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There’s no hiding the changes happening in the application life cycle. Heavily influenced by the likes of DevOps and agile, ALM today is affected by market disruptions and the role that business leaders and stakeholders play throughout the process of delivering software. Companies are focusing on the rapid and continuously changing landscape of ALM and its tools, which have also have evolved tremendously since the days of traditional ALM practices.

ALM has not retired, although its focus has changed to fit the needs of the customers. Those looking to refine their application life cycle are sifting through the marketplace to find the right tool—one that will give their company agile feature functionality and help them move toward a more continuous way of working. A business can no longer look at just the planning and the building of software; they have to monitor every step in between to make sure the software delivered meets the expectations of the user.

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Delivering high-quality software is important to almost every business, but in order for them to meet their goals and generate a consistent stream of revenue, they need an innovative and easy-to-integrate ALM tool; one that will bring them the agility and speed that they need throughout the software development life cycle. Enterprises that cannot keep the pace of today’s ALM landscape will fail their customers, who will then go elsewhere to find the tools they need to stay successful.

Addressing the changes of ALM
Market disruptions such as mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as the digital and omnichannel trend as a whole, have contributed to this evolution of ALM. Once these disruptions happen in areas like DevOps and agile, they change the way companies build their applications. Customers can use this as an opportunity to rethink the way they approach the application life cycle and get their new projects moving along into production.

In order to address the changes of ALM, companies should start by taking a look at their latest solutions to make sure they reflect both the development side of building an application as well as what happens to the application once it is in production, said Genefa Murphy, global vice president for product and partner marketing with application delivery management at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

By including the production side of things, ALM uses the notions of Continuous Delivery, Continuous Monitoring, and Continuous Feedback to the developers and testers. This really means making sure tools revolve around application delivery management, just as it did with traditional software delivery life-cycle and application life-cycle management.

Enterprises that want to adjust their set of ALM solutions should address two elements, said Murphy. First consider the role of the developer in the application life cycle, the role of analytics, and the monitoring world. Then, address these elements to make sure that there are a large number of integrations on the developer side, as well as integrations into the company’s other solutions and third-party solutions.

CollabNet has observed customers seeking more integrated planning and agility in their ALM tools. Thomas Hooker, vice president of marketing for CollabNet, said they found customers want a tool that will help them create an environment that enables collaboration. This collaboration should be between not just the developers, but all of the stakeholders involved in the business process. Project managers need to communicate with the coders all the way through to testers and QA, especially since organizations have changed their focus away from traditional software development, he said.

Those tool adjustments are just from the integration side of things. Another element to consider is how customers are consuming ALM tools, said Murphy.

HPE has seen an increase in people wanting to use SaaS tools from a delivery model perspective, so they don’t have to deal with the overhead of maintaining, managing, patching and upgrading the ALM tools. The second element that HPE has noticed, said Murphy, is companies looking for flexible pricing and packing, including free trials that are available to new or old customers. This gives practitioners a solid entry point to get started in the new way of doing ALM, she said.

Keeping the business in focus
If people on the business side of the operation are to stay involved throughout the ALM process, the tools must establish traceability and make it easy for everyone involved in the process to collaborate. Jason Hammon, director of product management at TechExcel, said customer requirements and market requirements should be connected up until the final delivery of the project. Traceability comes from the connection between the business requirements and the end results and everything in between, he said.

Traceability should be an essential part of the ALM process, and not just an add-on at the end of the day. Traceability and speed sometimes go hand-in-hand, but businesses need to know that the advantages of being first are not common across all projects, said Paula Rome, senior project manager at Seapine Software.

“Businesses need to decide on their priorities and the tradeoffs they can live with upfront,” she said. “They need to manage their risks. In a safety-critical industry, blind speed can be deadlier than a slow start or a more measured pace.”

