A few weeks ago, in an article about Enterprise Architect Pro Cloud Server, I described one of the tools offered by Sparx Systems, which allows access to the model repository via a web browser. In this post I would like to write a second product – Prolaborate.
Prolaborate is a tool that enables cooperation with models, reading them, commenting through a web browser. In Prolaborate, we can work directly on objects from the Enterprise Architect model. This is another solution that allows you to improve communication between project stakeholders in a fairly easy way. To read the models, a simple web browser is enough. “Business” does not have to learn the Enterprise Architect support anymore. He can get the information he needs. Publishing models via the Internet is also a way to avoid working on MS Word. From my point of view, working directly on the model has the advantage that the individual elements of the requirements, use cases, User Stories, and others are interrelated. Having a network of these links, I can check what the data requires does not affect what actually changes the use case? In “paper” documents, these relationships disappear or are harder to identify.
What will we find in Prolaborate? Let’s start with the fact that Prolaborate allows access to many repositories. Secondly, it allows you to assign the visibility of individual packages to selected users.
Users can have access only to those branches of the repository to which it is necessary. Both the scope of the available branches of the repository as well as the available functions (editing, displaying, etc.) depend on the range of rights you have. Prolaborate saves this information in its autonomous database.
The Dashboard is a nice property.
Dashboard is the introduction to more advanced reporting, where on the configured tabs you can see the most recently updated discussions, links, relevant views.
Dashboard for a given repository can be configured via defined Widgets. We can present this information, which is needed for us when we start working with the repository.
The model review is similar to what you could see in Enterprise Architect Pro Cloud Server. Authorized users can edit the content of the items being watched. It should be noted that Prolaborate puts more emphasis on communication. Everywhere you can find icons encouraging discussion. Adding a comment results in sending an e-mail with notification.
Here you should mention an important element. The discussion we know from Enterprise Architect and the discussion with Prolaborate – although referring to the same element – this is not the same discussion. Our comments in Prolaborate are saved in the Prolaborate database, so it is not visible in Enterprise Architect. [EDIT: 03/04/2019] Access to comments written in Prolaborate is possible after the application of the supplement Prolaborate add-in for Enterprise Architect.
Another feature worth mentioning is the sharing option, which not only allows you to pass a private or public link to the diagram, but also allows you to paste the diagram onto another website.
The last and probably the most desirable, especially from the point of view of an agile approach, is integration with JIRA and Conflunce. First, the diagrams and descriptions can be found in Conflence and be up-to-date in real time. Secondly, we can almost arbitrarily map elements from the Enterprise to JIRA Elements.
After integration of Prolaborate with JIRA, the link to the JIRA task is saved at the element. In addition, in Prolaborate you can have a preview of the implementation status of individual tasks. A useful function seems to be the synchronization of discussions in JIRA with the discussion written in Prolaborate.
Prolaborate is a lot of functions supporting the work of the organization, but it is not a cheap solution. For your work needs Pro Cloud Server in a paid version.
Is it worth the cost?
It depends on the organization. I only know that Prolaborate is the second tool in the Sparx Systems stable, which supports access to models via a web browser. This is a sign of changes in the approach to modeling. Improving communication with stakeholders is a step in the right direction. The implementation of the new approach will not be easy. “Business” often has a problem with reading documents in MS Word. Time is usually lacking. All in all, it’s understandable. Stakeholders are very often busy not only thinking about what the system is doing, but also ongoing operational work. Very often, he lacks the right skills. Using more advanced techniques and tools requires greater maturity of the organization. This maturity is not just an announcement that we are implementing new better toys and, above all, inviting “business” to create software development process, training and communication support.
It seems that the days have come when choosing such tools as Prolaborate or the previously described Pro Cloud Server is not just an “IT” decision. This is a joint decision of “IT” and “Business”, not only because business will use this tool. “IT” and “Business” are like the respiratory system and cardiovascular system. One pumps blood and the other provides oxygen. One provides software by which the other earns money to develop this software. If one of the systems stops working then the whole organism – the organization – begins to die.
I think that the time is coming when in the software development process, the dividing line between “IT” and “Business” will be blurred and such tools as Prolaborate or Pro Cloud Server will support this process.