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Trends in ALM: Extending the lifecycle, increased support of Kanban

This tip discusses the broadening of ALM to portfolio management and DevOps, as well as examines the diversifying of tools to encompass Kanban and the mixing of Agile methodologies.

Based on interviews with analysts, vendors and consultants, and backed up by industry reports, we are seeing the continued broadening of application lifecycle management (ALM), extending from the front end with portfolio and idea management, all the way to the back end with release management “DevOps” and maintenance. Additionally, the continued use of Lean practices and mixing of Agile techniques have prompted vendors to add more support of Kanban and allow for the mixing and matching of techniques and practices to best suit the team.

Extensions on the front end with portfolio and idea management

At last year’s Agile 2010 conference, I asked Forrester’s Dave West about ALM trends, and he emphasized that ALM would be extended more on the front end towards planning. His prediction appears to be correct, as many of the vendors at Agile 2011 did announce offerings that included an added focus on planning, portfolio management and even idea management.

Just earlier this year, ALM expert Mike Jones was asked whether idea management tools were considered a part of ALM. Though Jones didn’t feel that ALM had officially extended to idea management, he admitted that when we go beyond the processes included in the traditional SDLC, it’s not clear where ALM boundaries sit.

Apparently, ALM vendors are pushing the limits. Todd Olson of Rally Software announced four integrations with leading PPM tools as well as enhancements to their idea manager product. He stresses that extending their offerings to the front end will “help teams focus on building the right things.”

Alex Adamopoulos from Emergn, a global consultancy says:

There’s really been a shift of how Agile and Lean thinking can really shape the whole concept of idea formation and idea management at the beginning stages of many companies’ initiatives. What we’re seeing now is a trend towards really enabling the whole portfolio lifecycle management piece using Lean and using Agile as a discipline and ensuring that that’s passed through to the lifecycle of the project.

Extensions on the back end with release management and DevOps

The extension beyond SLDC is not limited to just the front end, but has continued to extend further on the backend with increased attention on release management, DevOps, and even beyond to maintenance processes.

This trend is not entirely new. In fact, last year SSQ reporter Colleen Frye wrote Extending ALM to deployment, in which she described the focus on release management and DevOps. Three of the four analysts speaking on a panel at Agile 2011 also listed DevOps as an ALM trend, and a recent ALM survey conducted by Serena Software showed 53% of respondents were using ALM for release management.

Forrester’s Dave West says at the Agile 2011 conference:

What we’ve seen increasingly is that the lifecycle is expanding into release and operations. DevOps is a trend but the first place that it begins is around QA and release management, and broadening it into a broader lifecycle. Also, maintenance is featuring in that process as well. So OpsDev, as it were-- so defects, enhancements, tickets, and support desk are featuring into ALM because it’s important when you’re managing a lifecycle to effectively consider all those things.

Erick Minick of Urbancode describes the importance of DevOps:

DevOps is really taking the principles of Agile and applying them downstream to the testers, to the operations teams in particular. And with Agile working so well for the developers, they’re able to deliver changes and release more often and the slow, manual deployments and those sorts of things that have been traditional in the operations team, are turning into a real bottleneck and a real a source of pain for both the business and operations teams. So finding the techniques in automation, finding the mental approaches for embracing change, being able to do that has really been a big push in the last couple of years.

More support for Lean and the mixing of Agile techniques        

Beyond extending the lifecycle, ALM is also seeing a shift with vendors looking at ways to provide support and enhancements for a variety of methodologies which use Agile and Lean techniques. Todd Olson of Rally software labels this “multi-process Agile” and describes the diversity of processes used by customers today, including Kanban. He says “since first releasing Kanban in our product a few months ago, we’ve seen over three times the increase in use of the product.” Olson talks of new enterprise Kanban features that are being added to Rally Software to run alongside of their existing Scrum features.

VersionOne CEO Robert Holler also talks of increased support of Kanban and advanced Agile techniques with the announcements of two strategic partnerships with Leankit Kanban and Industrial Logic. Holler notes that Leankit Kanban has “one of the most popular, better known, more sophisticated Kanban management tools” and plans are underway to integrate their toolset into VersionOne’s platform. About Industrial Logic he says, “Industrial Logic was one of the leaders of engineering practices in promoting and consulting around XP and has created an eLearning platform targeting best-in-class engineering practices.” VersionOne will be rolling out the eLearning platform to their customer base.

Patric Palm of Hansoft talks of combining Kanban with Scrum. “Very often in larger software development programs, they have a situation where they need to run Scrum for their development, but Scrum might not fit all of their projects within this program and some might prefer to use Kanban.” Palm said he’d given a talk describing how a team can use Scrum for some projects and Kanban for others, and maybe even use a third traditional methodology for other projects. Ultimately, the data from all of these projects would be combined in a way that would provide consistency in metrics and releases.


ALM continues to grow to areas beyond the traditional software development lifecycle. With added processes on the front end such as portfolio management and idea management all the way to back end processes such as release management, DevOps and post-production maintenance. Additionally, tool vendors are cognizant of the increased use of Kanban and the mixing of Agile techniques and methodologies and are adding support in their tools to handle the diverse needs of organizations.

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