Keeping tabs on projects with Acqua v3

Project management for software development projects -- especially for large projects involving several different development groups -- can be a daunting task.

Acqua v3
Software Inc.
Cambridge, Mass.

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.

About the Author

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