MiTek Industries Gets a Single Source of Truth with Helix ALM

MiTek leverages Helix ALM to manage their distributed teams' development processes and to unify their systems in order to better deliver their state-of-the-art engineered products, design software, and services for the building components industry.

Why MiTek has been happy with Helix ALM for 20 years

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Flexibility to determine their own process

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Ability to merge multiple complicated systems

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Manageable cross-team projects

There are so many moving parts—we have a team of more than 100 developers, project managers, and QA,

so there are a lot of people touching and moving things around. Our workflow process helps control where things can go and where they can't go. It has really helped to keep work from falling through the cracks."

 

Long-Time Helix ALM Partners on the Path of Steady Growth

The Helix ALM platform helps MiTek Industries manage their distributed teams with complete cohesion and control over their development processes. As a distributed organization, MiTek worked diligently to unify their systems to better deliver their state-of-the-art engineered products, design software, and services for the building components industry.

MiTek is committed to maintaining a business focus at the local level, helping solve individual problems—despite being a global operation. 

That commitment doesn't just extend outward to MiTek's customers—it applies internally, as well. With a number of locations, products, and teams that develop and test those products, MiTek understands the necessity of having a single source of truth for their development assets. Doing so has streamlined their workflows and improved their processes, resulting in better responsiveness to their customers. 

Large teams? Multiple locations? Learn why development traceability isn't just for regulated industries.

In the late 1990s, MiTek had reached the limits of the homegrown Microsoft Access application they were using to manage development, and made the switch to Helix ALM. The company uses Helix ALM extensively for their entire product lifecycle, from planning sprints all the way through deployment. Helix ALM provides ample flexibility to determine their own process, yet enough structure to establish control and oversight in the form of workflows and traceability.  

"The work that we do is kind of odd in that we have almost 20 projects that we're working on simultaneously in the same system, and all of those products have to work together," said Joe Prettyman, Director of Software Project Management, MiTek. "Helix ALM allows us to make the customizations we need to work the way we want to work." 

And customization is important, with so many products under development in this hybrid Agile shop. 

"We process a lot of tickets — which are feature requests, user stories, and so on — and sometimes we create parent tickets for very large features, which link to child tickets that represent the actual work to create the feature," said Prettyman. "We put tickets into the system, classify them, then assign them to a project. We use folders quite extensively for planning. Developers get tickets when we pull them into a sprint — then they do their work and log their hours, and QA does their testing, then we deploy. We have a whole workflow built around that, all the way out to the deployed release, which we do four times a year."

 

Facing Challenges as Opportunities for Improvement

Over the years, the Missouri-based company has expanded its reach to better serve a global market, with the ultimate goal of merging three separate development databases into one. This multi-year project has presented MiTek with a unique challenge. 

The project began about two years ago, when the process reorganization team at MiTek's Chesterfield location worked to integrate the development done at a sister company in Denver. That company had its own Helix ALM installation — with its own established workflows and processes. As a result, the process reorganization team spent a period of time working with both Helix ALM databases — and their different workflows — simultaneously. This was inefficient and hindered their ability to deliver upon MiTek's mission: to be a global developer with a local business focus. Ideally, those two MiTek locations needed to work as one.

"It was difficult to try to use both of those installations, because there were just so many projects that were cross-team related," said Prettyman. "So we embarked on a huge effort to combine the databases, which was a monumental task. When we started, I thought it would never happen because of the diversity of the two Helix ALM workflows."

But Helix ALM's flexibility — combined with MiTek's commitment and ingenuity, with a little help from Perforce's Professional Services team — paved the way to a single source of truth, despite the challenge.

"The Perforce team helped us merge two very complicated systems into a single system. Essentially we had two development teams with two completely different workflow processes using separate databases. One team had extensive workflow events and the other had minimal. We devised a new process that was a middle ground between the two. Perforce provided a tool that extracted the data from each database, converted it to the new format and imported it into a new database. This was a major undertaking. It took a lot of work and time. The end results are very good. We are all able to now work within a single system and share work and resources across the teams."

MiTek's process reorganization team made the most of the chance to rethink and update old processes. "We took the opportunity to look at our business practices, how we were processing tickets," Prettyman said. "Both teams followed a different process. The new process allows us to better understand and manage the complexities of our work."

 

Another Expansion on the Horizon

The final step of MiTek's global integration is their location in Australia, which has its own established Helix ALM installation. MiTek understands that having a single source of truth is worth the effort—even when that effort is significant. Now, with lessons learned, they are working toward merging the Australian database as well.

"Some of their tickets are specific to their region, but there are some tickets that need to go into the main system," Prettyman explains of the Australian location. "So they're in a position where they have to use two Helix ALM databases to do their job, and we also have to work in their database to maintain it. We're looking into what we can do to merge their data into the primary Helix database."

"We already have the structure and workflows established—we just need to figure out where their data fits into the established workflow," he continued. "It will be a challenge, but it will make everything much easier to track across those teams once it's done."

MiTek is also committed to maintaining traceability, even though they don't need to prove compliance to a regulatory body. Quite simply, Prettyman appreciates that Helix ALM's traceability helps them keep their own system straight.