Application lifecycle management (ALM) is the product lifecycle management of computer software. It includes requirements management, software architecture, software testing, software maintenance, computer programming, change management, continuous integration, project management and release management. But what are ALM tools, and how does one approach them?
The correct way of thinking about ALM toolsets is as of an umbrella term that encompasses several different areas that are often considered separate.
- Project management
- Requirements management
- Quality assurance (QA)
- Customer support
- IT service delivery
Buying application lifecycle management software suites can be a difficult, nerve-wracking, time-consuming proposition. Price evaluation is hard, and you risk spending money and resources on software that is never used. But if you come prepared for choosing Application Lifecycle Management software suite an organization can save time and money and keep that software off the shelf. In this article, we go through the list of application lifecycle management tools, compare the pros and cons of the top ALM tools, and discuss how to choose the right ALM tools for your enterprise.
The Use Cases of Application Lifecycle Management Tools
One of the most effective strategies for an organization to determine which ALM product or products best suits its needs is to build its own use case. To build a use case, an organization should clearly define its pain points or the issues that are causing the most serious bottlenecks in the current process. An organization also needs to understand its own demographics (size, history, financial position, employee experiences, etc.). Then, the organization can rank the features of ALM solutions in terms of importance to managing its use cases. Here is a look at several use case scenarios in which an organization might be looking for a complete ALM suite, and how some of the software suites could be a fit in those situations. This is vital for understanding the pricing for the toolsets because prices vary depending on the number of licenses and the tools needed. With no information on the requirements, it is impossible to evaluate the prices.
In comparing ALM tools, it is important to understand the ways these tools affect business processes so that you can choose the one that suits you. Large businesses, especially those that formed as a result of a merger or multiple mergers, may have several different and incompatible ways of approaching application lifecycle management tools. Newly merged organizations tend to operate in silos, often by legacy companies and even at divisional levels within those legacy organizations. Within each of the merged companies, development and operations may follow different processes. Distributed geographical locations for different teams can further complicate collaboration.
Because unifying and consolidating the ALM process, as well as providing a means of collaboration, are the main pain points of these organizations, enterprises would be keen to look at ALM products that offer strong traceability, visibility and collaboration features. Integration capabilities are important because most large organizations already own and use tools for ALM components such as version control, workflow or configuration management. IBM, HP and Microsoft provide compelling enterprise-proven ALM products that meet the primary needs of а large, merged organization.
IBM’s Rational offers an ALM suite of products called collaborative lifecycle management, or CLM, that focuses on collaboration. Many large organizations are already using products in this suite, e.g. ClearCase for configuration management. IBM products support both Agile and Waterfall methodologies and integrate with IBM Tivoli to support continuous integration. These features make IBM products a good choice for organizations needing to integrate diverse processes. The product is an older one with a lot of legacy support, but IBM has kept it up-to-date, aligning with ALM emerging trends.
- Tracking the assignments (Implementation Work Tickets)
- Legacy software support
- Generally a more expensive solution
- Doesn’t suit smaller companies
HP Application Lifecycle Management
HP developed one of the best ALM tools that emphasize traceability and visibility in its tools. HP’s ALM allows 360-degree links from requirements through defects, and its dashboard provides an easy way to produce effective metrics. HP also provides integrations with most third-party tools, including IBM and Microsoft. Also, HP is offering a software as a service option. Requirements management is known to be one of the stronger sides on HP’s solution. Also, this solution provides a version for mobile devices.
- Release & cycle planning
- Requirements management
- Mobile version
- Some of the administrative functions could be better
Microsoft’s ALM Suite with Visual Studio
Microsoft’s ALM suite uses Visual Studio, which is one of the most-used integrated development environments in the developer community; therefore, it is likely that large, merged organizations are already using parts of Visual Studio today. Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server (TFS) provides good version control and configuration functionality. Due to the fact that Visual Studio lacks in requirements management, TFS can be easily integrated with HP’s products in order to take advantage of HP’s capabilities in this regard. Microsoft’s ALM suite is a particularly good choice for organizations that use a .NET framework because many .NET developers use Visual Studio and also tend to enjoy using TFS. Our company is a certified Microsoft ALM software provider.
