AllChange cm crossroads review
cmcrossroads.com review – Mon July 12 2004
AllChange offers a “customize everything” approach
By Mike Gunderloy
Intasoft has been around since 1986, and AllChange dates back almost that far itself. With nearly two decades of development behind it, AllChange is a mature change management system that is almost infinitely flexible, as well as sometimes a bit quirky in its nomenclature.
If you can devote the time to setting it up and learning how it works, though, you’ll very likely find that AllChange can take your existing business processes and automate them without a problem.
Some CM products take the approach of defining what they think is the ideal approach and telling you to constrain your workflow to fit. AllChange is about as far from that as you can possibly imagine. Want to process feature requests from external users and feature requests from internal marketing according to two different workflows? No problem; define separate classes of change requests, use the included graphical lifecycle editor to come up with the workflows, and away you go. Want to enforce the entry of certain information on every new change request? The administrator can define this as well. Indeed, AllChange comes with an almost overwhelming number of ways for the administrator to customize things. It’s no accident that they have consultants and training courses to help you learn how to use this stuff.
One of the areas of quirkiness within AllChange is its terminology. For example, the lowest level of management is the part, rather than the file. But there’s a reason for this: AllChange is not limited to software configuration management. A part might be a source code file, or a circuit board, or an entire subsystem composed of more than one parts. Subsystems can be arranged in a hierarchy of arbitrary depth. In this way, you can apply change management principles to your entire product whether it’s software, hardware, a mix of the two, or something else entirely. AllChange could even be applied to collecting paperwork for mortgage transactions or writing a collaborative novel with sufficient customization. I can just imagine posting a change request to a co-author demanding more action in Chapter 5!
You can of course perform standard version control operations on parts that happen to be files including check in and out, diff, branch and merge. But you can go significantly beyond version control by using AllChange’s change request facility and using lifecycles to integrate the parts and the change requests. AllChange includes many automation facilities. For example, creating a change request and associating it with a part can trigger an entire cycle of actions, with defined transitions between states and specific approval steps. AllChange is smart about sending e-mail notifications to those affected by a new change request, and will also allow you to set up a monitor to notify you of anything you care about (for example, any changes to a particular part).
There’s much more to AllChange than just managing parts and changes. There’s a whole system of roles and security. There’s a report generator for the manager who needs to get a summary view of what’s going on with a project. There’s a build system. In fact, it’s hard to find a change management concept that hasn’t taken root somewhere in AllChange.
You can use AllChange with a variety of other applications. There’s integration with IDEs, as well as with Word and Excel and even Windows Explorer. Or, if you prefer, you can use AllChange’s own dedicated GUI client. Other applications that AllChange can work directly with include Telelogic DOORS, Mercury TestDirector, Dreamweaver, and the Unipress Footprints help desk system.
AllChange works in either direct or client/server modes. In direct mode, the AllChange applications are operating directly on the database files (which might be on a shared network drive). A large installation will more likely use the client/server mode, where a dedicated server process handles file access for all connected clients.
Adopting a system like AllChange is not a move to be taken lightly. In addition to the licensing costs of the software, you need to plan on training for key administrators and users, and set aside time to actually perform the customizations that you require (or the money to pay a consultant to do them). But if you’ve been feeling pushed around and constrained by the other change management systems that you’ve tried, AllChange offers a sure way out with its “customize everything” approach. If you want to have a look for yourself, you can download a fully-functional trial version from the Intasoft Web site.
Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD .NET, MCDBA is an independent software consultant and author working in eastern Washington. He’s the editor of ADT Magazine’s Developer Central newsletter and the online Daily Grind ( www.larkware.com ), and the author of numerous books and articles.