What is ALM?
Businesses are beginning to tap into the benefits of operating in a highly collaborative and integrated ecosystem where all the disciplines concerned with the software delivery process are fused together to yield efficient and effective outcomes. This practice is called Application Lifecycle Management (ALM).
To further expand on what is ALM, here’s a definition extracted from Siemens, which states that Application Lifecycle Management is the “standardized process of managing a software application or from its initial conception, through its different development phases and ongoing support, to its end of life. While it can be thought of as product lifecycle management (PLM) for software, ALM is actually much more complex – dealing with more variables and a greater number of changes completed in shorter time frames.”
Working in concert, ALM can be thought of as an umbrella term for several disciplines that are traditionally considered separate, which include project management, software architecture, requirements management, computer programming and development, testing and quality assurance, change management, continuous integration, customer support, software maintenance, and release management.
In essence, ALM provides the standardized environment of collaboration between all the teams involved in an application with the goal of automating the process of development and delivery.
Mission and role of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)
In the age of agility and swift software delivery, businesses take advantage of the ALM approach to help make smart decisions about software and how to manage it efficiently from the very beginning and right to the very end.
Contrary to the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) which only focuses on the software development stages, ALM is a broader term that provides continuity after development up until the application is no longer used and needs to be retired.
Overall, Application Lifecycle Management can be dissected into three key elements:
- Governance: Requirements definition and design, known as governance, covers the plan and create phases of the process. This element deals with the necessary decisions that must be made in benefit of the application and it includes resource management, data security, and user access to cover everything since the app is mapped and up until it reaches a strategic business outcome.
- Development: Here, the SDLC comes into full effect by identifying problems, planning, designing, building, testing, deploying, and updating the application as necessary. Based on the development methodology of choice, the SDLC phases can be separated (Waterfall) or fully integrated (Agile/DevOps).
- Operations and maintenance: It deals with the deployment of the app and maintenance of the technology stack. In a Waterfall approach, operations are kept separate from development while DevOps combines the two into a fully integrated, continuous process. In this stage, users find and solve bugs, as well as plan and prioritize upcoming updates.
With all these elements at play, teams integrate seamlessly, which fosters an environment of collaboration and feedback that is essential to build and deliver better products. Through open lines of communication among all the teams involved, feedback flows seamlessly through the application’s end-to-end development. In addition to internal feedback, external feedback is crucial to address and correct the application in accordance with the end user's needs and wants.
Another key element throughout the application’s lifespan is testing. As governance derives requirements and development begins work, the test team starts to design tests that can be executed once the build is deployed. Testing is vital for the success of any application as it validates the quality of the application and that it is bug-free. The ALM environment supports the maintenance and execution of manual, automation, and performance tests.
For instance, A/B testing is a randomized experiment with two variants known as A and B. This two-sample testing type helps determine which variation performs best for a given role. In ALM environments A/B testing helps optimize an application by comparing two versions of the application or a module of the application to figure out the best performing variation.
Overall, the role and mission of Application Lifecycle Management is to provide a collaborative workspace that guides different teams towards the common goal of optimizing and speeding up the application development process along with supporting better decision making throughout an application’s life span.
Top ALM tools and solution providers
Application Lifecycle Management is facilitated by tools that integrate people and processes. Mainly, these ALM tools are employed to properly document and track all changes made throughout an application’s development process. Comprehensive ALM tools include the following aspects of system development life cycles and operational activities:
- Requirements management.
- Estimation and planning.
- Source code management.
- Testing and quality assurance.
- Deployment or DevOps.
- Maintenance and support.
- Version control.
- Application portfolio management.
- Real-time planning and team communication.
In addition to these, the main benefits of using ALM software are:
- Standardized, collaborative environment that integrates software development tools with management tools.
- Automation and streamlining of the software development process.
- Clarity and conciseness for complex projects.
- Superior software quality.
- Cost efficiency.
- Reduction of time-to-market.
- Comprehensive security solutions that ensure compliance with industry standards.
With the aforementioned criteria and benefits in mind, we list some of the most prominent, high-level ALM tools:
- Jira: Atlassian offers an ALM tools suite that can include any number and combination of Atlassian products that integrate seamlessly with one another. Jira is a task and project management tool that offers issue tracking and a comprehensive list of plug-ins, add-ons, and modules that can be used to customize a solution. Additionally, Jira allows bug tracking and agile project management with highly customizable modules to organize workflows, enable collaboration, and release software successfully.
- Confluence: Atlassian solution that is essentially a collaboration program that works perfectly with Jira to create an open and shared workspace that helps teams stay organized, plan projects, manage product requirements, and improve the overall efficiency of a project. It includes easy-to-use templates, page labels, task tracking, real-time notifications, page history, and more.
- GitLab: Web-based tool that provides a Git-repository manager with wiki, issue-tracking, and CI/CD pipeline features. From project planning to source code management, it is a single solution for the entire application’s lifecycle.
- HP Application Lifecycle Management: Software tools designed for application and testing that include requirements management, test planning, functional testing, performance testing, developer management, and defect management.
- IBM Rational Team Concert: Software development tool that fosters team collaboration for teams that use agile planning, change management, defect tracking, source control, task tracking, and more, all through continuous builds and a configurable process that is responsive and flexible.
