RALLY and AgileZen

July 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

A few years back when I was working on a project where I needed to form a team with a group of people from 5 diverse nationalities – Malaysian, Indian, Filipino, Norwegian, and Polish – to realign and standardize their localized business processes, I was searching for a tool that would enable me to keep everyone focus on a stream of work yet acts as simple info radiator to keep me abreast of everyone’s progress (without needing to micro-manage).

What I was looking for was something that non-technical people can use since I was dealing with a group of end-users and not software development people. A Kanban virtual wall, hosted on a cloud so that everyone on the team can accessed it anywhere anytime would fit my needs.

Looked at a few webapps that provide Kanban functionalities, tested and evaluated some and at the end, I settled for AgileZen (www.agilezen.com) for it’s intuitive user experience and uncluttered view of the cards. AgileZen is not necessarily the best of its breed, but for my purpose it fits almost to the tee.

At that time, AgileZen was not yet acquired into the RALLY portfolio, and even in terms of featureset, it was still new and working towards a richer set of features. However it did its job (that I asked) and it’s simple cumulative flow diagram helped me to keep on top of the project’s throughput.

I then applied the simplicity of the Kanban wall to manage the sales flow of another business Boardgamecafe.net and found a Kanban wall to so useful in keeping all parties on the same page and at the same time providing simple info radiator to tell us how we are doing.

The application of Kanban in both processes was done at a very basic level – we didn’t even put or rather didn’t enforce WIP – and it’s application was mostly as a virtual collaboration wall to keep parties in various location in sync. The need to look at batch size, eliminate waste, streamline queue etc was not a requirement.

That was my introduction to AgileZen. RALLY subsequently acquired AgileZen back in April 2010.

Back to present time.

When one of the contacts in my Agile network, Bryan Tan who’s the Regional Business Consultant for RALLY based in Singapore mentioned Don Hazell (EVP at RALLY) was in town and would like to catch up for lunch, that sounded like a great opportunity to mingle with one of RALLY’s top minds and understand some of their perspectives.

Don’s on a whirlwind tour of Asia, just coming back from China and Indonesia before dropping into Malaysia for a day and then back to Singapore. Obviously RALLY has seen the growth opportunity in Asia and is now setting up shop seriously in this part of the world which is not a bad thing for the local Agile practitioners as they would obviously benefit from the effort RALLY would be putting in to promote Agile practices.

I’d already met Bryan and Craig, one of their principal consultants earlier at MYOB discussing how MYOB and RALLY can work together to promote the practices of Agile within the local community. A large part of that work would be done through the Agile Malaysia meetup group (of which Andy Kelk is another key player).

Andy & myself caught up for lunch at the Gastro Sentral with Don and Bryan. MYOB has three major Product Development (PD) divisions – BD, AD and ED – and while AD & ED adopted RALLY, BD went for JIRA (with Greenhopper). When Don asked which division I side with, naturally I told him I’m with BD (and thus in the JIRA camp) and he immediately put his arm up on the table suggesting we arm wrestle. LOL.

Over the course of lunch we spoke about his involvement in RALLY from the early days as an angel investor, and how RALLY has always been set up to create software for the Agile market, their strategies for acquiring companies like AgileZen and FlowDock. FlowDock is described as a social collaboration hub and Don suggested I check them out since we discussed how the current batch of Agile tools support communication collaboration (which I would say none does it well enough).

We also understood a bit more about RALLY’s market positioning, the type of customer segments they are aiming for and when the conversation drifted to how a more rigid and policy-driven organizations like for eg the Dept of Defense may not embrace Agile fully (preferring the more formal documentation heavy Waterfall SDLC), Don surprised me with some info how RALLY worked with the Dept of Defense to have RALLY and subsequently Agile practices imbued into their development teams.

RALLY’s strength in their Program / Portfolio Management angle of looking at delivery (while JIRA’s in delivery management) would naturally positioned them at the top end of the market (ie organizations with projects large enough to roll into Program or Portfolio level) but Don corrected that misassumption and explained how RALLY can be useful for startups or smaller dev teams. Well, they do have a free Community Edition that caters up to 10 users!

All in, a good lunch spent with great people talking about fantastic Agile stuff. It’s one thing to be reading up stuff about a company through the Internet, and another to be sitting with one of their senior staff, enjoying a discourse over Agile & how tools may (or may not) make an impact in one’s implementation. There are certainly reasons why RALLY was named as an Agile ALM market leader in the recent Forrester-Wave report.

We closed our session with some discussions about next steps in getting RALLY’s involvement in the local Agile space. I hope the local Malaysian Agile community would be able to benefit from the RALLY connection in the near future.

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