ALM has largely been about managing application development, but now it is shifting into the business planning space. The next generation of application life-cycle management tools will support both DevOps and the notion of managing an entire business project from idea to development to deployment. So if you’re looking to upgrade your ALM tooling to remain competitive, know that your next ALM tool should help you manage this whole business process, according to six next-generation ALM solution providers interviewed for this article.
Also, in the near-term, the providers said that moving everybody onto a consolidated set of tools from one vendor probably won’t be a reality in most shops. A lot of organizations already have ALM tools that they like, the providers pointed out. Because of this, the challenge in next-generation ALM will be about how to leverage the data that’s there in all the ALM tools so that all the stakeholders in the entire process—from developers to QA to testing to management—can improve their collaboration and communication.
IBM’s next-generation ALM solution is IBM Rational Collaborative Lifecycle Management (CLM), which is made up of four tools: Requirements Composer, Design Manager, Team Concert, and Quality Manager. “They focus on that set of constituents in IT who want to define what the requirements are, and then manage that, meaning, how do you talk about that requirement and get it implemented by development?” said Randy Newell, director of marketing at IBM Rational.
IBM refers to ALM as CLM, which it said is one element within a broader view of the software delivery life cycle. “When we look at the software delivery life cycle, we see a set of core capabilities today that are largely around software development,” said Newell. “If we’re really trying to help our clients take advantage of the opportunities around software development, then we need to look at it more holistically as a full life cycle.”
To IBM, next-generation ALM isn’t just about managing the application’s life cycle, but rather it includes things such as business planning and understanding how requirements come in from a customer to begin with. “It’s about how decisions around those requirements get captured and how you make investment decisions associated with your portfolio,” said Newell. “And then it’s about how you capture the metadata associated with that information and move it into the actual project.”
From there, IBM sees next-generation ALM as understanding how to leverage that information into the overall project life cycle, whether you’re doing software quality management or tying your testing back to requirements. “We’re extending ALM further down the software delivery life cycle to ensure that we’re incorporating testing, build and release management,” said Newell. “That means extending into operations and the production area, inclusive of a feedback loop that tells you how your application in production is performing.”
Some questions to ask your team are, according to Newell: Is your application meeting the SLAs associated with it? Does it meet the requirements for the customers? And are you making sure you’re capturing that feedback so you can incorporate that into the next iteration of the application? “What we’re referring to is DevOps,” he said. “The DevOps life cycle for IBM is that full software delivery life cycle—from ideation or concept, all the way through to delivery of the application and the feedback loop. DevOps is that entire end-to-end life cycle. ALM, or, in our case, CLM, is one set of functionality or capability within that.”
IBM said it links that to things like Unified Modeling Language, where some new capability is being brought out. “With this, you can actually model and tie those designs back to requirements and back to tests, using a Web-based interface,” said Dave Myers, product manager of IBM Rational Team Concert for System z. “We tie that into Team Concert where it’s all about agile planning or even waterfall-level planning, if you want to go back that far.
“And then it’s about tying those plans to Software Configuration Management (SCM), as in, what changes have been made in your application? What configuration updates are being implemented and versioned as part of that plan? And how do you get it built and get those assets created? It’s about how do you actually trace that down to quality, where is it being tested, where is the test plan, and who is writing that. Finally, feeding that all into it end to end. That’s what we call our CLM suite today.”
All of that is only one part of actually getting apps to market though, according to Myers. He said that if you focus on just that, there are bottlenecks downstream and upstream. “The upstream one, in terms of line of business, is that you want to now attach to things, like if we have 18 different business initiatives, how do we determine which one we want to drive and create projects off of?” he said. “How do we figure out if there are core things that are spanning multiple initiatives that we want to pull in?”
In order to do that, Myers said IBM’s Focal Point solution lets developers bring in a lot of data to decide the best thing to focus resources on, from a line-of-business perspective.
“Moving downstream, now that you’ve written the code, the question is how do you actually get that into an environment and automate testing of that?” Myers said.
