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Exploring ALM's future: The impact of Agile, interoperability and price

Colleen Frye
The idea of applications having a lifecycle, and the need to manage that lifecycle, hasn't changed, but the application lifecycle management (ALM) market is changing, according to analysts. Driving the change is the influence of agile development, and customers demanding better interoperability as well as simpler, lower-priced solutions.

Among ALM vendors, several trends are occurring, according to Dave West, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. "Traditional ALM is extending and adding capabilities; there are new, emerging companies that [were] not [originally] 'agile' as such, such as CollabNet [with roots in distributed ALM] and Atlassian [with roots in software engineering]; and the agile project management tools are moving into the ALM space -- VersionOne, Rally, ThoughtWorks Studios. All of those vendors are broadening their offerings to be more ALM centric though they come from an agile background."

Agile is top of mind for vendors and users, said Michael Azoff, principal analyst at Ovum. "It's now in the mainstream in all size projects. The number one issue is supporting it and interfacing it with non-agile projects."

West's colleague at Forrester, principal analyst Jeffrey Hammond, said the traditional ALM leaders have been embracing agile. "[IBM] Rational Team Concert is very capable managing agile projects, and HP is investing in agile templates."

However, Hammond added, for traditional ALM vendors "the challenge

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is that the pricing dynamics are changing. The price to outfit teams is still very expensive compared to newer solutions, especially when you've got developers and development teams making decisions instead of management. [Agile] developers are self-organizing and downloading [open source] Subversion and getting a low-cost copy of [Atlassian] JIRA ."

Hammond said the vision for vendors in what Forrester called the "ALM 2.0" space was too complex for a lot of organizations and their ability to get all the pieces in place. "I've talked with a lot of customers with multimillion-dollar investments in these tools, and they're now two to three years down the road, and they've had real challenges rolling them out, so there's a lot of shelfware."

With agile added to the conversation, he said, "it's not just about tools and processes, but also efficiency, results and the people in the process. The net result is as we look to the next generation of ALM tools, they'll be lighter, leaner and focused on specific best practices to make [teams] as efficient as possible."

Not only that, but organizations are recognizing that there are a lot of tools being used in-house already by developers, like Subversion. Instead of trying to stamp out the use of such tools, organizations are looking for ALM products that will embrace what developers are already using, Hammond said. "As a result, we'll see a change in perception of the market leaders," he said.

That's where interoperability, the other big issue around ALM, comes in, said Ovum's Azoff. "There is some rethinking going on there," he said. "The idea of [getting] all things in an ALM suite is not getting buy in. Users will want to the use tools they like and have invested in, so they will want [an ALM solution] to work with other tools. The issues around interoperability are quite big issues."

Organizations will definitely be using ALM tools such as software configuration management and requirements management, "but whether they look at an integrated approach of making these tools all work together and creating a sum that's greater than the parts depends on whether they see a benefit," Azoff said. "They need to think about how to best automate [the process] and support the application developer . I believe there's room for new innovation and new thinking."

West also expects to see services as part of ALM. "It's unusual to see an ALM vendor not have a services group associated with them now," he said. "Microsoft doesn't, but it has strong partners; HP also has a strong partner presence." In contrast, he said, vendors in the agile space have always had a services component because of the transformational nature of agile.

So what types of organizations will be buying ALM solutions going forward? Azoff said it depends on the scale of the project. "You can't do larger projects without ALM, but smaller projects can get by with spot tools that provide interoperability. He used Rally as an example. "It's a good hub tool t hat will do [agile] project management and quite a bit of other segments, but you have holes, but it provides good interoperability with other tools."

Forrester's Hammond said big companies that already have ALM products will be rebuying. "There's a general turnover in the market." He said ISVs "that live and die by their ability to build software" will invest in ALM, as well as large organizations that engage customers with Web-based or mobile applications. And the embedded market, those organizations that build medical devices, air traffic controls, etc., will continue to "buy ALM in a big way" because of reliability and compliance demands. Small and midsize companies are more likely to acquire ALM products "tool by tool."

As the ALM and agile project/development management markets come together, organizations will reap the best of both worlds, West said. The next incarnation of ALM "will be inclusive of demand management; it will have a more effective way to manage and report on demand, so analytics and measurement, workflow analytics [will be included]. The people aspects will be more understood and how to manage that, so [ALM will be] inclusive of managing development. There may be a stronger relationship with enterprise architecture. Agile project management will still be at the developer level; ALM will be concentrating more on flow, so lean principles and Kanban. The future of ALM is really strong."


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