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ALM tools: Is purchasing from a single vendor or multiple vendors better?

Integrating ALM tools from different vendors can be nearly impossible, yet buying a toolset from a single vendor poses problems as well. Expert Kevin Parker explores these choices.

What are the tradeoffs between going with an ALM suite from one vendor vs. one in which disparate tools have been...

integrated into a solution?

The truth is that each vendor out there specializes in something. Some specialize in being jacks-of-all-trades, some specialize in being masters-of-some. And this means that there is not a single vendor who is the very best at everything, though some claim to be.

There are vendors who will tell you, “buy it all from us and it will all work seamlessly together,” but the reality is those vendors have acquired their stack of tools from a variety of sources and have just as much difficulty in getting them to work together as you do. Of course, buying from one vendor stack is seductive-- one throat to choke when things go bad. A bigger deal means bigger leverage and bigger discounts when purchasing the software.

But what happens when there’s a new methodology, a new technology or a new topology? Now you are locked into a single source and you have lost all your leverage. And the vendor you choose is going to drive you, more and more, to their platform orthodoxy, which may not be in your best interest at all.

Ripping out your tried and trusted tools and buying a whole new set of unproven tools from one vendor is good for the vendor, not for you. It introduces massive risk and disruption to productivity, and there is no easy way back if it all fails.

Remember that some vendors specialize in tools specifically designed for your industry, optimized to your vocabulary and working practices. If you are developing in a very secure and risk-averse environment, don’t you want a tool tested and certified for that purpose? If you are a multinational, don’t you want a tool designed for your geography in terms of localization and speed of access from anywhere in the world?

But tools from disparate vendors are virtually impossible to integrate. When the integration breaks, the vendors bicker over whose fault it is. There are too many licensing schemes, too many platform rules and too many sales people to listen too!

However, there is a simple answer. Application development has never been about the tools. It is all about the process. If you can automate your development process and integrate the tools, you get the best of both worlds. You get to keep your investment in tried and true tools, you get the flexibility to upgrade the tools without disrupting the whole development effort and you get to optimize the thing that matters most, the process of development.

Remember a great carpenter with a sharp chisel and trusty hammer will still make better furniture than a novice with a set of shiny power tools that share battery packs.

This was last published in March 2012

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