The next step in next-generation ALM is pushing the application to the customer and then knowing if it is performing the way it should. “You should know things like, am I meeting a target that I have for my initiative in terms of growth of market share or in terms of simple metrics, like ‘10,000 transactions an hour’ or whatever it may be?” Myers said. “It’s tracing through those various pieces. CLM is just one piece of that; it focuses more on development and test, but we’re trying to break down those borders with the other sets of constituents.”
Integrating with other ALM tools will be an integral part of next-generation ALM, according to IBM. Myers said IBM has brought out some new things called Integration Adaptors so that customers don’t have to pick up all of IBM’s components. “The Integration Adaptors really integrate with what customers already have,” he said. “We are using something that we call the OSLC (Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration). It’s basically something that we’re trying to standardize at W3C about how we actually communicate, at a data level, the possibilities for integration.”
Another example of IBM’s integrations is that its CLM suite has open-source integrations for things such as Git or JIRA. “So if you are an organization that’s using Subversion or you’re using Git already, you can actually integrate to that,” Myers said. “We have this strategy about integrating into the open-source community as well as larger competitors via these standard interfaces that are being defined. So you can do things like query across the enterprise even if it’s not all on Rational.”
Next-generation ALM is about the process now, according to Newell, and companies are not just looking at it from a strictly ALM tool basis. They also need their ALM tools to integrate with each other across teams. “Customers are saying, ‘We’re going to base this on how we’re staffing a project and putting these cross-functional teams together.’ That’s a cultural change from a process perspective,” Myers said.
Back in 2004, ALM was a set of tools in a box with a stamp on it written “ALM,” with some kind of connection sometimes, and with some kind of integrations between the tools, according to Stefano Rizzo, senior vice president of strategy and business development at Polarion Software. “These were normally integrations [that didn’t work]. Plus, a lot of the use cases like ‘Find all the items a user has been working on today’ could not be resolved without posting a query to 10 different tools.”
So Rizzo said Polarion decided to build one single foundation for its ALM suite based on open-source tools, mainly around the software version-management system Subversion. “This means that we didn’t need to integrate anything because everything was in a single place on a single source,” he said. “So we started adding features to the platform for requirements management, test-case management, quality assurance, planning, dashboarding, traceability, change management—in one single product.”
So Polarion has one single platform: a next-generation ALM, according to Rizzo. “We see this as still something that other ALM vendors don’t have. We have one single foundation out of which we created all the ALM features and functionality. So this is a key differentiator for us.”
Rizzo said that Polarion ALM is Web-based and open, with XML and Web Services APIs to connect and configure the system. “This second differentiator of ours has a huge impact on the total cost of ownership of the system,” he said. “We didn’t need to reinvent the wheel; we didn’t need to develop everything from scratch. But we are just reusing best-of-breed open-source technologies.”
Usability is another feature that differentiates Polarion ALM from other tools, Rizzo said. “If you have one single platform, you have just one place to query. You can also perform an impact analysis, which tells you what happens if you change a requirement. The tool can tell you which test cases you need to modify and what code is impacted by this change.”
But the major reason for its usability, according to Rizzo, is because it’s driven by content. “It’s the tool that knows the process, not the person that needs to learn a process to use the tool,” he said. “When you perform an action, the tool proposes the next action for you to perform according to your internal processes, specification and needs, or according to a process template that you apply to your project. This could be Scrum, waterfall or your own specific methodology. Customers call this usability, but I call this embedded process knowledge.”
Polarion is a Web solution that does not require users to install anything on their systems, Rizzo said. You can directly access all the information through a browser or from a mobile device, thanks to the company’s mobile client. “It’s available in the App Store for free,” Rizzo said. “And, due to the fact that it’s a Web-based technology, for us, moving into the cloud was just a matter of a different setup. We didn’t need to rewrite code; it was already done for that.”
So, when it comes to next-generation ALM in terms of accessibility and its business model, cloud or mobile, Polarion is already there, Rizzo said. He said its next challenge is being able to connect its ALM solution with the PLM (product life-cycle management) world.
“We have a huge demand from product makers: technology companies, automotive companies and medical device companies. They found out that their pieces of steel have more and more code,” Rizzo said. “The tools that they use normally to manage their Bill of Materials, these tools need to take care of tons of lines of code. So far, it’s done on top of fancy integrations between product life-cycle management and ALM. So for us, our next-generation ALM is a deep integration into the product life-cycle management processes and tools.”
