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Lifecycle management tools for Agile development

Expert Lisa Crispin examines the various types of ALM tools available in this response and makes suggestions as to what might be the best options for your particular project needs.

What lifecycle management tools do you think are the most necessary in an Agile environment?

Agile teams use all kinds of application lifecycle management (ALM) tools. Some might be fairly low-ceremony. For example, we may choose story mapping to help us gather requirements. That usually involves a lot of sticky notes and a wall or table. We may brainstorm about models or design using whiteboards or big sheets of paper. Or, we may use more formal online tools. What’s important is that we choose tools that help us meet our goal -- to deliver a high-quality software product that meets customer needs.

Build and change management tools are indispensable in any software project, and Agile projects are no exception. Many Agile teams have automated deployment, and some deploy continuously. Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) are also a must, and I recommend that everyone on an Agile team use one -- including testers.

Many teams have a need to track defects, which can be done as simply as cards on a task board, or by using a customizable defect tracking system. Product backlogs might exist on index cards, in a spreadsheet, or in an online backlog management tool.

Product companies and open source development communities have stepped up with ALM tools designed specifically for Agile projects. Some of these integrate project backlog management with sprint or iteration management and defect tracking.

With the exception of some must-haves, such as source code control, build management, and IDEs, I recommend that your team experiment with different tools for different purposes. Figure out what works best for your unique situation. If you think you need an online tool, commit to trying it for two or three iterations, and evaluate whether it is solving your problems. If not, experiment with some other approach. Don’t try to address all your needs at one time. It’s better to set your goals first, then take baby steps towards each one, using short feedback loops to determine whether you’re on the right track.

Michael Hüttermann’s book Agile ALM , which will be published soon, will be a good resource for more information.


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