With the ever-increasing speed and frequency of software delivery cycles, businesses need a way to effectively manage their software from beginning to end. Application lifecycle management (ALM) addresses that need, overseeing the continuous process of managing the life of an application from initial idea to eventual retirement. It is a superset of SDLC, as SDLC only covers the development phase.
While it is a broad category encompassing many topics, ALM can be broken down into three essential components:
Governance is a framework that helps organizations to align IT strategy with business strategy. It begins with business case development, where the idea for an application is mapped to a business outcome. Resource management, data security, and user access must also be considered so that organizations can meet internal and external requirements.
Development is the process of creating software to solve a problem. It involves planning, designing, building, testing, deploying, and updating the application.
Operations involves deploying and maintaining the holistic performance of all applications. The goal is to manage the response times of the application ecosystem and closely monitor its performance.
ALM tools typically serve multiple purposes, merging a large number of disciplines under the same umbrella. They are usually sold as suites, with modules that can be purchased individually. Finding the right ALM tool can be hard, as there are countless options. It’s unlikely to find ALM software that does everything you need right out of the box, but you can always mix and match software or customize what you have to get the desired functionality.
Key features of ALM tools include: requirements management, planning, source code management and version control, testing, deployment, traceability, collaboration, scheduling and resource allocation, dashboards and reports, and application portfolio management.
Agile-focused ALM tools should also have user stories, backlogs, kanban boards, and so forth.
When deciding which ALM tool is suitable, you should consider:
1. What tools are you already using?
2. What is the size of your organization?
3. Do you need portfolio management?
4. Is your industry highly regulated? What are your compliance needs?
5. What methodology are you using? Do you need an Agile tool?
6. Is it an integrated suite? If not, does it integrate to other tools?
7. What is the pricing and licensing structure?
8. Is the tool on-premises or SaaS?
9. What is the availability of hosting platforms, support, and training?
ALM tools help organizations to deliver quality releases faster, with compliance and visibility. They also provide an integrated system for development, which connects disparate tools, teams, and processes while improving communication between IT and the business. This accelerates software development and delivery velocity, helping businesses to stay competitive. Many ALM tools have features like version control and real-time planning, which assist team leaders in making decisions and creating a roadmap for the future.
On the ground level, other benefits of ALM tools include: a standardized environment for collaboration, automation of the development process, better code quality, lower costs, faster time-to-market, streamlined and standardized workflows, and better support for compliance.
Aha! is a cloud-based project management tool that supports agile and scrum workflows. It allows users to create product, technology, consulting, manufacturing and marketing roadmaps. Primary features include task lists, product roadmaps, Kanban boards, collaboration and analytics. With Aha! it’s easy to rank different features, see them on a Gantt chart, and figure out the strategy for a release of multiple features, all while keeping key stakeholders in the loop.
Aha! is a full-featured and complex product, and as such, has a bit of a learning curve. However, support for the product is generally considered to be helpful and responsive.Visit Website
Versionone is an enterprise-level agile ALM solution offered by CollabNet. It is particularly useful for large organizations looking to implement Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and is available in four packages: Team, Catalyst, Enterprise, and Ultimate. While it excels in reporting and tracking and has great tools for scrum masters, it can be slow, lacks the customization of other comparable software, and has a clumsy user interface.Visit Website
Phabricator is an open source software development platform written in PHP. Its applications include the Differential code review tool, Diffusion repository browser, Herald change monitoring tool, Maniphest bug tracker, Phriction wiki, Conpherence chat, and Conduit API. You can download and install it on your own hardware for free, or launch a hosted instance that gives access to automatic updates, maintenance, and support.
It’s fast, scales well, and is best suited for large projects with multiple repositories. While the UI has been criticized for being unintuitive, it is customizable and can be tailored to your specific team.Visit Website
Similar to Jira and Trello, Asana is a flexible and lightweight project management tool that facilitates communication among teams by managing tasks and workflows. It has an approachable to-do list structure with additional features like a calendar, project timeline, work reporting, goal completion tracking, notifications, and kanban boards. While Jira is specifically targeted towards IT, Asana is more generic in nature and therefore more versatile. Its thoughtful design and intuitive interface make it especially appealing for marketing and business teams.
Asana integrates with a wide range of SaaS tools, including Gmail, Slack, Microsoft Outlook, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and Zendesk.Visit Website
Pivotal Tracker is a web-based agile project management tool that is used almost exclusively for Scrum development. It has points built into stories and provides burnup, burndown, and velocity charts out-of-the-box. It allows developers to collaborate in real time around a shared, prioritized backlog, with features that include automatic planning, multi-project workspaces and performance analytics. It can also be used for issue tracking.
Pivotal Tracker is inflexible in the sense that it is not easy to customize, but it has a large pool of integrations that extend its functionality. It’s best suited for big development teams with well-established processes.Visit Website
Formerly known as 37signals, Basecamp is a cloud collaboration tool for keeping track of priorities and actionable items. It provides a simple interface for users to manage projects, teams, and schedules, with features like to-do lists, calendars, message boards, file sharing, and chat. It especially shines when used to share project progress and milestones with clients due to its approachability and ease of use.Visit Website
Microsoft Visual Studio is a powerful integrated development environment (IDE) for Microsoft Windows, providing comprehensive facilities to programmers for software development. It is used to view and edit code, and then debug, build, and publish apps. Visual Studio uses Microsoft software development platforms such as Windows API, Windows Forms, Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Store and Microsoft Silverlight. It is thoughtfully designed, has a huge feature set, and supports a wide range of languages. It comes with built-in language support for C, C++ and C++/CLI, Visual Basic .NET, C#, and F#.
Microsoft also provides a free version of Visual Studio called the Community Edition.
Trello is a simple and intuitive web-based project management application that prioritizes lightweight functionality and accessibility over a broad feature set. It organizes projects into Kanban boards that allow you to see, at a glance, whether the various tasks are planned, in progress, or done. Trello is very versatile and can be used for anything from agile software development to personal tasks; however, it does not provide any reporting or analytics, and is not suitable for high-level management.
Trello’s free service comes with unlimited boards, lists, and cards, and allows for any number of collaborators. Limited power-ups are also available for extended functionality.
Mingle by ThoughtWorks is a cloud-based project management and collaboration solution that provides a combined workplace for the entire team. Teams can raise and resolve dependencies independently, which enables enterprises to scale agility without reducing team autonomy. Mingle’s Cycle Time Analytics highlights outliers and trends in cycle time, revealing bottlenecks in the delivery process.Visit Website
JIRA Software by Atlassian is a project and issue tracking tool that allows you to track any unit of work (such as bugs, tasks, and stories) through a predefined workflow. It is commonly used for software development, feature implementation, bug tracking, service desk ticket tracking, and agile project management.
JIRA features customizable scrum boards that enable agile teams to quickly deliver iterative and incremental value, as well as Kanban boards that give visibility to what’s next. Out-of-the-box reports offer insight into team performance sprint over sprint, and a configurable dashboard allows you to track what is happening in real time. You can also create test plans and test cases, conduct testing, and generate crash reports.
Aside from its versatility, JIRA is appealing for its sprawling ecosystem of add-ons and integrations. It boasts over 50,000 customers, some of which include Twitter, PayPal, and Salesforce.Visit Website