PLM tools and applications are not just for software, Rizzo explained. Those tools and applications let engineers design parts of a system (such as a car door), put them together, maintain them, and even dispose of them. “And as the code is more and more embedded into our washing machines or any tools that we use, these engineers are having a hard time managing software development with these PLM tools. So, ALM tools are now being requested to be able to connect into this environment,” he said.
“It’s a differentiator for us. We are very strong in private industry, so that’s why we feel this pain. Others will tell you that providing support for agile methodologies—for lean development—is a key ALM issue for the future. But that’s part of our daily job already; it’s not a challenge for the future any longer because most of our customers have done that with our tools for years.”
Another key differentiator for Polarion is that its software is built with an open architecture and stores all the information in an open format, Rizzo said. This means that there is no vendor lock-in. “What happens is that customers are always worried about the fact that, if the vendor decides to change or drop the product, or the vendor is purchased by somebody else, the customer could have issues with their assets,” he said.
“With other vendors, all your assets will be locked into proprietary technologies and formats. But we store all the information in open-source repositories, written in the open XML format. It is not encrypted or put into some obscure proprietary format, but rather it’s in XML, a universal language that’s open, understandable, readable, writeable.”
Before we can even discuss what next-generation ALM suites are, we’ve got to get it straight in our minds about what ALM is, according to Magdy Hanna, chief architect at Rommana Software. “An application life-cycle management tool, or set of tools, has always needed to provide comprehensive coverage of all the phases of the life cycle,” he said. “So the first criterion of a tool to be considered ALM is to have this comprehensive coverage of most of the life-cycle phases.”
Rommana ALM has a requirements-management tool in it because Rommana sees that as the most critical component of an ALM suite, Hanna said. The software also includes a project-management tool. “An ALM tool that has requirements management and a few other things, but without the project-management piece? Well, guess what? It is leaving the project manager to use Microsoft Project which, of course—no offense…is a standalone project-management tool,” he said.
Hanna said that if the ALM suite does not support project-management activities, then it’s not ALM because it’s missing one of the backbones of managing any project. “How would you manage the application life cycle without managing the project?” he said. “A project is simply where we take an application and start enhancing it.”
Comprehensive coverage of the software life cycle also includes testing, according to Hanna. “You cannot speak about requirements without speaking about testing. So test management is part of our ALM suite,” he said. “If you’re going to talk about test management, then you’ve got all those test cases that fail; now we have to talk about creating bug reports. In Rommana, we don’t call them bug reports. In fact, I never liked the word ‘bug’ because it irritates developers. So that’s why, in Rommana, we use the term ‘issue reporting’ or ‘issue management.’ ”
In order for developers and testers to understand the business process and how the business works, use cases need to be supported, Hanna said. “Use cases describe how users and other systems will interact with the system we are building,” he said. “So the details in the use case will help everyone understand the business process or the way the system is supposed to work.”
Rommana ALM also has a document-management component. “Every project on earth has documentation, whether it is agile or not, even if the agile framework says we don’t focus so much on documentation. It would be false to say that some projects do not have much documentation,” he said. “Document management, the way it’s implemented in Rommana, [can be] implemented in two weeks.”
Rommana ALM also has something called model management. “Modeling is something critical in software engineering because the model is something that helps the designer to understand how something is going to work,” he said.
“Most ALM tools ignore it. But if you go to Rommana ALM, on the very top menu, it says documents and model management, all in one. When you click on it, it gives you a screen that’s split into two halves. The upper half is models, the lower half is documents.”
Hanna said Rommana ALM includes model management because some projects will not only have a lot of documentation, but they will also require models. “When Rommana is used by people who do a lot of embedded systems, there’s so much hardware and software interacting,” Hanna said. “It’s then that modeling becomes a critical thing to them. They want to be able to build a decision table, they want to build a state model—that’s in the model-management component.”
The three core components of Seapine ALM are TestTrack RM (for requirements management), TestTrack TCM (for test-case management) and TestTrack Pro (for issue-defect management). “There are some other pieces that people use around that: QA Wizard for automated testing and Surround SCM for source-code control,” said Jeff Amfahr, director of product management at Seapine. “But really, the cornerstone for Seapine ALM are those first three pieces.”
