Centruflow: aiming to fill the project information gap

The information tool shows the big, interconnected picture and also allows users to drill down to the details

With so many specialist methodologies involved when it comes to IT design and development, communication and understanding between teams can easily break down, says Steve Dickinson, the creator of Centruflow, which he believes can solve this problem.

Dickinson has been involved in IT development for a number of organisations. It was during this time, he says, that he became aware of the information gap. This led to his founding Abstract Engineering last year, with the aim of developing a product that would act as a “central point of trust” to give all those involved in a project a coordinated picture of what is going on — regardless of the different tasks they are involved in and the tools they are using.

The bigger picture here involves the relationships between various elements, including business processes and services, applications and servers being used and, of course, the human element. By using such an over-arching tool, “the efficiency of information sharing and knowledge flow within a project or organisation can be greatly increased,” says Dickinson.

For example, the various teams could be using business processing tools; elaborate development methodologies, like Rational Rose, bespoke databases or simple spreadsheets and Visio charts to work on their own part of a project.

It is not Centruflow’s role to replace any of this, says Dickinson. Its job is to sit over the top of all of these processes and provide a big, coordinated picture, and to continuously update this through information feedback.

Centruflow is derived from three words: centre, trust and flow. It is an ugly word, admits Dickinson. But it does grow on you, he says. What Centruflow does is to summarise what is going on as a project progresses in an animated graphical form. It allows users to drill down from a simple top level to view more and more detail. They can also filter this information so only the most relevant parts are presented.

Using Centruflow involves clicking on a node, which results in a move to the centre of the diagram, this then opens out to the next level of connected information. Nodes can also be coloured to indicate those sharing common properties. A timeline can also be displayed that can show, for example, when various people were working on a particular task and when they shifted to another task. If someone wants to make a significant change in a particular part of the system, Centruflow can identify who and what else will be affected.

Centruflow is currently being trialled by some of the organisations Dickinson used to work for, including the Natural Gas Corporation. The first official beta release was made available in August.

Although Centruflow is basically a tool for information sharing, encouraging people to actually do this is a much bigger task.

“People will secrete their own lists for their own use,” says Dickinson. However, he hopes that eventually Centruflow users will come to trust the common repository.

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