No matter what industry you work in, process breakdowns can be a costly problem, one that BPM (business process management) tools are meant to address. However, many BPM tools, such as defect trackers and version control solutions, focus on a single facet of BPM rather than managing varied processes in an integrated manner.
Serena Software Inc.’s TeamTrack 6.1 is a powerful BPM solution because it neatly manages multiple types of business processes out-of-the-box while enabling customers to easily create custom workflows directly matched to a given business process. Moreover, project teams using TeamTrack can keep projects on track via the browser-based GUI and role-based paradigm, which provide role-specific information to all project participants.
There are two parts to TeamTrack. On the server side, a database repository powers TeamTrack. Customers can implement TeamTrack’s repository using IBM Corp.’s DB2, Oracle, Microsoft Corp.’s Access, or MySQL AB SQL Server. TeamTrack’s browser-based access is supported via either the Apache Web server, Java Sun ONE, or Microsoft’s IIS, and TeamTrack can be managed on either Solaris or Windows. The company plans to add support for Linux and AIX (Advanced Interactive Executive) this year.
The second part of TeamTrack, the user interface presented in the browser, provides an easy-to-navigate GUI that gives users the exact information they need based on their role in a project or workflow. For example, engineers view only the tasks they own and the defects they are correcting. Managers, on the other hand, can use the newly added management dashboard to track the precise status of multiple projects with a higher-level view and drill-down capabilities, when needed.
TeamTrack’s browser interface renders nicely in multiple browsers such as Mozilla, Internet Explorer, Galeon, and Konqueror, and I was able to access the GUI whether using browsers on Linux, Macintosh, or Windows desktops. Also useful are the reporting features, which enable users to quickly create or access queries and reports via drop-downs in the browser. The same queries and reports can also be exported for further trend analysis.
Setting up TeamTrack is straightforward and the administrative documentation is well-detailed, providing useful instructions on how to set up the data repository and workflows, enabling SSL, and managing user accounts via LDAP, if desired. Creating user accounts and roles is very straightforward using the administrative console — a native Windows application in the version I tested.
The only glitch I observed was that the console would hang occasionally when I tried to exit the interface. I was able to kill the console using the Task Manager and subsequent access showed no errors. Serena has not had reports of the administration interface hanging on exit operations. The company is investigating this error.
Administrators also will want to make sure that their database and Web server configurations for TeamTrack will support the number of intended users. I observed some sluggishness during my tests using a single server. Serena does support TeamTrack in clustered configurations and offers load balancing, which may be advisable for larger enterprise settings.
Admins can use TeamTrack’s built-in workflows, including change management, help desk, and software development, a starting point for a given project’s customization. Alternatively, they can easily create workflows from scratch using the Workflow Editor. I tried both customizing existing workflows and creating new ones for three projects at my fictitious insurance company and had no trouble defining the exact workflows I needed.
I especially liked TeamTrack’s capability of linking workflows. For example, you might set up workflows for software development, defect tracking, and customer support. When a customer calls with an issue, which is clearly a software defect, a support representative can pass the issue directly to defect tracking and monitor status through to resolution. Likewise, customer requests for new features might be tracked via the software development workflow.
I also liked the fast update capability when transitioning between user roles. Status information on any given process item is updated as soon as the owner clicks the submit button. When I logged in as an engineer, I was able to view my task to add a component to one of the applications and after completing it and updating the status, the task item was routed to the QA person. I then immediately logged in as a QA person, and I saw that the module had been completed and was ready for testing.
Most companies will likely already be using some process management tools. TeamTrack can integrate with a variety of process management tools, such as Merant’s PVCS (Polytron Version Control System), Mercury Interactive’s TestDirector, and OpenText Livelink. Doing so enables them to expand these solutions’ process management capabilities while keeping familiar tools in place.
TeamTrack is a good solution for companies that want to prevent process breakdowns while improving process integration across multiple business areas. Companies eyeing process improvements to keep costs down will want to consider TeamTrack as a proof-of-concept candidate.