VersionOne. It is basically a few well integrated sub-systems that allow smooth and easy transition to agile:

  1. Full featured request/bug tracker (integrating with Bugzilla/Mantis/GNATS/Jira if required)
  2. Release/iteration manager (iteration planning and tracking)
  3. Comprehensive template based reporting system
  4. Customer support/feedback portal (helpdesk)
  5. Product/support knowledge management system

Anyway, a while back we decided to clone YOXEL SW and try applying agile methodologies used in software development to IT. Hence the name for our 2nd product YOXEL IT. Here are the similarities we thought of:

  • In software you have products and you try to manage their life-cycle. Well, in IT you may have certain IT environments (main/internal, test, experimental, customer1, customer2) that come into existence and live their life too.
  • Within each software product we usually define categories or components for which we track changes. The change management is a vital process of any life-cycle management. In IT context within each environment we usually define queues that contain user requests (tickets). Anyone familiar with an IT helpdesk will be familiar with a concept of a ticket, right?
  • We all use request/bug trackers to track software product changes. IT uses HelpDesks or ticket trackers. The difference betweek IT ticket and SW request is mainly in the workflow definition.
  • Project management? Now, this is where it becomes interesting! The new generation of tools like RallyDev, VersionOne, Xplanner, eScrum … (well Yoxel too) promote and support agile approaches in software project management. Instead of long term projects with elaborate planning, requirements specifications, and resource allocation they allow you to manage short (2weeks-1month) incremental projects (iterations). At the end of each iteration you get a working product which can be demonstrated to your customers and hence you can get immediate feedback and correct your strategy to adapt to the market changes. Can we apply the same methodology for our IT projects?

YOXEL IT currently consists of these integrated systems:

  1. IT Ticket Tracker (with workflows applicable to IT)
  2. Agile IT project manager (iteration planning and tracking)
  3. Knowledge Management System (if required)

YOXEL IT is still, I would say, in PoC stage but even as it is right now it can enable incremental/adaptive approaches when dealing with IT projects. For each IT environment you create incremental projects (iterations) that contain tasks and changes relevant to the environment. Your backlog is your database of tickets and tasks, all categorized by IT environment/queue. At the end of each iteration your IT environment is changed and enhanced, and you can get immediate feedback from your users, which you will use to adjust the plan for the next iteration.

We are experimenting with the concept and with the product and I would be really interested to hear about your experiences, if you have done agile in IT. Feel free to download the open-source version of YOXEL IT and give it a try too.

We released our next open source version v1.13 on Monday. This LAMP based software is available for download at SourceForge and FreshMeat, see www.yoxel.com for details.

The package includes 3 products:

  • YOXEL SW – Agile software product management
  • YOXEL KB – Knowledge Base / Q&A management
  • YOXEL IT – IT project management

Check out our demo accounts at www.yoxel.com to see what Yoxel Systems is all about.