FAQ: Agile can thrive in an ALM framework

Agile methods and an ALM framework can be mutually beneficial, rending ALM more flexible and Agile more disciplined.

Agile ALM brings together two seemingly contradictory development strategies. Agile promotes flexibility, rapid release cycles and quick response to change. Application lifecycle management (ALM) emphasizes tracking and documenting changes in an application -- from inception to retirement. Its processes are more controlled and less adaptive than the Agile methodology. That said, when put together, Agile and ALM act as complements, rending ALM more flexible and Agile more disciplined.

Following are answers to frequently asked questions about Agile ALM for those development teams looking to use these tools and methods for their own projects.

When put together, Agile and ALM act as complements.

What is Agile ALM?

Development expert Yvette Francino described Agile ALM as ALM tools and processes that are used to manage Agile software development projects. For example, rather than using Waterfall's phased approach, Agile ALM offers an approach to software development in which design, code and requirements are all handled by the same team.

How do you integrate Agile into an ALM framework?

According to Gerie Owen's article on Agile and ALM, adopting Agile means both a change to the ALM approach and a change to an organization's mind-set. An Agile ALM strategy will focus on the customer and will have the ability to adapt to shifting requirements -- from project planning to release management. For example, instead of just implementing controls to force early feedback from testers and business analysts, an organization would also foster a culture of collaboration.

Are there tools that can help me achieve this?

ALM tools are widely available but must be chosen with care, according to Yvette Francino, SearchSoftwareQuality contributor. Organizations should look for tools that facilitate the process without impeding acceptance of changing requirements. They would also need to integrate throughout the application lifecycle and be easy to maintain. In other words, the tool should manage the development process in an Agile way. In an article for SearchSoftwareQuality.com, Amy Reichert provides a list of Agile ALM tools and identifies their strengths and weaknesses. Rally Software, for example, offers a product that works well with Agile but, according to Reichert, does not provide an intuitive workflow. VersionOne, on the other hand, offers a tool that is more user-friendly but less compatible with Agile. Which one is best will depend on the company's needs.

Are there challenges to Agile ALM that I should be aware of?

The primary challenge to Agile ALM is in finding a balance between the two methodologies. A common pitfall is to over-ALM the development process. In other words, when developers and testers start to find workarounds to the software rules -- as they often do -- some react by creating more rules in order to more strictly enforce them. Meanwhile, processes lose their agility.

How can I overcome these challenges?

Testing expert Amy Reichert cautions development teams to keep track of how many rules they add and how those rules are communicated. She also suggests having a discussion with the team, asking them why they are circumventing the process. Once everyone's role has been clarified, project managers can then decide which rules, if any, to add.

Is Agile ALM a good approach for mobile development?

Mobile development is faster and more competitive than traditional software development. It has newer technologies and higher-speed application cycles. These qualities could make mobile an excellent candidate for Agile ALM, but only if the methodology is amended to accommodate the challenges inherent in a more restrictive development process. In an article on mobile ALM, site editor James Denman suggested an ALM approach that focuses on smaller pieces of software and authenticates results as each part is finished. That way, teams can quickly discern whether the app will effectively serve its purpose or if it needs to be taken in a different direction.

This was first published in March 2014

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