When customers say they want to “do DevOps,” Murphy said, companies need to drill down and figure out what they really mean, since DevOps is such a broad term and it depends on what the company is looking to achieve. More often than not, what companies mean by “doing DevOps” is gaining speed in their application delivery, and Murphy suggests they consider ways to balance speed and quality at scale.

“There’s no reason to release an application fast if it’s a poor-quality application because that’s going to lead to a bad user experience, which in turn is going to have an impact on your brand and revenue,” she said.

While speed is a critical factor, traceability is what can keep business needs in focus, since it provides IT leaders, management, and businesspeople a way to see how the requirements are connected to a project plan and implementation, said Hammon. ALM today is connecting all of those pieces, and without traceability, it’s too difficult to verify how the process is going.

Managing all aspects of the application life cycle is crucial, but it won’t do the business any good if they don’t have a strategy in place. Hooker said that IT leaders should consider how they are empowering the business: Are they slowing things down, or are they driving innovation?

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what business you are in: The customer is king and we need to service those customer needs. That’s how we stay viable and grow our business,” said Hooker. He added that every business is affected by high-quality software, so the evolution of ALM will continue.

Since businesses want high-quality software, it’s up to IT leaders to create a sort of balance between demands and what is actually capable of being delivered. To do this, businesses need to be a key stakeholder in this evolving ALM culture, said Murphy, because without that continuous feedback loop, businesses could set unrealistic expectations about what can actually be achieved.

“IT wants to be able to be seen to move at the speed of business. It doesn’t want to be seen as that hinderance or that roadblock,” she said.

What’s blocking successful ALM?
But change does not happen without a few roadblocks. The transition from the waterfall mindset to the agile mindset created a few barriers for software development teams, and part of this includes visibility, collaboration, communication, and if the tools in place provide a strong foundation for teams, according to TechExcel’s Hammon.

It’s up to IT leaders to make sure teams are collaborating and not working in silos. Also, teams need to make sure there is enough collaboration available so that people can interact without slowing down their little piece of the job, said Hammon.

Teams will need to be flexible in the processes they support so they can cover larger spans of an application’s life cycle, all the way from ideation through deployment. (Although, sometimes corporate politics can create barriers of their own, separate from those caused by the culture change.)

“Corporate politics can create barriers that teams, even using the strongest tools, will find difficult to breach,” said Seapine’s Rome.

Companies should consider the modernized role of the developer as well, since they can create barriers for hiring talent. Developers today are much more empowered, especially those coming right out of college equipped with the knowledge to handle today’s software development problems.

According to Hooker, these young developers have the latest programming languages and technologies in their arsenal, and they are well prepared to enter a collaborative environment. Developers who aren’t provided with the right environment to work in will find somewhere else to go, and companies will have problems recruiting the “best of the best,” he said.

The number of people that are trying on the “developer hat” is expanding as well, according to Rome, and companies should think about the “blurring of the traditional developer and testing roles in a well-functioning agile team or the emergence of citizen developers.”

Citizen developers may lack some core skills of professional developers, and this could complicate a smooth development process in a DevOps environment. But, if the right tools are in place, citizen developers can work alongside other developers, letting them solve bigger problems that come up during development.

These individuals aren’t the only ones that are trying on different hats. Murphy said developers are expanding their core technology skills, not just with programming languages, but getting to understand key approaches to development such as microservices, containerization, platforms-as-a-service, and other tools or processes.

DevOps and enterprise agile have allowed developers to become more involved in testing, provisioning and monitoring, whereas traditionally, they might not have been as active, according to . To keep up with the changes of ALM, developers will need to become more involved in these processes and elements of development in order to keep the business moving, she said.

While more control is in the hands of developers (in terms of planning what things will be implemented), incorporating ALM and the ALM process allows teams to keep everything moving, said Hammon. If an agile team is really independent from the project planning or requirements and even QA, it’s harder for them to collaborate and stay on track.

“Everybody is playing an important role in the same way they used to in a waterfall process, just in a much more compressed timeframe, and that’s really where collaboration comes in,” said Hammon.

