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Automated application lifecycle management (ALM) tools and lighter weight methodology are both impacting the ways development teams work and interact.
"When people implement ALM, they're looking for automated traceability and automated project reporting, and also certain kinds of processes and governance across the lifecycle," said IBM's Rolf Nelson, Rational Team Concert product manager. "I think toolsets that unify ALM enable teams to have an ALM view of their process methodology, and automated project status and traceability that frees them up to focus on the value in the product [they're developing] and leverage best practices."
With the ability to see project status in an automated way and view plans in a dynamic way, communication and collaboration across previously silo'd roles is improved, Nelson said. This is particularly important as organizations feel pressure to shorten release cycles. "Driven by rapid releases, some roles are changing in their view. They need a more connected view to project status than before," Nelson said. "They need to spend less time reporting project status and require their tools to automate that. We see a lot of teams that don't know where they are in the schedule. If you can automate that, it's a huge win."
Previously, said Clementino de Mendonça, manager, national solution lead, ALM, at global consulting company Sogeti, software development project teams members spent a good deal of time compiling reports from different tools, such as bug trackers and configuration management tools. With more mature and integrated ALM tools, he said, teams "will be doing less manual work and more aggregation."
However, he added, even with an integrated ALM product like Microsoft Team Foundation Server, which he focuses on with his clients, organizations may not be using those tools to full potential yet. "Today most customers have nothing integrated, or they have a hodgepodge of tools, or some are connected to some subset, so you may have better requirements but it stops short of helping the developers. This Fortune 500 customer of mine was using TFS, but not in a proper way."
Using ALM properly provides teams with a holistic view of a project and empowers them with more ownership, according to IBM's Nelson. But more automation does not mean roles are eliminated, he said. For example, he said, "The person responsible for the build and continuous integration, that's a pretty traditional role and hasn't changed much, but there's more automation. But there's still somebody who owns that build integration in a larger project. In a smaller project more ownership is spread around team."
With faster release cycles, "visibility and turnaround time are more important," he said, which is why the automation ALM can deliver is critical.
At IBM, project teams don't have traditional project managers, he said. "We have a lot of tool automation and a lot of dashboard automation. We're trying to transform Rational from building software in a black box to an open [process], so we do it on Jazz.net, where all testing metrics and dashboards are visible to the customers. They can download our milestones, and people can comment and collaborate."
Nelson continued, "I'm a product manager. Some might call it a product owner, but I'm responsible for the business views. We have some program managers responsible for the internal process—how we deliver our software—together with the product manager."
Sogeti's de Mendonça said automated ALM tools "save [teams] the effort of creating integrated data points to be shown to management, and allow the team to focus on the business side of development. But," he added, "they don't decrease the amount of people needed to do development."
Tools alone won't produce better software, or better developers/testers/BAs, etc., Porter said. "Tools will help solve the problem, but they're not a solution in and of themselves," he said. "It's like giving someone who's never developed an application Visual Studio. It's a great tool, but won't help write software. You can have a great ALM product like Visual Studio Team Foundation Server, but it won't give a company a great process. Having a rock solid ALM process and using it is much more important than using a tool to implement it. Process has to be king."
Look for ALM vendors who "talk about application lifecycle and place importance on helping people understand silos need to be broken down. The more we say it's important to collaborate, the better off we are," said Theresa Lanowitz, founder of market analyst firm voke inc., based in Minden, Nev.
Good interpersonal skills will make that collaborative process much easier, she said. "That can't be downplayed, and will be more critical going forward."
Finally, automated tools won't eliminate the need for team members, she said. "I don't see constituents in the lifecycle getting less in number. I see them increasing in number as we expand reach/scope of the application lifecycle."