HTii shows software user group how to make custom RPE reports

HTii showed a packed house of NAVAIR engineers April 20 how to use IBM’s Rational Publishing Engine to create custom reports from systems engineering and project management software.

“We had around 20 in person, with maybe six more attending via webinar,” said Adam Hammett, head of the Southern Maryland Rational User Group, which hosted the event at HTii headquarters. “There’s a lot of interest in RPE.”

HTii program manager Andrew Ridenour showed the attendees how to create reports with RPE using data from three IBM applications: DOORS for requirements management, Rhapsody for system architecture and Rational Team Concert for change requests.

“The beauty of RPE is its ability to create a report in the exact format a manager wants, while pulling directly from the applications where the data resides,” he said. “It’s an automated cross-application reporting tool.”

In his presentation Ridenour took the attendees through three phases of creating an RPE report: developing the report template, identifying the source applications and the data that goes into the report and setting the schema.

“The schema is RPE’s Rosetta stone,” he said. “It tells the template how to read the data.”

More and more programs are adopting Rational software tools for systems engineering and project management, according to Hammett, HTii’s vice-president of programs.

“There’s a tendency to put off learning RPE since it’s complex, but the complexity gives it great capability,” he said. “That’s why we decided to introduce it to our user group.”

Ridenour agreed that RPE is “not very approachable.” The interface looks like “drag and drop,” he said, “but it’s more like a visual programming language.”

Despite the steep learning curve, RPE comes into its own when it’s time to pull data together into reports, especially those that follow an officially prescribed format, he said. “Managers and team members who don’t have time to get down in the weeds with data depend on reports, so it’s important that they get up-to-date information in formats that are familiar and easy to understand.”

He noted that the reports can be accessed by members of a project team who don’t use the RPE application. “Once a team member who does have RPE creates a report template, it can be deployed to an RPE web tool, where others can generate the report directly from their browser,” he said. “They don’t need the RPE client on their own computers.”

The next quarterly meeting of the Southern Maryland Rational User Group this summer will be an IBM open lab, Hammett said. Experts from IBM will bring laptops loaded with software for attendees to try out. “We had one last year, and it was a big success,” he said. “It gives members a chance to work with these programs under IBM guidance before deciding whether to buy it.”