Keeping tabs on projects with Acqua v3
- By Dan Romanchik
Project management for software development projects -- especially for large projects
involving several different development groups -- can be a daunting task.
This problem is compounded when developing a system that runs on more than one platform. Quite often, separate
development groups use different testing tools to inspect their portion of a project. In this situation, it is
very hard to correlate test results and to incorporate test cases from several different testing tools into a system
test suite. Another complicating factor is distance.
One of the first tools to try to pull all of the pieces together is the Acqua v3 Application Development Management
System from CenterLine Software Inc., Cambridge, Mass. Acqua v3 gathers data from Microsoft Project files, Microsoft
Word files (for feature specifications information) and a variety of testing tools in order to provide managers
with data about a software development project. From this information, the product automatically generates a variety
of reports that managers can use to keep on top of a project's status.
Acqua v3 interfaces with tools from many different vendors to gather project data. These include Intersolv's
PVCS/Tracker for Windows, Rational's SQA Robot and Purify, Mercury's WinRunner and LoadRunner, Sun's JavaStar,
and Segue's QA Partner and SilkTest. For project management information, Acqua v3 gets data from Microsoft Project
(.mpp) files, while information about feature requirements is gathered from Microsoft Word files.
In addition to gathering project information, Acqua v3 runs test cases developed with a number of different
testing tools. This allows users to more easily consolidate tests developed by several different test groups into
a system test suite, and also provides a common test-reporting format. For example, I was able to easily integrate
a test developed using SilkTest into an Acqua v3 test suite.
Acqua v3 also provides many advanced features for test management, including the ability to graphically set
up test hierarchies and define rules for how tests run at each level. For example, in one setup window users can
define set up rules at the top of the hierarchy that starts a server process. Subsequent test cases lower in the
hierarchy can test clients that depend upon the server process running and being configured properly.
|Acqua v3 generates standard HTML pages and Web graphics files. Users can access all project data
using a common Web browser -- either Netscape 4.0 or Internet Explorer 4.0.
The product also operates in a distributed environment, which means that tests can be set up in parallel. Users
specify which machines the test cases run on in the test-case definition window. To run a test case on several
different machines in parallel, users set up this operation in the job-description window. The job-description
window also lets users schedule when and how frequently tests run. Theoretically, there is no limit to the number
of machines that can run in parallel.
Coupled with Acqua v3's data collection and test features are powerful reporting features. One of the unique
things about Acqua v3 is that it delivers this information over a company's intranet or over the Web. It also generates
standard HTML pages and standard Web graphic files (see screenshot). Users access all project data using a common
Web browser -- either Netscape 4.0 or Internet Explorer 4.0. No special client is needed, and users can run any
computer platform that can run a 4.0 browser.
Because Acqua v3 is a Web application, users in an organization can easily receive information about the delivery,
quality and functionality of the company's software projects.
Available reports include the standard schedule, quality and functionality reports. Acqua takes this reporting
one step further, though. Not only does Acqua report on a project's status, but it actually attempts to predict
the project's completion date. It does this by analyzing the work already completed, the number of defects found
in testing, and the number of features not yet implemented. This capability could alert project managers to hidden
problems that could delay a development project.
The software also generate alerts when it detects specific problems. For example, users can program
Acqua to generate an alert when the incoming defect rate is too high or when a project milestone has slipped. When
these conditions occur, Acqua sends out an E-mail to a preprogrammed list of team members.
While it is sometimes a little rough around the edges, Acqua is definitely worth considering if you are looking
for a way to more easily manage complex software development projects. The product's ability to collect project
data from many different sources, coupled with its testing, analysis and reporting functions, provides project
managers with the information they need.
Dan Romanchik is an engineering manager turned writer and Web developer. His current passion is amateur radio. You can read his amateur radio blog at www.blurty.com/~kb6nu.