Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) is essential to the success of software development projects: it ensures efficient project management, rigorous quality processes and better communication among all the stakeholders. Relying upon an ALM tool allows to achieve better team collaboration, productivity and also real-time monitoring of both the tasks and the project progress. Let’s have a closer look at the key features of a good ALM tool.
The Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) should be viewed as a holistic approach encompassing a set of practices which are generally considered independently. In fact, the ALM is defined as an integrated process of planning, tracking, measuring and reporting all the necessary tasks and activities required to deliver quality, compliant software (both new or modified ones).
Way more than code, ALM’s management approach is not limited to the software development field. It can actually be applied to other activities that require an end-to-end, seamless management of both tasks and processes to enhance teams collaboration and ultimately ensure complete visibility as well as full traceability on each project’s progress.
Let’s get down to business: ALM tools aim to bring teams and processes together by providing a variety of methods as well as a vast array of features; among them, let’s identify some key features of a good ALM tool for successful project management:
- Project Management
- Document Management
- Configuration Management & DevOps
- Quality & Test Management
- Change & Defect Management
- Release Management
Project management and monitoring via the ALM tool
ALM tools typically integrate functionalities that help you define, plan and prioritize your workflow easily, which fosters collaboration and communication among business units.
More precisely, an ALM tool can ensure both a non-agile and agile project management, depending on your needs. What is sure is that an ALM tool helps you foster not only projects organization and tasks follow-up, but also communication and collaboration within the company. Thanks to this approach, projects will be carried out more efficiently, making it possible to ensure smaller, more frequent deliveries.
The chosen ALM tool has to be flexible enough to be integrated with other, existing workflows. For all those enterprises willing to move from a waterfall to an agile methodology, it is fundamental to make sure they opt for an ALM tool supporting both approaches as to ensure a smooth transition. Tuleap makes it possible, for instance.
Documents are still widely used in projects, which supposes the need to centralize and manage them safely for each team. Actually, it is possible to manage document via a third-party tool that is not integrated into the ALM tool, but for traceability purposes (and also to make it easier) it is better for each team to rely on their shared, collaborative project environment.
For example, Tuleap provides a collaborative document management feature, allowing teams to create, manage versions and validate documents: wiki pages, excel boards, pdf files and much more.
In addition to this, it is also possible to assign different access rights to control who can read, create, modify or even safely share the files in it (i.e. team members, customers…).
The creation of different workspaces – public and/or private – encourages teams cooperation on a set of documents which can therefore be linked to the different stages and activities of a project. This way it will be easier to stay more easily informed on every project update thanks to both document history and real-time notifications that can be set.
Requirement Management & Baseline
Requirement management is a fundamental feature in (agile) project management since it allows everyone who is involved in a specific project to collaborate and have a clear insight into it, thanks to a commonly shared interface. In fact, it aims to satisfy both the customers and any other and/or external stakeholders related to the software development project.
Requirement management revolves around several activities throughout the project: firstly, the analysis, the definition and the validation of requirements; subsequently, their potential modifications and compliance monitoring.
More precisely, as soon as functional and non-functional specifications are set, they act as a sort of guideline for team members: they constitute the requirements baseline. In addition to this, any potential change during the process will be registered to ensure end-to-end traceability, which is even more crucial for audit purposes to prove that the requirements have been met.
Continuous Integration & Development, DevOps
Continuous development is a broad term that encompasses several complementary aspects of the iterative software development process: continuous integration, delivery and deployment. At this point, we can talk about the DevOps approach which combines development and operations. In other words, DevOps unifies processes, people and tools to continuously deliver value to customers and users.
These agile tools for continuous development actively take part in better planning, monitoring and managing each stage of a project, so throughout the whole applications’ lifecyle. An ALM tool not only help improve collaboration among different tams, but also facilitate their tasks through the automation of a large amount of processes, including configuration management, such as: integration, code review, testing and validation, just to name a few.
ALM tools highly contribute to make your software development project an easy-to-follow process and what’s more is that they generally provide the support of other plugins (i.e. Git, Gerrit, Jenkins…) to integrate and automate even more functionalities to build, test, review and deploy your software continuously.
Quality Assurance and Test Management
This feature allows companies to assess the quality of the software they deliver. The ideal solution is to centralize manual and automated test management on the same platform, hence getting rid of the juggles from one app to the other when looking for all the necessary information related to software quality monitoring. This is why it is important to make sure that the ALM tool supports many different activities and operations such as bug management, code review, validation processes as well as data management and test plan.
By bringing together all the activities under one roof, a good ALM tool centralizes test management in order to gain real-time insight into the software development lifecycle, which is a key element to quality assurance.
Issue Tracking – ALM Tracker
In an agile ALM tool such as Tuleap, an issue tracking system – or bug tracker – is essential to track many different types of items (i.e. tasks, bugs, requests, customer stories, days-off…) and therefore to create links among them. Its main advantage is that everything is stored and entirely traceable on the same platform which functions as a database, available at any time.
When choosing for the most suitable ALM tool, check out its flexibility: a good ALM tool should not be used by the IT department only! Instead, it should be used and adopted by all the company’s departments that need to monitor different aspects of their projects. The ALM tracker tool must therefore provide greater configuration capabilities to create various kinds of workflows, from the simplest to the most advanced ones.