First Choice Health Unifies Disparate Teams with Helix ALM

First Choice Health maintains a healthcare provider network and offers benefit administration services to businesses in the Pacific Northwest. The company’s IT department supports four different lines of business and develops Web-based applications, client/server applications, and customized off-the-shelf software targeted at patients, doctors, and healthcare administrators. 

Why pick Helix ALM and Surround SCM?

Branching and reporting

Total cost of ownership


Ideal integration options


Intuitive graphical interface

Easier release planning

Perforce’s products offered the features you expect in high- end solutions,

but at a lower cost. 


Even though multiple teams used the same source code management software, they had little in common. The four teams operated as separate organizations with their own source code repositories and processes. Security across repositories was an issue, and file corruption was a regular occurrence.

With Perforce Software’s help, First Choice Health migrated from an unstable source code management system and an internally developed defect tracking application to an integrated solution that allowed them to streamline their development process and improve their project turn time. 


Standardizing Processes Across Teams

First Choice Health wanted to standardize their processes so IT could provide consistent responses to the entire organization. They used a source code management application that was little more than a user interface over a file system, and did not offer the release management features they needed. Because of this, fixes were occasionally assigned to the wrong release.

Their homegrown defect tracking system added to the problems because it was confusing and each group used it differently. Employees outside of development struggled with the application and emailed work requests to an administrator instead of entering them on their own.

To solve their problems, First Choice Health evaluated six tools, including both open source and commercial applications for managing both source code and defects. Branching, reporting, and ease of use were important, but because they were evaluating solutions after budgets were set, cost was also a key consideration.

During the evaluation, First Choice Health realized that, although there is a perception that open source is free, there were other factors to consider including resources, customization, expertise, and maintenance.

“It was an easy decision once we started the evaluation,” said Michael Lohss, Manager of Software Engineering, First Choice Health. “Perforce’s products offered the features you expect in high-end solutions, but at a lower cost.”

What sealed the deal was the integration between Surround SCM and Helix ALM.

“I have worked with standalone source code management and defect tracking tools in the past, so I didn’t go in thinking about integration. But,” Lohss said, “when I saw that I could tie the source code and work requests together, that made the choice clear. The integration between Surround SCM and Helix ALM is the thing the team likes most about the tools.”


A Streamlined, Unified Process

First Choice Health now has a clear, streamlined development process that applies to all four lines of business.

Surround SCM’s easy-to-use interface and reporting provides improved efficiency and visibility of the changes from one release to another. Its history tracking also helps them determine who performed actions on different files as well compare changes from version to version. As a result, release planning is much easier, and there is no need to manage multiple spreadsheets to document what is in a release. 

With Helix ALM, employees and managers can now enter their own work requests and track progress without contacting IT. Using Helix ALM’s customizable workflow, First Choice Health created a review process that ensures developers have all the information they need before they start a job. This means that developers do not waste time searching for information or sending the request back and forth to the originator. They can attach source code and other files to a work request, which allows them to keep all the information for a task organized.

First Choice Health also uses email notifications and dependencies to ensure developers are working on the right requests, and that unapproved activities do not “sneak” in. Helix ALM’s reporting makes it easier for managers to see what developers are working on and for everyone to check the status of a work request. 


Improved Reporting, Productivity, and Consistency

The integration between the products not only improved reporting, but increased productivity as well.

“With the old systems,” Lohss said, “developers would enter the same information multiple times. They would add the work request number to their check-in notes in the source code application. Then in the defect tracking system, they would include the changelist number when entering the same fix notes. Now, the source code and defects are linked, and information is only entered once. We can see the state of a work request from either application.”

With Surround SCM and Helix ALM, the entire IT department follows the same process regardless of which line of business they support. As a result, the department operates as a single team rather than four separate entities. Best of all, they can turn projects faster without worrying about file corruption.

“Before, working with a different group was like working with a different company,” Lohss said. “As a result of implementing this solution, we have the disparate groups all working under the same policies and procedures.”

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