Today, empowered developers are forcing a fundamental change to ALM—especially as it relates to tools. Developer populism is the term that describes these developers bringing in the open-source tools that they prefer to use in their jobs, according to Tasktop’s CEO Mik Kersten and chief product officer Dave West in a talk about developer populism given today at Microsoft’s ALM Summit.

Tasktop, an application life-cycle management solution provider, sells software that integrates lightweight development tools into one place so that developers don’t have to jump around from tool to tool. Because the fact is, Kersten said, the developer has disproportionate control and influence over the way that software is built in the enterprise. “If you use tools, platforms or ALM systems that don’t factor in developers, you tend to fail,” he said. “The whole idea of developer populism is that the way that we create these tools have to embrace the way that developers work. We have to marry, basically, the more-lightweight and informal tools of developers with this corporate need for control and traceability and visibility.”

West first introduced the notion of developer populism while working as an analyst at Forrester. Now, Kersten said that developer populism is no longer just a prediction; empowered developers have already changed the ALM landscape today.

“Developer populism has happened. We’re not going to find this far off in the future—it’s the reality now,” he said. “Developers are already bringing in their preferred development tools to their companies. The question now is how we connect these tools for large-scale software-delivery with the tools that developers want to use to keep themselves productive. To do that, we need this integrated life cycle.”

Developer populism is already forcing companies to give developers more control over what they’re doing. “It’s almost too late; developers have already got control,” Kersten said. “And it’s happened that way because the tools that they use will often not be provided by IT. They’ll be these open-source tools that they’ll use to make themselves more productive because they were not getting what they needed from the standardized toolsets.”

The worlds of management and of developers need to come together for ALM to move forward, Kersten said. “We actually need to marry these two worlds at some point. That is, marry the view that management had of The Rational Unified process—that control and traceability—to what really works in terms of developer productivity and developer happiness if developers are increasingly setting the agenda.

“And we’re seeing in today’s systems what’s happening when you don’t have that. We’re seeing this big mismatch between planning and life-cycle management software and the way that software is actually built day to day—which is through the use of these very lightweight, developer-friendly and open-source tools.”

Providers of ALM frameworks and mobile devices have already reacted to how developers want to work, and they have made a lot of developer-centric tools, Kersten said. But he added that the way that software’s planned and the way the whole life cycle’s managed is geared toward helping project managers, not developers. He said a lot of the focus has been on these enterprise-scale tools such as Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server or tools from HP and IBM, as well as in agile tools, which tend to focus on the project manager.

Kersten said that developers are getting left behind. “The result of that is this new breed of lightweight tools like Atlassian’s JIRA, or Git, or Jenkins, that are really intended for the developer,” he said. “Now, the massive problem for large organizations is that they have to marry these two worlds.”

A recent example of this happening was Microsoft’s embrace yesterday of Git, an open-source, distributed code version-control system, which is now integrated with the company’s ALM suite, Team Foundation Server.

In this new ALM landscape, managers need to identify their systems of record for the life cycle, “because what this means in the end is that you’re going to have developer-centric systems of record, which are these lightweight issue trackers and these open-source tools,” Kersten said. “But if you’re going to get transparency between those tools and the large-scale tools that you’re rolling out, you have to have an integration.”

In the end, Kersten said, this is all about transforming this integration layer for the software life cycle so that it enables collaboration and flow across developers, managers and testers. He said the notion of transparency and integration across the life cycle must now include the variety of tools that developers want to use in their organizations.
Five tenets of the new ALM
Instead of concentrating on one tool to bind them all, ALM vendors need to instead focus on enabling the value streams of multiple tool adoptions, according to Tasktop’s West. To do this, he said they need to embrace tool variety, while not forgetting the principles and practices of ALM. It should not be forgotten, he said, that the increased use of good business management to software development will help everyone. He said this leads to the creation of a different sort of ALM, an ALM that:

1. Concentrates on federating development systems of record instead of forcing each practitioner to use one tool.

2. Adopts open standards for integration instead of imposing a set of vendor-appointed standards.

3. Provides transparency across tools instead of focusing on one vendor’s data without any regard for the other vendors in the development stack.

4. Allows for workflow to be delegated to different tools instead of expecting one tool to manage the whole value chain.

5. Integrates the whole life cycle instead of focusing on just development.