Speed is the name of the game in today’s software-driven world. The best companies deploy software updates daily, sometimes more. In order to reach such epic levels of productivity, businesses need a plan for managing their software from beginning to end.
That’s where application lifecycle management (ALM) comes in. ALM helps businesses make smart decisions about their software and manage it efficiently over time. Let’s look at the key components of ALM, the benefits, and the tools you need to implement it on your team.
Definition of ALM
Application lifecycle management, or ALM, is an integrated system of people, processes, and tools that manage the life an application from concept to retirement. ALM is similar to Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), but more comprehensive in scope. ALM includes governance, development, maintenance, and decommissioning of software, while SDLC focuses primarily on the development phase.
Depending on your software development methodology (i.e. waterfall, agile, or DevOps), application lifecycle management might be split into distinct phases or fully integrated into a continuous delivery process. Regardless, ALM can be broken down into three elements: governance, development, and operations.
Application governance is where decisions are made about the application. According to David Chappelle, governance begins with business case development, where the idea for the app is mapped to a strategic business outcome. Governance also includes resource management, data security, and user access. If a business has multiple applications, then application portfolio management enters the picture as well.
The development stage of ALM is also called software development lifecycle, or SDLC. Development includes identifying current problems, planning, design, building, testing, deploying, and updating the application. Again, depending on your development methodology, these phases may be separate steps (waterfall) or fully integrated (agile or DevOps). You can learn more about SDLC in this article.
The third element of ALM is operations. Ops includes deployment of the app and maintenance of the technology stack. In waterfall development, operations is a separate stage from development. DevOps brings operations and development together into fully-integrated, continuous process.
The scope of an ALM plan changes from business to business. Some companies (like Microsoft, for example) include help desk activities in ALM as well.
Benefits of ALM
Application lifecycle management provides a clear direction for an app before it is built. Develop the business case, plan resources, and map the lifespan of the app before committing to development. All of this saves time and money by avoiding costly mistakes and unneeded features.
Speed and agility
Without ALM, teams could never produce software at the speed and agility needed to stay competitive. Integrated systems run much more effectively than unconnected tools and processes across multiple teams. Integration improves communication and helps align software objectives with business goals.
ALM also helps businesses make better decisions as the software ages. With features like version control and real-time planning (found in many ALM tools), team leaders quickly and decisively map out an app’s future. These decisions are amplified when a business has multiple applications, making ALM all the more important.
Just like DevOps, Application Lifecycle Management is enabled by tools that integrate people and processes. There are several key features to look for in ALM tools:
Estimation and planning
Source code management
Testing and quality assurance
Deployment or DevOps
Maintenance and support
Application portfolio management
Real-time planning and team communication
Teams have numerous options when it comes to ALM tools. You may choose to use multiple tools that support one another, or a single tool vertically integrated for all your needs.
Application Lifecycle Management is Critical
Building an app without an ALM plan is like setting sail across the ocean without a compass — you don’t want to do it. ALM provides clear direction for the team, speeds up development, and helps you make better decisions over the course of an app’s lifespan. It is a critical component of successful businesses today.
Many ALM concepts are found in SDLC and DevOps, but ALM encompasses everything within those ideas, plus more. By integrating people, processes, and tools from the beginning to end, ALM allows businesses to build better software and manage it with ease.