Eating your own dog food: Agile Requirements at Micro Focus using Atlas

Atlas is Micro Focus’ Agile requirements management tool. With an intuitive user interface, Atlas enables users to gather concepts, define requirements and collaborate with a minimal learning curve. Innovative tracking allows stakeholders to see at a glance how requirements are progressing based on live data from delivery tools such as Micro Focus Agile, Rally and VersionOne.

Throughout 2016 Micro Focus development teams have been using Atlas to deliver better software faster. In this blog Ed Benton looks at how using Atlas has benefited its users and Atlas support and development team too.

So what is Atlas?

Micro Focus Development teams have been using the Atlas Planning and Tracking Suite to more effectively gather, define, discuss, plan and track their Software Development requirements. Atlas has empowered teams working on Enterprise software such as Reflection, InfoConnect Desktop and RM/COBOL to work more effectively and deliver better software faster that meets customers’ business requirements.

Business analysts use Atlas to quickly define well written requirements, with a user interface that “just works” and doesn’t take time to figure out. Managers use Atlas to plan releases effortlessly with team capacity management and a built in discussion feature to gather the feedback of other stakeholders. Integration with Silk Central enables development managers and other stakeholders to review test results directly within Atlas. Decision makers have access to the live and accurate data they need all within one elegant and intuitive user interface.


How does Atlas help?

Requirements are sent directly to developers’ preferred delivery tools. Developers update their backlogs in Micro Focus StarTeam Agile, Rally and VersionOne and the updated progress is reflected instantly in Atlas. Product Managers are able to review delivery status in Atlas based on live data from Agile delivery tools without needing to learn or obtain access to the delivery tool itself. These innovations and more have helped teams at Micro Focus deliver better software faster.

As Phillip Miller,  Director of COBOL Development puts it:

‘In an environment where multiple development teams are often involved in delivering complex features the evolution of a high level idea into a requirement that’s understood and agreed by multiple teams has always been challenging. Atlas, with its whiteboards, versioning and discussion features, has allowed us to radically improve our approach to requirements capture and analysis.

Being able to more effectively collate, discuss, track, version and collectively review the evolution of an idea into a requirement in a single tool has provided benefit to managers and developers alike.’

Phillip Miller Director of Development (COBOL)

Phillip Miller Director
of Development (COBOL)

Supporting internal customers benefits our external customers

Our internal Atlas instance is a cross-functional project supported by technical employees from Support, Quality Assurance, Project Management and all levels of development. The Atlas team meet regularly to discuss how to best support the 500 active users across Micro Focus. Issues and enhancements are researched, discussed, tested and implemented by an Agile DevOps team. This keeps us highly responsive to the needs identified by our highly engaged user base. Real user feedback from real AppDev work is being used to continually improve Atlas. Agile teams within Micro Focus working on Reflection, InfoConnect Desktop and RM/COBOL have been using Atlas to gather and define requirements, discuss and plan their releases and track their delivery. They rely on Atlas in this effort and their feedback enables us to enhance all areas of Atlas, resulting in a greatly improved “battle hardened” product for our customers.

As Director of Atlas Development Mark Kulak puts it:

‘Atlas internal usage has been invaluable for the Engineering and Product Management teams. As more users come online, we have gathered an appreciation for how diverse our user community really is.

Feedback from many teams using different planning and tracking processes has been invaluable to rounding out Atlas usability and features. While internal feedback aligns with external customer requests, the level of openness and ability to quickly iterate when dealing with internal teams makes a significant difference. It allows us to ask probing questions and work together to identify solutions.’

Mark Kulak Director of Development (Atlas)

Mark Kulak Director
of Development (Atlas)

Putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes

Supporting a large, geographically distributed Atlas user base has given us first hand experience of how Atlas sysadmins spend their day and the challenges they face. This has lead to multiple refinements in Atlas which make it as easy to administrate as it is to use. At Micro Focus support we’re constantly in contact with our customers. This helps us develop a deep understanding of our customers goals and challenges and also a high level awareness of how they use our products to work more effectively.

Working as an Atlas systems administrator for our internal users has helped me develop a greater understanding of the needs of our customers, particularly the systems administrators who manage Atlas instances. This helps us support external customers more effectively anticipating their needs as we work with the product in the exact same way.

Everything we learn from supporting the internal Atlas server is used by development to make Atlas more effective, intuitive and robust for all users, from the sysadmins managing the instance to the management stakeholders looking for high quality progress overviews. I’ve seen lessons learned from internal Atlas usage drive real improvements in the product for our customers.

All of this feedback has been built into the new Atlas 4.0 release – please find out what’s new on the website and take a trial to see how good it is for yourself!


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Senior Support Engineer

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