The Power of Project Templates

A little known fact about me is I actually started off as GForge Advanced Server customer before I joined the GForge Group.  That experience has given me some insights into the tool that are often hard to obtain from the vendor’s side of the table.  Specifically I learned quickly what I loved about GForge Advanced Server, what could use improvements or what was lacking all together.  In that same vein, there are a few things in GForge Advanced Server that I feel are underutilized features. Case-in-point: Project Templates.

Let’s face it, GForge Advanced Server (AS) is really aimed at the heart of software organizations.  The problem is that some software organizations are big enough that teams have different needs from their collaboration suite.  Additionally, organizations often refine their SDLC or swap it out completely.  Project Templates in GForge AS are great way to get new projects, all with varying needs, setup quickly.   To date, GForge AS has shipped with just a few templates which mainly differ in the choice of the version control system…as shame if I can be honest.  So with that in mind, let’s talk a bit about how you can make better use of project templates in GForge AS.

It’s Not Just For Geeks

While aimed at software development shops, GForge AS can actually help manage almost any type of project.  For example, one of our customers was going through a huge IT consolidation effort across multiple organizations each with their own IT silos.  This meant things like laptop encryption, email, file and print services, etc were spread across multiple organizations.  To manage this effort, they created a project template that stripped out some of the software specific features of GForge AS such as the version control system and File Release System.  They also customized the trackers in the template to remove the “Bugs” and “Feature Requests”.  What they were left with was a stripped down, no-nonsense version of the product that provided much of what, say, Microsoft’s Sharepoint product does but at a fraction of the cost.  They had document sharing (including versioning), mailing lists to communicate with stake holders, forums to discuss the ongoing efforts, a Wiki for organic content and trackers for managing roadblocks or issues from discovery to resolution.  In short, GForge ain’t just for geeks.

Collaboration that Scales

We all know that not all projects are created equal.  Even in some large software organizations there are often one-off software projects with just a couple of development resources assigned.  Similarly, some projects can include dozens of developers working on multiple versions of the same codebase.  If a project’s resource needs can differ, why should their collaboration suite force the enterprisey-type needs on smaller projects?  Short answer: It shouldn’t.  With GForge AS you can scale your collaboration needs with the size of your project.  For example a big ISO 9001 compliant company can implement a custome bug tracker with fields specific to the company and a workflow underneath it to ensure all bugs follow the same process through closure. Similarly, you may have some predefined roles for you software projects (e.g. business analyst, project manager, software architect, DBA, etc) all needing different access to projects.  Implementing this on a single project is pretty cool, but in GForge AS you can do that customization one time in a project template and then create new projects from it.  Are you a start up or working on a small project with just a couple of developers and all you need is a place to manage the source code and track features and bugs as simply (and quickly) as possible?  Disable what you don’t need, keep you want and by doing it in a project template you can reuse that same approach on future projects.

One of the points we want to drive home here is that we have the same goals as many of our customers.  We want to continue growing our organization by building some really cool software.  The trap is that often times organizations pick a collaboration tool that can’t start off small, like many of our organizations did, and grow with us and the needs of the organization.  GForge AS provides all the enterprise features of a collaboration suite that get out of the way of smaller organizations and teams, instead, letting them decide what features they need and when they need it.

To help our customers envision the possibilities and power of project templates in GForge AS, our next version will ship with a sample project that differs vastly from the standard project templates. The sample project will showcase not only the new features but will exercise some of the advanced ones such as tracker workflow, access-control-lists in the version control system, custom post-commit hooks and more.  I hope our customers will take some time to explore project templates on their installations…we’re sure that no matter what size of an organization you are there is a probably a worthwhile use for them.  Finally, our next release will sport a couple new templates to help customers get their creative juices flowing.  Stay tuned!

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