Businesses can also miss the mark if they are failing to assess the changes of ALM and neglecting how open-source software could play an important role in delivering an integrated ALM tool set. The role of open-source software could create a better, more integrated tool chain that could ultimately get the business to its end goal.

Hooker said that the way the market is going today, all software vendors need to embrace the open-source community and its code repositories, especially with more groups standardizing on open-source tool sets.

“[Back] in the day we used to buy pretty much proprietary tools from a vendor, and open source was even dismissed a little bit or even outright shunned,” said Hooker. “Now [we] embrace it, and that’s how you get speed.”

A guide to ALM suites
Atlassian: Atlassian products balance the need for autonomy and visibility throughout the modern application life-cycle management stages, whether it’s lightweight requirement documents in Confluence, task allocation and agile tracking in JIRA Software, or repository management in Bitbucket. To take it further, Atlassian offers Portfolio for JIRA to allow for planning and reporting at scale, as well as HipChat to address the communication layer and help overcome the geographic distribution of the modern team.

BlazeMeter: BlazeMeter ensures delivery of high-performance software by enabling DevOps teams to quickly and easily run open-source performance tests against any mobile app, website or API at massive scale to validate performance at every stage of software delivery. The rapidly growing BlazeMeter community has more than 100,000 developers, and includes prominent global brands such as Adobe, Atlassian, Gap, NBC Universal, Pfizer and Walmart as customers.

Borland: Products such as Caliber, StarTeam, AccuRev and Silk make up a comprehensive ALM suite. They provide precision, control and validation across the software development life cycle, and are unique in their ability to integrate with each other (and with third-party tools) at an asset level.

CollabNet: CollabNet offers enterprises and government organizations of all sizes the platform to accelerate development and delivery of quality software at speed with its flagship product TeamForge. CollabNet is a pioneer in open-source, agile and collaborative solutions for large, distributed software environments. It provides innovative development tools at enterprise scale and agile consulting and training services. CollabNet services more than 10,000 customers, supporting 6 million users in more than 100 countries. It has been recognized for the past 12 years as an SD Times 100 industry innovator in the ALM & Dev Tools category.

HPE ALM Software: HPE ALM, HPE Agile Manager and HPE Quality Center provide a software platform and open integration hub to accelerate delivery of high-quality software at scale. Manage requirements and user stories, developer changes, builds, tests and effects, and share and reuse asset libraries and workflows across projects. Support scaled agile with insight and visibility from Scrum teams to enterprise agile release. Deploy flexibly on premise or as a service in the cloud.

IBM: IBM’s Rational Collaborative Lifecycle Management is designed to deliver effective ALM to agile, hybrid and traditional teams. It brings together change and configuration management, quality management, requirements management, tracking, and project planning in a common unified platform.

Inflectra: SpiraTeam is an integrated ALM suite that provides everything you need to manage your software projects from inception to release and beyond. With more than 5,000 customers in 100 countries using SpiraTeam, it’s the most powerful yet easy-to-use tool on the market. It includes features for managing your requirements, testing and development activities all hosted either in our secure cloud environment or available for customers to install on-premise.

JetBrains: JetBrains offers tools for both individual developers and teams. TeamCity provides Continuous Integration and Deployment, while YouTrack provides agile project and bug management, and Upsource facilitates code review and repository browsing. Tools for individual developers include IDEs for the most popular programming languages on the market, as well as .NET tools for boosting one’s productivity, profiling apps and more. Altogether, JetBrains offerings cover most of the needs of software development houses moving toward a fully integrated solution.

Kovair: Kovair software specializes in the domain of integrated application life-cycle management. Our objective is to make the software development process better, faster and collaborative in a synchronized tools environment. Kovair provides multiple solutions to the market such as the Kovair ALM Studio, Kovair Omnibus Integration, Kovair iTM—the Integrated Test Management Solution, and KovairQuickSync for data migration between multi-vendor tools when tool changes are essential but legacy data must be migrated. Kovair has recently added the capability of Project Portfolio Management—PPM, helping organizations to align business with execution.

