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Extending application lifecycle management to the enterprise

How extending ALM to the enterprise helps synchronize software and systems development and spurs new product creation.

Editor's note: This is the fourth and final article in a series that explores how organizations can best prepare to adopt Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) for software and systems development. This tip's advice on how organizations can benefit by extending their ALM implementation to Enterprise Lifecycle Management builds on the previous discussions of getting started with ALM; using ALM to integrate traditional development activities mapping out a new, cohesive path to global ALM for the entire organization.

From digital cameras that know when your subject is smiling to farm irrigation systems that sense whether or not it's going to rain, today's smarter products are becoming more prevalent in everyday life. For software and systems developers, the demand for smarter products increases the importance of embedded software development. However, while software drives product value, it is no longer the only or most important development challenge. Today, hardware and other systems components must also be designed to complement the smart features enabled by embedded software.

The solution is to leverage a successful Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) implementation to move beyond the integration of traditional development activities -- define, design, develop and deliver -- into Enterprise Lifecycle Management (ELM), which can help you manage and grow the business. Organizations must build upon the vision of ALM to align development with ever-changing business priorities and, perhaps most of all, with the escalating customer demand for smarter products. In turn, development teams must become not only more efficient, but also smarter, in how they collaborate to synchronize software and systems development.

ELM helps synchronize development by first identifying the right projects for implementation and then integrating business processes, workflows and customer needs with the development life cycle. With the ability to react quickly and appropriately, organizations can use ELM to help turn change into a competitive advantage, while enabling effective governance and demonstrable compliance. The bottom line: ELM can help organizations achieve long-term goals while passing immediate audits.

Fortunately, ALM naturally evolves into ELM as it empowers organizations to align development with business processes and strategies. Enterprise architecture (EA) and business process management (BPM) solutions can be added to the ALM ecosystem to help business process managers understand the impact of change requests on both the software and the organization. For example, implementing a change request may require the modification of an organizational process, not only the systems and software. By providing an integrated change workflow, ELM helps create and manage the traceability and accountability needed for governance. Ultimately, ELM solutions extend the reach of the ALM process to all teams and stakeholders via open integration API and standards, including production teams, mechanical and electronic design teams, product managers and business process managers.

Synchronizing software and systems development

Even the smartest software cannot guarantee a successful product if the hardware is not designed for easy and intuitive use. As embedded software becomes more complex, development teams must synchronize software and systems development. Here, systems are defined as the whole product – software and hardware components, including mechanical design, electronic and electrical systems. By transitioning ALM to an ELM approach, teams can better unify all disciplines, from requirements engineering to development, increasing the chances that every aspect of the software and hardware will support the expected smart performance.

In addition, this approach helps organizations to target innovations for the right markets at the right time. This is where the portfolio management initiatives of ELM come into play to help capture all of the innovative ideas, analyze the tradeoffs, and find the right balance between the risk, the cost of development, and the market potential. ELM software solutions exist today to help organizations decide which products, with which features, are right for a specific market. Moreover, these solutions are key in bringing all project stakeholders and teams together to focus on the same synchronized approach to development.

Creating new opportunities

Extending ALM to ELM to synchronize software and systems development can be the catalyst for organizations to develop new products with value-added functionality and break into new markets. And in some cases, software complexity takes a back seat to recognizing and focusing on the practical needs of the customer. Here are a couple of examples:

  • In the defense industry, "smart soldier" systems are emerging that enable the monitoring of foot soldier health and position, as well as providing data and relaying orders.
  • In the aerospace industry, smart traffic control systems with collision prevention functionality are helping to increase safety in the skies.

These, and many other smart examples, are powered by software and electronics that interact with sensors and external IT systems. As a result, there is an explosion of opportunity taking place in many industries, driving the demand for and growth of ALM and ELM.

Evolving to survive

Software and systems development is much like natural selection. If you want to survive in today's business climate, you must adapt by improving how you develop your software and systems. The systems engineering process is where many organizations will see tremendous change over the next 18 to 24 months. And the smartest organizations will revise their approach to new product development by extending their successful ALM implementation to ELM.

As this series on ALM concludes, keep in mind that every organization is different. Finding the right balance in your software and systems delivery platforms is an individual challenge. But achieving what is right for your organization starts by increasing your investment in systems engineering and implementing ALM best practices across all levels, from design, requirements management, integrated change management and modeling. As it seeks out new market opportunities, your organization can leverage the potential of ALM and evolve with careful planning and guidance.

About the author: Dominic Tavassoli is systems program director for IBM Rational Software. Previously, he was vice president of Telelogic, an IBM company.

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