The digital transformation within the automotive sector is more than just a change in IT technology, such as hardware, software, or a digital platform. A digital transformation goes to the heart of the business processes and transforms them to leverage digital capabilities unavailable during the industrial age. The pace of innovation is accelerating more than ever before. New technologies and digitalization are rapidly changing how businesses worldwide operate — and product development companies are no exception.
In this PTC Talk, Laszlo Katona, Senior IT Consultant from Nanga Systems, presents solutions they had developed within Codebeamer to address specific needs within the automotive industry through four solutions - custom application programming interfaces (APIs), checklist reviews, advanced document upload, and test automation results.
Codebeamer is an Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platform for modern product and software development. It offers unique digital workflows that help teams improve development collaboration, product line development efficiency, and regulatory compliance. Its open platform extends application lifecycle management functionalities with product line configuration capabilities, providing unique configurability for complex processes.
The first solution was APIs, a set of definitions and protocols for building and integrating application software. Codebeamer comes with Rest and Swagger APIs, fully documented in the Codebeamer knowledge base. However, the development is focused from the API perspective on the Swagger API. A Swagger editor is available, which is a great tool to get started to try out the endpoints without using any specific applications. Both APIs provide various endpoints that can be used out of the box. However, in some cases, custom tailoring is needed to address particular needs.
The first need is related to migration, specifically from IBM DOORS to Codebeamer. DOORS is a big player in the automotive market and is being used by many manufacturers. PTC understands that it is essential to enable users to merge or to move from one existing system to Codebeamer. For this purpose, a built-in DOORS bridge import functionality is available in Codebeamer. But because DOORS lacks some capabilities that Codebeamer has, for example, test management capabilities, these were addressed by custom fields to store the requirements related to test activity and the outcome results.
This data is essential even after the migration; however, not all these fields are necessary. Sometimes, in specific use cases where the tracker itself was created in Codebeamer with hundreds of additional fields that the users do not need, it causes problems. To address this manually will take up to ten minutes, and when you consider that each project can contain more than a hundred trackers, that time soon adds up. The solution for this was an API endpoint that hides all custom fields so that the project admins can unveil only those fields that the project users need. This way, users only must handle the necessary fields.
A key functionality in Codebeamer is working sets, which can be used to implement different use cases that work on the same specifications in multiple potentially parallel streams, such as phase development, feature-driven development, maintenance releases, product line, or variant management. The challenge here from a reporting perspective is that the API level functionality to work with working sets, especially data extraction, is limited. The data that we must extract is necessary for enterprise reporting. This particular use case focused on variants managed in Codebeamer, and the customer wanted to use this data in business intelligence. The solution was to create different endpoints to address different reporting needs or enable the programmers to identify variants more easily. Then they can then manage the existing data or change existing data using existing API endpoints and scripts.
The next topic is checklist reviews, which is a highly dominant use case in the automotive industry. Nanga Systems has various workarounds with a dedicated solution called Review Hub. The review hub is the dedicated review tool that provides collaboration capabilities so that reviewers can discuss different requirements or work products. Unfortunately, there are some downsides to this solution. There is no ability to create checklists, and workflow automation is limited. It is only possible to define conditions for the workflow, so the item has to go through a review. The comments captured in the review are not visible on the artifact itself, this will change in the future, but currently, the author must go into the review and understand the requirement.
The final workaround is using the requirement library, which is an excellent tool for reuse capabilities. In this case, checklist entries are created as separate work items, which can be reused using the requirement library. The advantage is that it is highly configurable from the workflow perspective. The disadvantage is that it is a high effort because they must manually reuse the checklists every time they have to perform a review, and there are reviews performed very frequently, even daily. In addition, there is no workflow automation available, and as a result, it can be hard to use.
The next use case is advanced document upload. If Codebeamer is enabled, it offers document management capabilities through a dedicated tracker type called document. The challenge is that documents can be uploaded in mass but only into one folder at a time. Furthermore, the folders must be created manually; if you want to reorganize them, they must be done item by item. The solution was a Java application enabling the user to select the root folder. Then, it uploads every file in the subfolder into Codebeamer, which creates the folders and recreates the hierarchy from the local machine. These can then be reused directly or uploaded into Codebeamer with a few clicks, saving time from a document manager's perspective.
The last use case is test automation, an upload of our automated test results, to be precise. The challenge here is that out of the box, Codebeamer supports uploading test results via the command line, and a clumsy open-source plugin is available for it. But this only helps basic use cases with certain XML formats. The alternative is to use the Rest and Swagger APIs. However, customers rarely know what to do with the endpoints initially. The solution is a customer-developed Java-based application that satisfies the customer requirements and is very much automotive-specific because they use TraceTonic ECU-Tests. The HTML reports are expected to be uploaded, but we are using the XML report to pass the information. The test cases are stored in Codebeamer, then exported into ECU-Tests.
Linda Di Gangi is a Program Marketing Manager in PTC’s Field Marketing organization. She is responsible for the marketing strategy for European Emerging Markets and India. She first started with PTC's Corporate marketing in 2006 and managed global events including PTC flagship event, LiveWorx. Prior, she worked for an agency and oversaw PR for B2B companies in new technologies. In a spare time, Linda enjoys working out and hiking with family and friends. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.