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Sometimes the right ALM platform isn't the obvious one

The right ALM platform can make all the difference to a team transitioning to Agile. Medtronic's Sarb Singh-Kaur didn't let his experience stop him from making a novel choice.

Sarb Singh-Kaur has used practically every popular ALM platform available in his career. So when he joined Medtronic as director of patient care software for neuromodulation in the restorative therapies group, he had a short list of ALM platforms in mind to help him bring the medical tools maker into the modern world.

Of course, he didn't end up choosing any of them (though he's quick to stress they're all great). Singh-Kaur picked codeBeamer ALM, from Stuttgart, Germany-based Intland Software, as the center of his group's transformation. Though not really a household name and a relatively new player in the ALM space, codeBeamer was named by UK-based research firm Ovum as a "leader" in its recently released Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting an Application Lifecycle Management Solution, 2016-2017.

But what mattered to Singh-Kaur was finding something that worked in his unique environment. "I've been in software all my life and when I got here one of the biggest agendas was to transition the team to a much more Agile kind of environment," he explained. His particular Medtronics group was not in the cloud, really didn't have much UX expertise and was kind of antiquated in every way. Worse, it was a large team -- 250 people -- and spread around the globe, making communication difficult. Singh-Kaur knew he wanted an Agile (and ultimately a DevOps) approach. "I've used most of these tools at one point or another and I know Agile development gives you lots of flexibility using SAFe," he said. But because Medtronic is in a regulated industry, Singh-Kaur also needed an ALM platform that had requirements and risks management tracking.

"We tried to do Version One, and it's a great Agile product, but it wasn't where the ALM sweet spot was for us," he said. He evaluated a number of other well-known tools, but none were as complete as codeBeamer, he said. "CodeBeamer's ALM capability gave us the best of both worlds -- ALM plus Agile/DevOps, relational API access and the ability to visualize all our artifacts." Singh-Kaur had codeBeamer up and running in less than two weeks, and fully deployed in under a month. And he didn't need any consulting help to do it because the setup was straightforward, unlike some other ALM plaftorms he'd tried.

So far, it's made everything easier, starting with paperwork. Before codeBeamer, "it was just very, very tedious. Transparency was very hard to achieve with so much paperwork." Using codeBeamer, everything is linked together making collaboration much more painless. In fact, it's helped Singh-Kaur bring UX to his team without a lot of complaining. "One of our biggest challenges was how to move (UX) screen shots forward for review by marketing and systems engineers. We used to have to have endless meetings, and wait on people traveling, but now using the workflow tool in codeBeamer the images are sent to the right people for comment and sign off with no waiting. This is a brand new way of doing things for us," he said.

And in the FDA-regulated world, where there is so much to keep track of, codeBeamer has simplified the traceability. "It's a very painful procedure to go and pull all sorts of paper to trace [these things] manually or even look for them in multiple tools. Now we can show an auditor that this is what's been done and these are things we just didn't do before. This easy-to-show transparency is hard to beat."

Now that his group is rolling along -- and even his engineers "love" their new ALM tool -- Singh-Kaur can focus on the bigger picture. "My job is to move the organization from the old way of doing things to the cutting edge way, and speed of development is everything. Being Agile requires a different mindset, and I can't imagine using any other tool to help us get there."

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This was last published in May 2016

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