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Reuters Adopts CollabNet's Development Platform To Avoid Silos

Reuters has 2,100 of its 3,000 developers using CollabNet and expects to have its full developer staff using it by early next year.
From its launch seven years ago, CollabNet proposed to do something different in managing software development. It was going to shift the coordination of development teams from local meeting rooms and desktop project management systems to the Web.

As a former co-lead developer on the Apache Web server, Brian Behlendorf, CTO and co-founder of CollabNet, knew a Web hub with the right code management tools could work as a team focal point.

Martin Ashton, VP of global IT process at Reuters, the business and international news service, agrees. Reuters uses CollabNet 4.0 and has test-driven the recently released CollabNet 4.5 release. "I don't think the magic is in CollabNet's specific features," Ashton says from his office in Beijing, where Reuters now has 80 developers. "I think it's in its ability to be on every developer's desktop, no matter where they are, with one set of best-practices tools."

That's important to Reuters, which has 3,000 developers worldwide. It used to have teams in 80 different sites. Ashton has whittled that number down to 11. But even 11 teams all producing applications raise potential integration problems. "Our products are not standalone. They all have to talk to each other," says Ashton.

CollabNet Enterprise Edition establishes a project infrastructure that tracks issues in the project, reports on bug findings and fixes, and allows sharing of code across a dispersed group. The latter is enabled by a source code management system, Subversion. CollabNet sponsored the Subversion open source project and links the latest edition with CollabNet Enterprise Edition.

Three years ago, James Powell, then Reuters' CTO, wanted to reorganize the scattered development teams and decided that "a good start would be getting all the source code in one place." With CollabNet and Subversion, he was able to start "moving it out of local development silos" and into the CollabNet repository.

With developers in Beijing, Bangkok, Europe, and the United States, the teams all started using a common defect tracking tool, Project Tracker. "Standardization is a dirty word to a lot of people," says Ashton, describing initial acceptance, "but there's a lot of benefit to having one standard system."

Now Reuters developers can move from project to project, while the project infrastructure stays much the same. Reuters had a 10-person New Orleans office when Katrina struck. The office was wiped out, but the team was up and coding again a week later in Houston, a move that would have been impossible without CollabNet, says Ashton.

Reuters has 2,100 of its 3,000 developers using CollabNet and expects to have its full developer staff using it by early next year. CollabNet Enterprise Edition 4.5 was released Oct. 2. It now includes a wiki-like project workspace where team members can jointly build tabbed project pages, discuss requirements, cite previous work, and comment on requirements. It's offered as a hosted service, priced at $120 per developer per month and less for volume purchasers.

When CollabNet launched in 1999, Behlendorf designed the development hub to mimic his experience on the Apache Web server, which was taking off as a successful open source project. With a hub or Web portal approach, team collaboration is built around e-mail, shared bug tracking, and a centralized code source on an Internet server. The system sidesteps the old, top-down ways of managing projects, such as team leader presentations on whiteboards and a localized project management system in the hands of a manager.

This story was modified on Oct. 26 to indicate that James Powell was Reuters' CTO three years ago.

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