Next-generation ALM is bringing everyone and everything about creating a product together so they’re looking at the same information, according to Amfahr. “That’s part of where it’s going, which is a much more holistic view of the world,” Amfahr said. “There’s a lot of good information in there: How do we make sure that everyone’s getting the information they need? So we think that next-generation tools really need to make sure that all these different players are seeing the same data and are being kept up to date with the information they need.”
Amfahr also agreed that a big trend in next-generation ALM tools will be integration with other tools. “Different constituencies care about different pieces,” he said. “So if I’m a business analyst, I may not care about the issue-defect side of things, so I don’t need that tool. I just need to make sure that my requirements are getting in and they’re getting tested, whereas a tester or a QA analyst might need all of those things. They might need to see the requirements. That person also needs to manage what’s being tested, and also deal with defects and how those are getting managed.”
Amfahr said that Seapine also lets developers use third-party products with its own tools. “Sometimes customers have an existing tool that they’re transitioning off of, sometimes customers have subgroups or outsourced groups that are using a different tool, and sometimes they just have a tool that they’re using for the moment that they just want to stick with,” he said.
Amfahr also said that mobile will be affecting the next generation of ALM tools. In many companies, mobile applications are often created by “a totally different group of developers and QA folks, and often have very unique requirements around testing and compliance,” he said. “So, if you want to get your app approved in the Apple App Store, there are things you have to test for, [which] might be very different from your traditional application that you sell through your website. And so you have to come up with whole new processes.”
Amfahr said that Seapine’s software enables users to capture the data that they’re most interested in seeing. “If your mobile team is on Scrum, you’d want to gather what sprint you’re in and what is the estimated work or story points,” he said. “Whereas the other end of the team wants to capture detailed estimates and time actually applied towards it.”
Test-case management is included in Seapine ALM because it helps developers make sure everyone knows what’s supposed to be covered. “It can get done to the level of, here’s what you’re supposed to do to test that. So that would be the steps inside the test case,” Amfahr said. “Test-case management is about defining the things that we are going to do, what steps are needed to verify that we did those things, and then it tracks who tested it and when they did so.”
For ALM, Serena has an orchestrated IT solution set that comprises the Demand Manager, Development Manager, Release Manager, Request Center, Requirements Manager and Service Manager tools. “When we say we have an orchestrated suite, we mean we can plug and play with others; it doesn’t have to be all of ours,” said Ash Owen, director of orchestrated ALM at Serena. “And our dashboard sits above and provides automated process and data metrics across the board.”
Owen said Serena defines next-generation ALM as demand and development through to release and deployment and into service management. “Organizations now leverage applications for competitive advantage, providing new applications or services in order to drive that competitive advantage,” he said. “My favorite question to development teams is, ‘When are you done?’ They say, ‘I’m done when I hand it over to QA.’ Well, you may be done, I tell them, but the business doesn’t think you’re done! And the customers certainly don’t think you’re done until it’s been deployed and being successfully used.
“I think that the best question to ask is not what’s next-generation ALM but what is it that organizations need in order to be effective at application development and delivery? Because ultimately, ALM is supposed to be your ability to define what it is you want, to deliver it, test it, release it, and to make sure it’s successful.”
The next generation of ALM, Owen said, is one where organizations have to integrate and orchestrate the various practices, processes and disciplines as much as they can across the entire life cycle. “Do they have to do it all at once? No, because traditionally, most organizations, when they look at ‘the ALM life cycle,’ everybody’s doing it to a certain degree,” he said. “But organizations typically have a problem in one or more different places.
“Traditionally, when people approached ALM, they approached it in stovepipes. So the business analysts would use Tool A, the requirements engineers Tool B, the development team Tool C, and the QA team Tool D, and so on. I actually think it’s changed. For years, all vendors—ourselves included—would say, ‘Yeah, we can integrate, we integrate with everything.’ But there haven’t been the standards. Now Web services comes along, whether it’s RESTful or otherwise, and it’s much easier to integrate and interoperate. But beyond that, I think there’s now a recognition that, really, ALM is increasingly a business process, not just a software development process.”
