Jun 13, 2011

Getting Started with Rational Team Concert: A Quick and Simple Tutorial to get you up and running with RTC

 

    Rational Team Concert (RTC) is a very good product lifecycle management tool, especially if your team is following an agile development process (NOTE:  Agile does not mean without any process at all.  When done correctly, agile processes actually have more processes and quality gates than traditional waterfall.  But I’ll go on that tangent some other time).  This tutorial aims to be a crash-course guide to get people up and running using RTC, and since RTC is free for teams less than 10 people, it is worth downloading and trying if for no other reason than to play with agile planning. 

 

Definitions

    Before I delve further, I want to define some words that will show up throughout this tutorial.

Backlog A collection of unfinished work.
Iteration A timeline that is a subdivision of the project timeline.  E.g. A 6 month schedule could be broken down into 6 1-month iterations.
Plan A view of tasks assigned to a timeline.  Could be filtered further to show only the tasks assigned to a particular team or category.
Product Backlog A collection of all the known tasks to complete the product. 
Sprint See iteration.
Sprint Backlog Plan A view of all the tasks assigned to a particular iteration or sprint.
Team A grouping of people assigned to work related tasks.
Timeline A period of time in which work will be planned.
Timeline (project) The period of time that runs from the time the project starts until the project ends.
Timeline (current) The current timeline or iteration that is currently being executed.
Work Item A unit of work that is a sub-task of the project.

 

Creating a Project

Creating an RTC Project

    The first step in working with RTC is creating a project.  I won’t go into the details here because it’s pretty trivial.  Right click on the repository connection and choose “New->Project Area” (see figure 1 below).  From there you type a name, and choose a process template, and you are done.  The SCRUM template is a good choice if you are using an agile process, and can later be modified to line up with your team’s individual processes. 

image

Figure 1 – Creating a new project are or user for right-click the repository 

Pre-Requisite:  Adding users to RTC

    Before we begin working in our project, we need to add users to the RTC environment.  There are tutorials online for getting RTC to work with LDAP or Active Directory, but for simplicity sake you can create users the same way you create the project area.  Right click on the repository connection and choose “New->User” (See figure 1 above).  Once users are created and in the system, that can be assigned to one or more projects.

 

Configuring your project

    Now that the project is created, the next step is to get it configured.  Right-click on your project from the “Team Artifacts” view, and click “Open” (see figure 2 below).  This will open the project configuration screen where you can change just about everything in your project.  Using the tabs on this screen it is possible to:

  • Create timelines and iterations
  • Add team members to the project
  • Create new and modify existing artifact types (E.g. Maybe you want to create a new work item type called “Feature” because that is the lingo used in your project).
  • Change the editor presentation
  • Change the process workflow
  • and much more to customize the SCRUM process to your project.

image

Figure 2 – Open project configuration

Adding users to your project

    Lets begin by adding users to the project.  From the project configuration view you can see a list of users assigned to the project as well as the ability to add new users.  Click on “Add” and add a member from one of the users you created in the “pre-requisite” sections.

NOTE:  You can only add users that RTC already knows about (See pre-requisites).  If you are working in a small team environment or following along with this tutorial it will feel like you have to add users twice.  Once to the tool, then once again to the project.  But the normal usage pattern is to import an active directory listing only once, and then you can add anyone in your company to a project at any time.

image

Figure 3 – Adding a user to a project

Creating a timeline and iterations

  Next we need to define the timeline and iterations for the project.  In the lower right quadrant of the project configuration screen, within the “Timelines” area (see figure 4) you can see your project’s timelines and iterations.  In a nutshell, these represent the deadlines you’ll be using to track your project. 

Note:  RTC uses agile terminology – iteration or sprint.  However, if you are using a more traditional waterfall process, RTC can manage that as well.  You could have a single iteration that is as long as the project timeline if you wanted.  However, most larger waterfall projects I’ve worked on still use the notion of breaking the project timeline into smaller timeframes (Google “Rolling Wave Planning” & “Waterfall process”). 