Microsoft: Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS), Microsoft’s cloud-hosted ALM service, lets teams share code, track work, and ship software for any language and any platform, all in a single package. It’s everything you need to run your agile teams, Kanban boards, sprint planning tools, version control with Git, hosted build and release management, manual and automated testing tools, and more. It connects to IDEs such as Eclipse, IntelliJ and Visual Studio, and code editors like Visual Studio Code. It works with other tools across your software life cycle via extensions, so you can create your perfect development environment.

Orasi: Orasi is a leading provider of software testing services, utilizing test management, test automation, enterprise testing, Continuous Delivery, monitoring, and mobile testing technology. The company is laser-focused on helping customers deliver high-quality applications, no matter the type of application they’re working on and no matter the development methods or delivery processes they’ve adopted. In addition to its end-to-end software testing, Orasi provides professional services around testing, processes and practices, as well as software quality-assurance tools and solutions to support those practices.

Polarion: Polarion ALM is a unifying collaboration and management platform for software and multi-system development projects. Providing end-to-end traceability and transparency from requirements to design to production, Polarion’s flexible architecture and licensing model enables companies to deploy just what they need, where they need it, on premise or in the cloud.

Rommana: Now available in the cloud for free, Rommana ALM is a fully integrated set of tools and methodologies that provides full traceability among requirements, user stories, scenarios, test cases, issue reports, use cases, timelines, change requests, estimates and resources; one common repository for all project artifacts and documentation; and full collaboration for all team members around the globe 24×7.

Seapine: Seapine Software’s integrated hybrid-agile ALM suite enables product development and IT organizations to ensure the consistent release of high-quality products, while providing traceability, reporting and compliance. Featuring TestTrack for requirements, issue and test management; Surround SCM for configuration management; and QA Wizard Pro for automated functional testing and load testing, Seapine’s tools provide a single source of truth for project development artifacts, statuses and quality to reduce risks inherent in complex product development.

Serena Software: Serena provides secure, collaborative and process-based ALM solutions. Dimensions RM improves the definition, management and reuse of requirements, increasing visibility and collaboration across stakeholders; Dimensions CM simplifies collaborative parallel development, improving team velocity and assuring release readiness; and Deployment Automation enables deployment pipeline automation, reducing cycle time and supporting rapid delivery.

Sparx Systems: Sparx Systems’ flagship product, Enterprise Architect, provides full life-cycle modeling for real-time and embedded development, software and systems engineering, and business and IT systems. Based on UML and related specifications, Enterprise Architect is a comprehensive team-based modeling environment that helps organizations analyze, design and construct reliable, well-understood systems.

TechExcel: TechExcel DevSuite is a product development life-cycle platform that automates and streamlines requirements, development and QA processes for faster, more frequent releases of high-quality products. Whether your process is agile, traditional or hybrid, DevSuite ensures your most current requirements are built and tested. With dynamic linking of requirements to all development artifacts, DevSuite enables full bidirectional requirements traceability from product design through development, testing, bug fixing and release. DevSuite also allows you to completely customize development environments to increase the speed and efficiency of your teams, including custom workflows and rules, personalized page layouts, tailored workspaces with defined access control, specification reports for instant project status, and more. DevSuite also enables you to leverage TechExcel strengths and plug it into existing third-party applications using RESTful APIs. With DevSuite, you’ll more quickly deliver finished products that are bug-free and include the most current features, functionality and user experience customers require.

About Madison Moore

Madison Moore is an Online and Social Media Editor for SD Times. She is a 2015 graduate from Delaware Valley University, Pa., with a Bachelor's Degree in media and communication. Moore has reported for Philly.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and PhillyVoice. She is new to Long Island and is a cat enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter at @Moorewithmadi.