Owen said that ALM needs to connect business at the front with delivery at the back end. “Fundamentally, that’s how organizations should look at it because the more efficient you become at it, the more quality you deliver through it, the faster you can now do it, the more competitive advantage you get,” said Owen. “It’s all about optimizing the efficiency and automation across the life cycle, and providing visibility—and this is where our dashboard comes in—into the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or metrics so you can see where the bottlenecks are. You can then take action.”
All of Serena’s solutions are built on a single platform technology, the Serena Business Manager (SBM). “Serena Business Manager is the foundation for the suite of solutions: Request Center, Demand Manager, Requirements Manager, Development Manager, Release Manager, and Service Manager, all are built on the SBM platform. SBM is a process-workflow UI engine based on industry standards. The advantage is that we can connect the requirements-management process to the development process to the release process to the service process.”
So, for next-generation ALM, Owen said, “There’s a movement in the industry called DevOps. And most people say, well, that’s not ALM. But I would argue it’s extending ALM because it’s no longer about development and then operations. ALM is now about development and operations working together and collaborating across all elements of the life cycle.”
ALM, in the last few years, has remained something where businesses want to have traceability in their software or product development so that they can ensure that their requirements match what their teams are actually creating, according to Jason Hammon, director of product management at TechExcel. “They want their testers to be able to verify that they’ve actually made what they’re supposed to have made. That’s the essence of ALM.”
TechExcel’s ALM suite, DevSuite, is composed of DevTrack, DevTest and DevSpec, three modules that are designed to be integrated together. “One of the things that I think differentiates us is that, although we do provide you with a whole suite that will give you traceability from the get-go, we also have a strategy that allows us to integrate with partners and competitors,” Hammon said. “If there are solutions out there that you do enjoy using, we’re not going to force you to take everything we offer. This is a little different than what some other vendors do.”
DevTrack can integrate with most SCM tools out there, according to Hammon. “We like Perforce a lot, but we can also integrate with Subversion or [IBM Rational’s] ClearCase, plus a wide variety of tools there,” he said. “On the dev-test side, we integrate with automation tools like [SmartBear’s] TestComplete, and then we also provide APIs that will allow you to integrate with [HP’s] QuickTest Pro or other third-party automation tools, or even homegrown automation tools.”
TechExcel’s DevSuite also addresses mobile tablet use. “There’s a couple of other things about the DevSuite that we’ve done in the last few years to make it more accessible for teams,” Hammon said. “The first one is, we offer a multi-site solution now that allows teams to have local servers. So if you happen to have a development group that’s in Europe and you’re in the U.S., while the bandwidth could be great and you might have really great connectivity sometimes, if that’s not always the case, you can have your own local instance of DevSuite. Then we just sync the differences between them—the two sites—so we can get just tremendous performance for teams that might be remote.”
Hammon said that the second thing TechExcel has done to make DevSuite more accessible is providing iPad and Android tablet apps. “So we have an app called MyDevSuite that allows developers or QA to see their bugs and reports using tablets now,” he said. “They’re free, native applications that can be downloaded either from the Apple App Store or Google Play. What they allow developers to do is to see their data. The idea there is really, if you’re jumping into a meeting, you can easily show some reports, or maybe if you’re testing a piece of hardware and you’re not going to be right in front of your PC, it’s a great way to update your app directly from a tablet.”
All three of the modules—and DevSuite as a whole—are rapidly adapting to allow additional integrations, according to Hammon. “Not everybody wants the one-size-fits-all, buy-the-whole-suite approach. So each of our components has additional added APIs,” he said. “We’ve rewritten APIs to be RESTful APIs, so it’s easier for teams to use to integrate with their solutions they may already have.”
Next-generation ALM is not about just managing the application life cycle, said Hammon. It’s about extending it and managing the whole business process, including using ALM tools that support DevOps. “We have been doing this for quite a while. But our development solutions are also integrated with our IT-tracking solutions too,” he said.
“For organizations that may need to not only develop the application themselves but also be able to monitor them within their organization and get feedback from their team as to how they’re doing (and also the sustaining engineering aspects of them), using both DevSuite alone or with our IT solution ServiceWise, they’re able to do that DevOps model. They’re able to really have that continuous, ongoing development.”