Project Timeline

    The project timeline represents the start and end date for your project.  Click the “Create Timeline” button, enter in the timeline’s name and a unique ID, and check the box to make this the Project Timeline.

image

Figure 4 – Creating a timeline and iterations

Create an Iteration

    To create a new iteration, simply click the new iteration button, give it a title and ID, and a start/end date.  Iterations can be any length of time, and they can even be hierarchical.  In figure 4 above, you can see that I have a “Release 1.0” iteration with several iterations underneath it.  What this translates to in English is that my product time line is going to be delivered over several major releases.  Each release is broken down into several smaller sprints. 

    Making a hierarchy of iterations is extremely useful for larger projects because you can do traditional waterfall planning at the release level with multiple “backlogs”, but execute in an agile process at the sprint level.  For example, in the plan above I’d have a “backlog” plan for the project as a whole, but I’d also have a “backlog” plan for release 1.0.  This great for execution because at the start of each sprint in release 1.0 developers will pull sprint tasks from the release 1.0 backlog, rather than the product backlog as a whole.     

Create a Product Backlog Iteration

 

image

Figure 5 – Product backlog iteration

    The iteration for the product backlog is just an iteration without a start or end date that sits just under the product timeline.  This will be the iteration for all unplanned work for the product as a whole.

Create Iterations

    An iteration timeline is just like creating the product backlog timeline, except you will want to specify a start and end date.  Iterations can be as long or as short as you want. 

Setting the Current Iteration

    To set an iteration timeline as the current timeline select the iteration to mark current, and click the “set as current iteration” button as shown in figure 6.  Setting an iteration as current will move all plans that are assigned to that iteration into the “current plans” folder, making them easier for your team to find the current active plan.

image

Figure 6 – Setting an iteration as the current iteration

Creating your plans

    Up until now we’ve only been talking about iterations and timelines which are just dates on a calendar.  To define work that we want to complete within those calendar dates we need to create “Plans”.  A “plan” is view of work items that are

  • Scheduled to be done within a specific iteration
  • Optionally assigned to a particular team or category

    To create a new plan simply right click over the plans category underneath your project, and select “New->Plan” (see figure 6 below). 

image

Figure 6 – Creating a new plan for the right click menu

   A new plan needs to have:

  • A name:  Usually you’ll want to name it something that tells you what iteration and team the plan represents.  E.g.  “Infrastructure team: Sprint 3”
  • An owner:  Who’s tasks will the plan display.  The default is the project.  I will go into creating teams in a separate post, but RTC supports the notion of teams which allows you to create plans that only show tasks that are assigned to that team.
  • An iteration:  What timeframe is this plan meant to represent.
  • Plan type:  I won’t go into much detail here, but I will call them out a bit when I talk about creating the product backlog, and iteration plans.

image

Figure 7 – Create New Plan

Creating your Backlog Plan

    The first plan you are going to need if you are following an agile process is the product backlog.  This is the plan that will hold all known tasks that need to get done on the project.  Once the backlog plan is created you can go off and define all the work that needs to be done on the project.

  1. Create a new plan
  2. Name:  Call it “Product Backlog”
  3. Owner:  Leave the project as the owner
  4. Iteration:  Choose the “Backlog” iteration you created in an earlier section
  5. Plan Type: Product Backlog

Creating a Sprint Plan

    Now that the product backlog has been created it’s time to get to work.  To create an iteration plan follow the same plan creation only choose one of your iteration timelines for the “Iteration”, and choose “Sprint Backlog” as the plan type.

 

Summary

    This has been a crash course in getting up and running with agile project management using Rational Team Concert.  If you are familiar with Agile planning you should be in pretty decent shape to begin playing around with RTC as a project management tool.  RTC is a very good project management tool (I’ll save my complaints for another post) if you work in an agile environment, and since it’s free for small teams there is no reason not to give it a try.

 

Useful Links

https://jazz.net/projects/rational-team-concert/features/planning Overview of the planning capabilities in RTC.
https://jazz.net/library/article/590/ Planning with Rational Team Concert 3.0
https://jazz.net/library/article/542/ Getting Started with Rational Team Concert

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