Rally Software Buys Flowdock, Adds Collaboration to Portfolio

Rally Software announced its acquisition of Flowdock, maker of social collaboration tools for developers.

Rally Software, a provider of agile software development tools, announced it has acquired Flowdock, a social collaboration hub for teams.

Rally's acquisition of Helsinki-based Flowdock brings unified communication and collaboration to Rally's Agile ALM platform to keep teams connected and make the status and progress of work transparent. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"We believe that, together, Rally and Flowdock answer one of the key challenges facing globally distributed organizations: keeping in flow and prioritizing work across tools, teams and time zones," Todd Olson, Rally's vice president of products, told eWEEK. "Agile is about cross-functional teams working together, and Rally helps companies do that across distributed teams—not only development teams, but across entire organizations. Flowdock adds a social collaboration hub for teams to see what's happening in their world, collaborate and get work done."

Rally continues to build out its agile development platform and broaden its application lifecycle management (ALM) tools with greater capabilities.

"Social collaboration is vital to development teams, and the reason is that software development is a team sport," Olson said. "It's not like other functions where individuals can get it done. The fact is teams need to work together to deliver software. And communication is a vital part of how they actually get their work done. So social collaboration isn't a nice-to-have, it's a must-have for teams trying to get their work done."

So Rally made this acquisition for several reasons, Olson noted. "One, collaboration is a key part of agile teams trying to get work done. And we thought there was a strong opportunity to add more collaborative capabilities to the product to deliver more value to teams, to help teams get more work done in our products. Secondly, we see Flowdock as not just a group chat, collaboration application. We see a lot more opportunity in the concept of having a team inbox for people to work together to swarm work and get it accomplished."

With more than 35 integrations, Flowdock is an information aggregator that brings together activity from project management tools, version control systems, operations monitoring and customer feedback channels. Co-located and geographically distributed teams get an easily consumable flow of information to stay up-to-date and react in real time.

"Collaboration is fundamental to agile software development," said Tim Miller, CEO of Rally, in a statement. "Flowdock represents a powerful way for teams to collaborate on projects directly from their usual workflow. Flowdock introduces an innovative way for teams to chat so users can stay in context and in flow."

"I think social collaboration is about constant collaboration, meaning that instead of having a weekly meeting, you get to react to things this minute instead of next week, said Otto Hilska, founder and CEO of Flowdock. "Basically, when two people are working at the same computer they can solve issues really quickly. But if you try to replicate that with distributed teams, it gets quite complicated. What we do is try to enable teams across the globe to work similarly as two people in the same room."

In an October 2012 report Forrester Research said, "Many of the biggest ALM challenges, such as coordinating the work across geographically distributed teams, boil down to collaboration problems. Collaboration presents some extremely vexing puzzles for tools vendors, particularly given how idiosyncratically a specific set of people may collaborate with each other."

Flowdock is a shared team inbox with group chat. Teams using Flowdock stay up-to-date, react in seconds instead of hours and never forget anything. Flowdock brings activity from project management tools such as Pivotal Tracker and JIRA, version control systems such as GitHub, BitBucket and Kiln, customer feedback channels such as Zendesk and email lists, and many other sources to an easily consumable stream.

Teams can then work on the issues together, and react in seconds. When something comes up that bears remembering, users can tag it and later find that memo, code snippet, contact or whatever it was they tagged. Flowdock also can be used to build lists of things like bugs, to-dos, competitors and more.

"Rally's products provide a great high-level overview of teamwork, but teams need to have a higher-noise communication medium," Hilska said in a statement. "We've done lots of fine-tuning based on direct feedback from software developers and are excited to integrate Flowdock's social collaboration capabilities with Rally's enterprise Agile ALM platform so teams can quickly discuss issues and collaborate on the most important work."

Olson said Rally has a broader vision of how to bring Flowdock and AgileZen to all Rally customers so users can log in through a single log-in form, gain access to all the products and use them alongside the Rally ALM products. In 2010 Rally acquired AgileZen, creators of a visual project collaboration tool that manages work using the lean concept of Kanban.

Flowdock's founders—Hilska, Mikael Roos and Tuomas Silen—are experienced software developers and serial entrepreneurs who previously founded Nodeta and APIdock. Hilska, Roos and Silen, along with the rest of the Flowdock team, will be based at Rally's first international R&D facility in Helsinki, Finland.