TomTom steers away from 'weak' VersionOne to pick Rally Software for agile project management

By Sooraj Shah
19 Feb 2014 View Comments

Dutch automotive navigation system manufacturer TomTom has selected Rally Software over VersionOne because of its superior output of information, according to the company's vice president of connected navigation applications, James Janisse.

Janisse told Computing that his department usually has about 12-18 months to launch a new product, and as TomTom was launching its fourth-generation consumer application product, the CEO explained that it had to be released in six months instead.

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"As you can imagine chaos reigns, and we absolutely relied on Rally to organise ourselves, because we had a software product that we released and a million lines of code. Although it isn't all about software development, we had to co-ordinate the work to the 25 scrum teams located in six different countries," he said.

This, he explained, would have been impossible to do by hand, or using Microsoft Excel, and therefore required a thorough agile management solution.

Rally Software was chosen ahead of VersionOne and other alternatives which were looked at by Janisse and his team.

"We looked at VersionOne, Rally, some of the simpler agile tools, planning or scrum management, and we also looked at a more workflow oriented tool from PTC called MKS which our maps department uses, and then I looked at the Gartner and Forrester reports and didn't want to choose a product that wasn't in the leader quadrant," he said.

Janisse was against using VersionOne, after he said he "grew to hate it" when he used it in his previous role at another company.

"I thought it was very weak in terms of visualisation, so we chose Rally because it was much much better and you're actually getting information [that you need]," he said.

One of the biggest challenges was that the teams were located in several different areas, as well as four or five different departments which all have their own timetables.

"It's like using the tube map and merging everything to go to one station; it's impossible to get four product units to drastically change their schedules and their planning, so we had to try to co-ordinate these different 'trains' coming from different suppliers onto the same schedule, while leaving the existing schedule in place as much as possible," he said.

It was particularly hard because it was the company's first big agile project.

"Before it was like a waterfall project, the supplier would develop software, and hand it down to the next point of the value chain - we could wait for one team to spend months developing software and then evaluate it," he said.

To speed up the process, the firm had to implement extensive automated tools.

In addition, the company brought in some agile coaches, but this wasn't a move Janisse was particularly keen to go ahead with.

"At the beginning I was too embarrassed to bring in an agile coach. I didn't want someone to come in and realise how much of a mess we were, but eventually we did get some agile coachers in place but they were from local suppliers that we've adopted. Rally also helps us in the way that we work in terms of our practices as opposed to general coaching," he stated.

By using the software, Janisse concluded that TomTom was able to re-engineer software development, successfully deliver the new product line on time and reduce time to market.

He added that Rally is now helping the manufacturer to customise reports and build apps. It intends to continue to rely on the software firm, and has an eye on some of the company's other tools.

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