- Microsoft Azure DevOps Server 2019: Rebranded from the former Visual Studio Team Service solution, Azure DevOps is one of the most prominent ALM tools that provide a standardized environment to manage software applications throughout their complete life cycles through an integrated DevOps approach. With dozens of pre-built integrations and a library of extensions, Azure DevOps can be extended to act as an ALM tool by providing functionalities such as portfolio management.
- ModernRequirements4DevOps: ALM solution that accelerates project velocity with a requirements management solution built directly into Azure DevOps (formerly known as Visual Studio (VSTS) and Team Foundation Server (TFS). It provides a centralized location for code, requirements, and testing with end-to-end traceability and ease of creating metrics.
- Rally: Market-leading provider of agile software that is designed as a project management solution for release planning, iteration planning, requirement scheduling from release backlog, and QA activity management.
- Micro Focus Quality Center: Formerly known as HP Quality Center, this tool is a comprehensive, flexible tool that enables high-quality application delivery through the use of continuous testing, scalability of agile processes, and comprehensive platform capabilities such as traceability, customizable forms, user roles permissions, and rich reporting.
- DevSuite ALM Solution: Fully integrated ALM solution platform that is cloud-based and is designed to manage traditional and agile development projects, covering all ALM processes including definition, design, development, testing, and deployment. It enables organization-wide collaboration for requirements management, specifications, product ideas, and functional or technical design documents.
- Siemens Polarion: Integrated ALM platform that helps automate and optimize development processes across multiple projects by gathering, approving, and managing requirements for complex systems throughout the application lifecycle.
To better serve specific business and technical goals, organizations can choose to use only one tool that is capable of performing all the required tasks or simultaneously use a combination of ALM tools that complement each other.
Application Lifecycle Management tools
As new methodologies, languages, environments, and technologies arise regularly, the pool of tools available for ALM grows as well. Now, we list more specific Application Lifecycle Management tools that serve a specific purpose:
- SpiraTeam: ALM suite tool that helps manage projects from requirements to test cases and from tasks to code to ensure superior organization, enhance collaboration, and effective project management. SpiraTeam’s open architecture and growing list of available extensions make it easy to integrate and extend.
- Tuleap: Open source ALM software tool that provides an open framework for several ALM configurations by integrating with a large number of project management, requirements management, code versioning, code review, continuous integration, test management, documentation, collaboration, and tracking tools.
- CollabNet VersionOne: ALM toolkit that includes features for release automation, customer idea management, portfolio planning, test case management, defect tracking, reporting, budgeting, and much more.
- Perforce HelixALM: Modular suite of ALM tools that offer end-to-end traceability of requirements, tests, and issues across the entire application lifecycle. It includes dedicated modules of requirements management, test case management, and issue management, which together offer remarkable traceability for high-quality releases that are compliant and on time.
- Rommana ALM: Fully integrated set of ALM tools and methodologies that support requirements and user stories management, user case management, test design, and management, issue management, change management, release management, sprint planning, collaboration management, project management, and document management.
- CodeBeamer: Integrated solution that provides a collaborative workspace for requirements management, development, and testing and quality assurance. It provides traceability and powerful features that cover the entire span of the product development lifecycle, allowing users to automate and streamline processes, reduce costs, uphold safety-critical standards, and increase quality.
- SwiftALM: Comprehensive tool that helps manage IT and software projects with a unique combination of capabilities for traditional and agile projects that require extensive planning and tracking. It combines process governance, program/project management, and SDLC capabilities.
How to start using ALM software tools in your organization
Before deciding upon an ALM software solution, teams should look for tools that provide the following key features:
- Employ resource tracking from requirements and user stories.
- Prioritize and schedule requirements for each release/iteration.
- Assign requirements, tasks, and incidents, with an Agile planning board.
- Track bugs, enhancements, risks, and issues.
- Create, edit, and execute test cases.
- Map tests to requirements for tracking purposes.
- Create and assign tests for test execution management.
- Manage manual and automated testing.
- Include customizable dashboards and reporting capabilities.
- Provide a full audit history.
Once teams select a solution that meets the aforementioned criteria, they should begin implementing and start using the ALM software tool of choice. Both existing and upcoming software project teams benefit from using ALM tools as they help streamline the application development lifecycle and reduce project complexity for current and future processes.
Along with these benefits, ALM tools help comply with industry standards such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), International Organization of Standardization (ISO), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
As we listed the top ALM tools, it is clear there are many and diverse tools that serve different purposes which is why it’s important to find the one ALM software tool that best suits an organization’s specific needs or mix together a combination of tools that address and suit an existing process. ALM tools must be chosen with the future in mind, supporting not only current processes but also accommodating foreseeable changes in the development lifecycle and changing needs that arise as a project scales up.
Overall, implementing and beginning to use an ALM solution entails a thorough evaluation to help identify the right fit that accommodates future processes, cuts development time, and overall facilitates the build and innovation of software applications.
Svitla Systems is a proven software development company that stays up to date with the latest trends and cutting-edge technologies. For some years now, we’ve seen the rise of ALM tools that help companies streamline the development process and reduce the time spent by orchestrating and fostering a highly-collaborative environment where all relevant teams can interact from the beginning and end of an application.
Our team of expert developers and talented resources are ready to be your ally in your application development processes by bringing to the table their experience in ALM tools and processes.
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