To understand the meaning of ALM, imagine a restaurant where clients are always satisfied. There is well-organised work in the kitchen behind this tremendous success, where the chef controls everything from products order to the final dish. The chef here is an ALM solution — the almighty power properly delegating tasks amongst employees, knowing everything about the surrounding, controlling changes, and mitigating financial and reputation risks. For comparison, if this chef were just a bug tracking platform, he would catch cockroaches in already made dishes before they are served.
This pushes us to the primary ALM definition — managing a product’s lifecycle, from concept to market. It covers project and requirements management, the entire software development cycle and quality assurance.
Importance of ALM
So what makes an application lifecycle management tool essential for companies?
- Project and requirements management
Any development needs a structured plan, precise requirements and a comprehensive but flexible workflow. And the more functions your ALM platform can provide, the better the final product or a program.
- Software Development
Bug report software for developers or an ALM test management tool can significantly mitigate unnecessary risks and issues. Traceability can show if there are human factor mistakes, proper communication under items can help address problems on time, and bug tracking feature to find out the consistent pattern of defects.
- Quality assurance
Since the Shift left approach takes more part in contemporary development, companies prefer concentrating on quality from the earliest stage instead of fixing defects after release.
It also explains why companies prefer tools with broad test capabilities instead of using a specific one, for instance, a performance test tool.
Stages of ALM
The stages of ALM in testing coincide with what makes ALM important for development:
This stage includes gathering requirements from stakeholders and decision-makers accordingly to the company’s business goals.
Once requirements are gathered, your project turns into the development phase. This phase includes three steps — creating, testing and deploying.
Operation and maintenance
As the product is deployed, you need to monitor it throughout its functioning. At the same stage, you must test it for bugs and prioritise updates when required.
Key activities of ALM
Activities of ALM break down different stages of application lifecycle management into smaller to-dos and deliveries. These are often described as separate features in lifecycle management systems.
The set of activities below covers creation of requirements and the administrative overhead that managing them brings. Some governance activities include:
- Requirements management that covers how requirements are grouped, prioritised, updated, and even replaced or abandoned if needed.
- Resource management facilitates implementation of requirements, as project managers schedule what their teams can feasibly do with a certain timeframe (e.g. sprint).
- User access covers the privileges of browsing and modifying information about the individual project. It requires extra care from companies that manage multiple endeavours in a single space.
- Logging refers to actions done within an application lifecycle management solution
- Item history covers changes to both an ALM ticket and the actual code / graphics design / text that this ticket covers.
- Internal and regulatory audits as dictated by the company’s policies and the requirements of the industry.
- Deployment management reflects the company’s guidelines for adding new code to the production environment of a solution
- Rollbacks cover the procedures and infrastructure from going back to the previous state after a failed update.
The activities here mirror activities that are common for software development. ALM testing tools are a good aid for companies that operate on a full product lifecycle. The activities include:
- Planning is a purely business-driven stage where you gather the needs and wants of business stakeholders. You then involve them into the creation of requirements or handle that part as a software development team and invite these stakeholders for a review.
- Analysis challenges created requirements from the feasibility’s point of view. Would implementing certain functionality take too long for a solution meant to ride a trend? Are certain features too time-consuming to make and expensive to maintain while bringing minimum value? It may seem like penny-pinching, but analysis is a very exciting part of the software development process.
- Design does not actually refer to the user interface. Instead, this is where your team plans how they will fulfil analysis-adjusted requirements into a functioning piece of software. It is not uncommon to make a prototype, especially if you’re a startup company that needs to attract funding or demonstrate a milestone
- Implementation is the actual software development, where user stories become code that makes them happen.
- Testing & integration covers quality assurance of the code from the implementation stage as well as its deployment. Note that the last two stages are getting increasingly blurry with unit testing becoming much more common.
Maintenance and operations
The activities below refer to post-release support of an application:
- Bug fixes cover all defects discovered after the release, and sometime before it. Bug fixing is a never-ending and often never-completed process. Even with the greatest bug reports, business priorities make it more likely for a product to reach end-of-life rather than see all non-severe issues fixed.
- Feature updates bring new functionality that wasn’t requested at the Planning stage, didn’t fit the implementation timeline, or didn’t seem feasible during the initial Analysis. Some nice-to-have functionality brought up during user acceptance testing can be added as well.
- General upkeep could be anything from changing the year in the copyright footer to regularly replacing the web trust certificate.
Agile vs Waterfall methodologies in ALM
Generally, application lifecycle management refers to streamlining everything about a product. It does not govern how your company will approach the software development / implementation stage.
Agile is a good fit for application lifecycle management, since ALM use introduces the use of advanced all-in-one solutions. Following the Agile methodology is easier when your team uses a tool for native ticket management and facilitates good communication. These solutions also ensure that any business-sensible changes from sprint planning are immediately reflected on the project’s timeline.
Waterfall benefits from application lifecycle management in a somewhat different fashion. This methodology values advance planning with very limited, obstacle-related deviation from it. You can make a more reasonable timeline and leave ample buffer if you plan the entire lifecycle, not just software development.
The dilemma of going Agile vs Waterfall has much more aspects to it than just application lifecycle management. You can find an article on which methodology works best for quality assurance in our blog.
Best application lifecycle management tools
aqua ALM framework is created to meet all requirements of the actual application lifecycle management app. Covering all necessary functionality of the test management platform also contributes to easier regulation compliance, proper project management and even Agile practices. Traceability of aqua ALM goes above and beyond — you not only check bugs in the system but also create test cases and defects and get access to information about who has ever interacted with the elements.
Zephyr offers similar to aqua ALM functionality with great rolled-out reports and comprehensive traceability. However, Zephyr doesn’t have a flexible pricing policy and is mainly suitable only for large enterprises. Among other things, Zephyr has limited functionality for the Agile methodology. It can complicate the early implementation of QA of the shift-left approach.
Polarion, featured by Siemens, is a popular ALM tool, especially for QA testing for manufacturing. However, this ALM solution is not cost-effective for small and middle enterprises. It enables integration with continuous releases, testing, build, and automation. But you also need to consider that Polarion depends on outside tools since it doesn’t have the features to source code configuration natively.
What is the Future of ALM?
Even with the advent of new methods or the need to introduce artificial intelligence into all areas of development, ALM will probably remain the only solution for managing such processes. Of course, ALM will not stay in its original form and evolve into something more advanced. According to some experts, most likely, it will merge with Product Lifecycle Management and form Enterprise Lifecycle Management.
Global digitalisation made companies worldwide adopt new technologies to win this technological race. For most of them, it means increasing the quality of released software, which eventually burdens software development and quality assurance teams. As a result, it raises the urge to implement a single system lifecycle management process that can provide complete transparency and organisation. And Application Lifecycle Management tools can cover this demand.