I have been pretty busy over the past few weeks, trying to help our customers, and getting some materials prepared for the annual Rational conference, Innovate 2010.  In the midst of all of the excitement, I almost missed something that is pretty interesting.  About two weeks ago, Jean-Michel Lemieux posted an article out on Jazz.net announcing our Rational Team Concert Sandbox.  This is primarily for people who are unfamiliar with Jazz, or Rational Team Concert. and don’t want to get “sold” by some IBM guy, or sit through yet another boring demo.

This sandbox environment allows people to provision an RTC instance on our hardware, and then allows them to play with that instance.  Creating the project takes less than a minute, and you can then go in and begin to try out the features of RTC that you are interested in.  You have the ability to add other registered users on Jazz.net to your project, and give them roles.  You can fool around with some Agile planning, create some work items, and get a feel for how YOU would manage an Agile project in RTC.  This is a great way to be able to do these things on your own time, without having to use your hardware.  If you are already using RTC, stop reading right now.  I don’t want to bore you with details that you already know.  If you are new to RTC, and want some guidance on navigating your way through your sandbox instance, then please keep reading.

So how do you get started?  Go out to Jazz.net and register.  Then go to the Rational Team Concert sandbox, and create yourself an instance of RTC.  Once you have created the instance, go in and check it out!  You will begin on an initial dashboard.  If you want to add friends to the project, you will need to click on the Project Areas label.  It is in the upper right, right next to the highlighted Dashboards label.   Now you will be brought to a screen showing all of the project areas.  You might even see mine out there (dtoczala’s Project).  If you click on your project, you will return to your dashboard.  Instead, you should click on the Manage Project Areas label in the upper right hand side of your display.  This will show you a list of the current project areas out in the sandbox.  Click on your project.

Now you see a dialog that capture all of the administrative details about your project.  Go in and add a description, you will see it displayed the next time that you see that list of active projects.  You can see the process that your project is using.  The sandbox forces you to use our Scrum process, but keep in mind that when you use RTC you will be able to customize a process to meet the needs of your development team (even if the team isn’t an Agile team).  You will also notice that you are the Administrator, as well as the only person on the project.  Don’t be lonely, invite someone else into your project!  I invited Ben Chodroff into my project, because I have worked with him before, and because he can’t get too mad at me because I recently helped him out.  Once you add some team members, you will need to give them roles.  This part is interesting.  Let your mouse hover over the name of the new team member that you want to add.  Notice that some icons magically appear on the right hand side of the user entry.  Clicking on the first icon will invite a team member to your team.  Clicking on the second icon will allow you to assign particular roles to that person.  This is an example of the rich user interface that RTC provides to it’s web users.  Now go assign your new team members roles.

At this point you will want to explore the other tabs of the project record.  Near the top of the screen, directly below your project name, you will see a series of labels.

  • Timelines – This is where you define your sprints, how long they last, and a backlog.  Go ahead and add an iteration to the plan.  Give it a unique name, so you can see what it might look like for your teams.
  • Roles – In this tab you define the various roles that you want to have on your team.  Roles will often have an impact on the access to information, and to the ability to perform certain actions.  Add a role called, “Master of the Universe”, and then you can go back to the overview tab and give yourself that role too.
  • Permissions – This is where the capabilities and restrictions for each role in the project are defined.  Take a look at how easy it is to guide your team into doing the right things at the right times.  Look at the lefthand column and highlight Team Configuration.  In the upper righthand panel, select one of your roles.  Now below that you can navigate all of the possible ways that you can enforce good Agile development process.  For example, expand Work Items, then expand Save Work Item,  then expand Modify the Work Item.  Take a look at the control that you have over the ability of a user in a role to modify fields, and perform certain actions.
  • Access Control – This last tab controls the visibility of your project artifacts to other users.

Now that you are done exploring some of the ways that you can define a project, you should make sure to press the Save button in the upper right to save your changes.  At this point, click on the Project Areas label in the upper left hand corner of the display.  You should see your project there, along with your description of your project.  Click on your project name, and you will be back at your project dashboard.

At this point I urge you to read the viewlets and explore the various capabilities that RTC has.  Don’t forget to comment back here and let me know what you think.

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