- Reasonable starting costs
- United database
- Support for other development platforms
- No licensing model for product owners
- Lacks in requirements management
ALM Tools for Startups
The typical growing start-up provides another typical ALM scenario. This scenario generally consists of small organizations that have experienced tremendous growth, sometimes due to the release of their first product(s). The core team is usually growing and may no longer be located in the same building or even geographic region. In addition, there may be new stakeholders to whom they are accountable. These stakeholders may include new levels of management, venture capitalists, support staff and perhaps even stockholders if the organization has become a publicly traded entity. These teams focus on the velocity and speed-to-market, which they were previously able to achieve without a defined process. In fact, having a process may be a new concept that could be viewed as a roadblock rather than an enablement. These organizations most often employ Agile methodologies or continuous integration and seek to eliminate the process overhead.
Because maintaining and improving velocity continues to be the focus and has become a pain point for these teams, they will need an ALM tool that provides traceability and visibility without creating excessive overhead. In addition, these organizations will need a tool that provides collaboration features to improve communication between recently distributed teams. Support for Agile methodologies is an absolute must-have, and the tool must also provide or integrate with tools that support version control and release management. The tool must be user-friendly and easy to install, and the vendor must provide support and training because these organizations usually do not have such services in-house. ALM tools for Agile, such as Rally, Version One and Atlassian, provide solutions to meet the major requirements of these organizations.
CA Agile Central
CA Agile Central (formerly Rally ALM) is the top ALM tool for businesses that use Agile methods. Its project management features, including resource planning, are specifically geared to Agile development. It is also a great ALM tool for testing. CA Agile Central provides collaboration functionality through Flowdock, which has chat and email features. Rally is one of the few ALM tools that support the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and provides training and certification in SAFe. Rally Insights Analytics offers Agile-specific metrics, as well as metrics based on the Software Development Performance Index. It provides both on-premises and SaaS options.
- Multiple teams support
- Visualization capabilities
- Very adaptable
- Portfolio management
- Not cohesive release management
VersionOne is a great solution if you are looking to establish a simple application lifecycle framework. VersionOne was created specifically to accommodate Agile methodology, and it also provides support and training for their clients. Its portfolio management feature was created specifically to accommodate Agile projects, including release and sprint planning, product planning and reporting analytics. VersionOne also offers more than 70 prebuilt integrations with other ALM products to provide a complete ALM solution.
- Great reporting
- Good UI
- Issues with regression testing
Atlassian is a great choice for start-ups. It supports both Agile and Waterfall methodologies, and its processes are simple. Its defect tracking tool, JIRA, is open source and provides collaboration tools for requirements (Confluence) for code and repository management (Bitbucket and Stash). It also provides the chat tool, HipChat. Atlassian is a good choice for organizations doing continuous integration and DevOps, and it has strong integration with Git.
- Open source
- Status management
- UX issues that may delay the workflow
CollabNet is a great Agile application lifecycle management tool. Its distributed version control system is great for large projects and big enterprises. While not a full-package-solution in itself, CollabNet integrates easily with many widely used open-source tools such as Jenkins or Git. It is also easy-to-use and provides strong training and support.
- Great version control for Agile teams
- Open-source support
- Good traceability
- Not many products in the stack
- Doesn’t cover every aspect of ALM
Take Your Time
Before choosing the most relevant ALM suite, make their comparison to explore key requirements, advantages and disadvantages, and ways in which these systems can be implemented into your business processes. Such a detailed study will help you smoothly build a chosen ALM solution into your existing working style and IT landscape and improve process automation. Feel free to contact our specialists and check out other articles on our blog!