IBM Jazz: Supporting communities, speeding development

Screenshot of homepageThe latest IBM CEO study (s IBM) reports, “More than 62% of development projects fail to meet the intended schedule and 30% of project costs are due to rework and poor execution of requirements.” IBM Jazz, and the academic version, JazzHub, are working to address these problems through greater support of developer collaboration. One of the company’s proof-of-concept projects helped a distributed team of university students create an educational mobile phone app for first graders in Senegal in just nine weeks.

The Jazz platform is designed to improving collaboration across the software and systems lifecycle, and it seems to hit on all the foundational dimensions of success: Human needs and capabilities, appropriate technology features, and effective organizational support are all working together as a thoughtful mix.

The Jazz platform helps teams:

  • Collaborate via social networking and virtualized team memory to overcome geographic and temporal gaps in the software lifecycle (addressing human needs and capabilities)
  • Automate individual and team workflows throughout the software lifecycle, enabling standardized processes without adding overhead (technology features)
  • Report on the overall process with real-time insight into programs, projects, and resource utilization (providing organizational support)

Gina Poole, vice president, Rational Marketing, IBM Software has been with the company for 25 years, starting as a developer. Much of that time she has worked on projects focused on increasing the quality of collaboration in the development process.  She says,

It’s not about teaching people how to use the tools, but understanding the people, their roles, their objectives. We focus on the build, working with clients to help them create new things: Design, develop, test — as well as embedded systems all along the application lifecycle…  including business alignment.

We have a pretty big software development team all over the world. The key is to make it easy for these teams to succeed. Make it easy for them to collaborate and integrate the roles and the processes across the lifecycle — provide a single version of the truth.

IBM also understands that the skills of collaboration can be helpful before entering the professional world. As a case in point, the company worked with Prof. Christelle Scharff of Pace University as she used JazzHub to support five grad students (two in the United States, two in India, and one in Senegal) using agile development methods to create a mobile phone app for first-graders to practice their skills in reading, writing and math. Poole noted that JazzHub provided the real-time daily communication flow needed for agile development.

Target First Grade phone appThese tools and methods are able to support agile development practices and agile’s strong focus on quick communication and incremental decision-making even in virtual teams. While agile development is seen as an effective practice, many have noted the problems with teams attempting to be both agile and virtual at the same time. Organizational practices and technology tools have to be ramped up when distance and time zones make communication more difficult. Rarely can a system sustain a big change to one dimension without needing to adapt across the remaining dimensions. The Jazz focus on community and collaboration seems to be meeting that need.

As we closed our conversation, Poole provided this key point: “Successful software development isn’t about having the best tools. It’s about the strong integration and optimization of the tech and practices, and finally, insuring that [the result] really supports the business outcomes.” This again highlights the foundational dimensions of success: Human needs and capabilities, appropriate technology features, and effective organizational support  working together as a thoughtful mix.