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Why do project managers want enterprise ALM governance policies?

IT veteran Kevin Parker explains how enterprise ALM governance policies increase cooperation between business stakeholders, development and SQA.

What is an enterprise ALM governance policy, and how does it make project management any easier?

In the enterprise, an application lifecycle management (ALM) governance policy clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of the various people involved in the development lifecycle at various stages. Many organizations don't have a clear picture of how these individuals work together and are therefore reluctant to make any changes to their enterprise ALM processes.

Kevin Parker, application development veteranChanging a business process is something that enterprises do rarely, and for good reason. A changed process exposes the business to some risk no matter how hard we plan and test. Many organizations take an "if it isn't broke don't fix it" stance working on the basis that known deficiencies are better than unknown calamities.

In well-run organizations, business processes -- especially those supported with process automation and workflow tools -- are treated like any other corporate asset, and they are subject to controls about who and how they can be changed. Change control review boards bring together business stakeholders to decide on the merits of the proposed changes and seek consensus as to the path of the change desired.

IT is just one line of business, but its processes should be subject to governance policies as you would find them in any other part of the organization. In particular, ALM needs very careful governance, as it is responsible for effecting change on the production software inventory that runs your business.

When an enterprise ALM governance policy is in place, each member of the team better understands his or her role and responsibilities in regards to each step of the lifecycle. It holds those individuals accountable for the delivery of agreed-to content on agreed-to schedules. Ideally, the team includes the external stakeholder in the business, too. It also set boundaries and limits within which individual groups within the lifecycle may be self-governing and independently organized.

Managing the ALM governance policy, its processes, practices and procedures is a group of lifecycle owners who come together to review and refine the policy from time to time. It usually requires a strong consensus, rather than a simple majority, before any changes are approved to the governance policy.

Enterprise ALM governance starts with defining which processes should be subject to the policy. Typically, this would focus on the interfaces to the business, the conversion of business ideas into tasks and the handing over of code from development to production. These three critical stages of ALM are where commitments are made, resources consumed and changes effected.

Of course, any part of the lifecycle can be subject to governance and enterprise organizations have to remain flexible by being prepared to add governance when needed and to relax it when it is no longer needed. A client recently described how they applied governance to their outsourced testers in Brazil in order to monitor and correct use of their SDLC process overseas, but they stopped this additional oversight when the testing was brought back onshore.

The real value of having a policy in place is the clarity and agreement it brings. With everyone clear about the borderlines of responsibility, and all equally invested in the outcome upon which all are measured, it makes for much better collaboration and communication in enterprise ALM.

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