What State Are You In? And Where Can You Go?

One of the hidden frustrations people encounter when using work items in Rational Team Concert is knowing the current state of the work item AND how to get to other states. People sometimes get frustrated because they can’t switch to the state they want, or they can’t visualize the flow of the work item.

My colleague Ralph Schoon, Germany’s best export, described a way to customize a work item attribute that shows you the current state and available states in your work item. It’s based on original work done by Kristina Florea

Here’s what you need to know about this: IT’S TOTALLY COOL! This should be a built-in feature of RTC. But if you do a little work item customization (and create a simple graphic of your WI states), you can have this extremely cool feature as well.

Here’s a new, unsaved work item. You can see where you are in the flow, the states that are available, and how to get to the other states. The Workflow Information field shows a graphic of all the states, with the current state in green. The Workflow Information field is of type “wiki”.


You can see that the work item is “New”, and it will be “Proposed” after we save it.

After we save the work item, the graphic changes to the following:


We are now in the Proposed state (which is also shown in the field at the top of the window). We can see in green that there is just one possible thing for us to do in this state: research the work item. We can also see that if we want to Reject the work item, we must first Research it.

This makes it much easier to get the work item into the state you want it to be in. It also makes it clear what the entire workflow is, which makes understanding the purpose and direction of work items much easier.

Currently, you can only see the workflow for a work item type (not a specific work item instance), and that can only be viewed from the Process Configuration tab of the project description. Usually the only people who look at that (or know to look there) are the process engineer and the project lead.

Using Ralph’s technique, you can see the workflow for a specific work item (not just the general WI type), and you can see what the current state is in context. From a process perspective, this is a big shortcoming in RTC that Ralph has addressed.

You can do this yourself by using JavaScript to customize work items. Ralph provides easy-to-follow instructions in Lab 5 of the CLM Process Enactment Workshop. I recommend doing the whole workshop, or at least the work item customization labs. But if you want to jump right to the section that describes how to display the work item flow, it’s in section 5.6, Calculated Value to Visualize the State of the Technology Review.

You also might want to request that this feature be added to RTC so it’s easier to implement.

1. Ralph was incorrectly identified as the creator of this feature in the original article. The passage was corrected to show Kristina Florea as the creator.

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3 Responses to What State Are You In? And Where Can You Go?

  1. rsjazz says:

    Jim, that this works was found by Kristina Florea a colleague from Germany. She and the team that discovered this should get the credit fot this, not I, who just took the opportunity to publish it.

  2. Both (Kristina’s and Honza’s) work is great. Regarding the offline work (Honza), it would be great to add an “export as a *.xmi” that Rational Software Architect (RSA) could read as a a UML state diagramm. That diagram could then be edited to alter the workflow.

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