Softing Standardizes on Development Versatility with Helix ALM

Softing, a well-established company with multiple product lines, selected Helix ALM (formerly TestTrack) to deliver their comprehensive solutions and meet the needs of both their Agile and Waterfall development processes.

What aspects of Helix ALM enticed Softing?

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Impressed with capabilities and versatility

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Had everything required, but not overloaded

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Great configurability

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Freedom and flexibility in the development process

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Intuitive visual taskboards

Helix ALM supports cross-location coordination of the development process so that we have one central piece.

Helix ALM's approach, especially for requirements management, really helps our product management — it's not too formal, like with other tools, and that's the approach we like."

 

Standardizing on Innovation

Can a large, well-established company with multiple product lines and locations find a single ALM solution that meets the needs of both Agile and Waterfall development processes? 

You bet. They use Perforce's Helix ALM (formerly TestTrack).

For more than 30 years, Softing AG has been a leading global supplier of advanced industrial automation communication and control technology products, and automotive on-and off-board communication electronics. Softing was also instrumental in establishing the current global standards for Industrial Automation and Automotive Electronics. 

Softing's decades of success are due to the company fulfilling its mission: to develop individual solutions based on sophisticated standard products. High-profile companies the world over rely on Softing as the benchmark for innovation, quality, and service. And Softing applies that philosophy to their own product development processes, striving to innovate from a strong, standard foundation. 

That's why to streamline company-wide development efforts, Softing standardized on Helix Issue Management for defect tracking, which worked well for years, even as the company expanded from one division to two, with distinct product lines, spread over three geographic locations. 

But that's not the end of this story.

In 2011, Softing's Industrial Automation division decided to move from a Waterfall development process to Scrum. The change would help modernize and add flexibility to their development process.  

However, Softing's Automotive Electronics division had entirely different development needs, having to meet more stringent SPICE compliance requirements. The Automotive division's process had to be traceable, with a much more complex workflow than that of the Industrial division. The Scrum process didn't seem to be suitable for Automotive.

The Industrial division was set to adopt Scrum, though, and Softing hoped to be able to standardize their development toolset between the two divisions. This situation presented a challenge: how could Softing best support both Waterfall and Agile development efforts with a single ALM tool? 

They would need to evaluate tools. And take a fresh look at the Helix ALM suite beyond just Helix IM. 

 

Configurability is the Key to Development Versatility

"When the Industrial Automation division decided to switch to a Scrum process, we had a look at several tools, including Helix ALM," said Thomas Rummel, head of R&D for Softing's Industrial Automation division. Even though they had used Helix IM for years, there hadn't been the opportunity to consider using it beyond defect tracking. When the opportunity came to use it more extensively, Rummel was pleasantly surprised by its capabilities and versatility.

"One thing we really liked during the selection process was that Helix is simple—it had everything we needed, but was not overloaded," continued Rummel. "There wasn't a need to configure it heavily. My division mainly uses the standard Helix workflow with a few adaptations."

Although the Industrial division didn't need to change the Helix standard workflows much, configurability was going to be critical for the Automotive division. Fortunately, Helix ALM fit that bill as well.  

"It's different in the Automotive department because our customers expect us to comply with SPICE. We were able to configure a very complex workflow in Helix ALM to cover all the SPICE requirements. Also, the flexible license management system has lots of benefits for us—we're working in multiple locations in Romania and Germany, but now everyone has the same tool in place and can work from a common database." 

—Michael Drescher, head of R&D for Softing's Automotive Electronics division 

After re-evaluating Helix ALM, Softing saw that with one tool enabling agility and traceability, they could meet the development needs of both divisions. Softing decided to stay with Helix, but expanded to use the full suite, including requirements management and test case management.

 

Traceability with Agility 

The Industrial division first started using the entire Helix ALM suite to support their development process in 2011, and the Automotive division followed shortly after. Helix ALM's inherent support of Agile processes simplified the Industrial division's transition to Scrum, and later the Automotive division's Scrum pilot.

Rummel likes that with Helix Requirements Management, he now has more control over requirements during development. The move to Scrum gave his team more freedom and flexibility in their development process, and eliminated the printed Word documents they had previously used to capture and manage requirements. "A lot of Word documents have disappeared and all the information is now stored in Helix RM," Rummel said. "We only have data outside of Helix RM for configuration management and architecture."

Drescher has seen a variety of benefits from Helix. "Today, using Helix, we have a process that matches our needs," he explained. "Since we've been using Helix ALM, we are also better able to meet SPICE compliance requirements. A central topic in SPICE is the traceability of the functional requirements to technical requirements, architecture, and so on. It's tough for Automotive to cover all of those SPICE requirements and be Agile, but Helix ALM satisfied all we needed for Scrum, plus requirements management and test case management."

Both Rummel and Drescher like task boards, the feature new in Helix ALM 2015.

"Before we used a list-style view, but of course the task boards are much more visual and intuitive, so you can better see the status of the topic. That has helped a lot," said Rummel. Drescher echoed, "What's also nice for Scrum are the new task boards—it's a good improvement that helps a lot on the task matrices. It's really a main point I like."

The best tools support processes without dictating them, yet offer a range of capabilities that enable growth and improvement. For a company that prides itself on providing that to its own customers, finding a single tool that works for two very distinct divisions was the key to development versatility.