Unfortunately, as is often reported, the software industry often fails to fulfil its potential as a key driver for growth within businesses. Software projects invariably run late and over budget and often fail to bring about real business value by the time it is delivered. This is often due to their inflexible reaction to changing business requirements during the project lifecycle.
Application Lifecycle Management – the saviour of software development?
In order to address these problems the industry has moved towards Application Lifecycle Management (ALM). ALM has seen the focus of software delivery shift towards ensuring that the delivery process becomes a managed, predictable business process, rather than an isolated function within the business with little communication or managed interaction with other business units. ALM looks to increase consistency within software delivery by defining processes, generating relevant metrics and aligning software project delivery with the wider business objectives.
However, whilst the concept of ALM is in itself logical, and the software industry has been quick to see ALM as its saviour, it fails to take into account one very significant issue that is currently holding it back. What prevents ALM solutions from having the positive impact that they otherwise might have is that many providers are offering users closed, vendor-specific ALM solutions.
These monolithic solutions restrict choice in the underlying processes, tools and platforms that most organisations now have and therefore reduce the ability to realise the promised value. A recent Borland customer survey found that a third of respondents use tools from more than three vendors, and 50% are using four or more individual ALM tools.
Keeping customer options open
‘Open’ ALM, where users are free to remain independent of a vendor’s agenda, offers the IT shop the means to improve its performance and bring about meaningful benefits and change to an organisation.
Customers should have the ability to use any process, tool, or platform that fits its particular needs, rather than having to compromise to fit the given vendor. Furthermore, customers should be able to manage their application lifecycle like any other critical business process, making it measurable, predictable and improvable. Again, this can only come about by having a truly open ALM solution in place. 59 % of survey respondents put meeting the needs of the customer and/or business as their top priority – ALM vendors need to reflect this.
One recurring problem software delivery faces is the lack of traceability and measurability within projects, with over half of the surveyed companies identifying connection related issues as one of the biggest challenges their IT shops have to overcome.
A more open ALM solution can provide the necessary automated data collection and measurement. It could provide the visibility that allows software delivery to become a traceable, accountable business process, leading to better integration with other business functions. IT shops can now have the ability to work hand-in-hand with the business to generate tangible and measured value.
As organisations become ever more dependent on software solutions to support their business objectives, it is about time that the software industry demonstrated some maturity and dependability. Open ALM is a strategy that will allow organisations to take advantage of a new, more open approach to software delivery. This will allow them to use the processes, tools and platforms that will promote this much needed maturity.
As we move into the next twelve months, the signs are positive; process improvement is the main focus of the coming year for those in the survey. IT organisations understand the root of the software delivery problem – they want to take action to improve processes, making delivery more manageable, efficient and predictable.
Open ALM facilitates the visibility and measurability required for software delivery to improve its performance and reverse the trend of failure that currently scars its reputation. As the move towards a more open ALM strategy gathers pace, there is every opportunity for the enterprise to deliver on time and on budget, with measurable business benefit.
The Borland Customer Survey 2007 – key points
- 90% of organisations relying on multiple ALM tools from several different vendors
- 50% are using four or more ALM tools – 33% using tools from more than three different vendors
- Over half identified a connection related issue as the biggest delivery challenge to overcome – visibility and communication are needed across the board
- Meeting the needs of the business is the top priority – 59% highlighted getting requirements right as both number one goal and challenge
- Process improvement will be the focus over the next twelve months
- Measurement is needed – 17% look for it to improve the ability to assess project status, risk and quality