Application lifecycle management (ALM) tools enable efficient, standardized communication and collaboration between teams in application development, testing, and other business departments. The benefits of a top ALM platforms include less risk from manual and siloed application lifecycle management processes, plus superior confidence in the outcome of compliance and product quality.
What is application lifecycle management?
ALM itself is a broad term. It encompasses key activities across requirements management, quality assurance (QA), IT service delivery, and project management. By spanning all of these diverse activities, ALM may include every workflow from mapping out a preliminary route to regulatory approval for a software-driven medical device, to the testing of that same product in alignment with its requirements and its eventual post-release maintenance.
The exact structure of ALM, and the particular solutions selected to support it, will vary based on the software development practices in use at an organization. For example, ALM can support Agile methodologies as well as DevOps automation processes built around continuous integration and deployment pipelines. In these instances, an integrated ALM process, backed by the right ALM platform, helps bring teams together and ensures all requirements are met for each application.
Application lifecycle management tools can also work within Waterfall methodologies in which activities are broken down into discrete stages instead of approached continuously. Process-agnostic ALM platforms may be configured to support a variety of software projects and extended to support hardware initiatives that revolve around product lifecycle management (PLM), too.
In fact, ALM first emerged as a software-specific evolution of PLM, which applies to physical products such as automobiles. Organizations may seek integration between their ALM and PLM process and technologies to maximize the efficiency of their development processes, such as in the case of a complex connected device within the Internet of Things (IoT).
What do application lifecycle management tools do?
At a high level, best-of-breed modern ALM platforms may provide tools for:
Traditional processes for managing requirements are outdated, as they often involve maintaining numerous Microsoft Word documents and/or spreadsheets, all of which may need to be developed and reviewed separately. This approach slows down the application lifecycle while increasing costs by introducing unnecessary risk related to human error.
In contrast, an ALM tool form offers a comprehensive solution for requirements management. Teams can define all requirements, risks, and tests, plus create virtual relationships between work items, perform risk analysis, and have easy visibility into the potential impact of making changes. Requirements can be scheduled and managed from one interface.
Essentially, the ALM platform serves as a single source of truth where costly rework and time-consuming reviews of multiple siloed data sources can be avoided. Meanwhile, development processes are typically accelerated through substantial reductions in the time needed to identify and remediate requirements-related defects.
End-to-end activity traceability
With applications being developed on increasingly fast timelines and in accordance with a growing array of requirements and regulations, traceability is crucial.
Are development and testing activities adequately fulfilling all defined requirements (on both general and granular subsystem levels)? Are there any gaps in test coverage? Can proof of requirements fulfillment easily be reviewed, signed, and used to demonstrate compliance?
Getting reliable answers to these questions and others requires a capable ALM platform. The right ALM platform provides solutions for creating virtual trace relationships between requirements, risk, tests, and other development activities. More flexible ALM platforms can be extended through toolchain integrations (see below) to capture activity traces across teams and platforms. Virtual traces also tie electronic signatures to any defined milestones and released documents, as well as provide a way to see and analyze the potential impact of making changes. Proof of requirements fulfillment (i.e. trace views and matrixes) should be easy to monitor and export to demonstrate compliance.
Software testing and QA
Testing is an important part of ALM. More specifically, test results will need to be continually updated to accurately reflect the progress of an application’s lifecycle.
Keeping track of these details is more practical with a modern ALM platform that makes it easy to see the status of existing test results, add new tests as needed, and perform time-saving batch updates that capture or change the status of multiple test executions, all in one repository
With the right application lifecycle management tools, these testing and QA processes can be greatly streamlined by providing teams greater visibility into the requirements that inform their work. Accordingly, teams can get the most from their Agile processes and deliver the highest quality software to market as quickly as possible.
Real-time team collaboration
ALM is a fundamentally collaborative endeavor, as it spans a wide range of activities from project management to QA. But efficient collaboration can’t be taken for granted – teams need intuitive collaboration technologies to keep their work aligned and on track.
The real-time collaboration capabilities in an ALM or ALM-adjacent tools enable productive reviews and approvals. Features such as virtual reviews and electronic signatures containing a complete timestamp provide structured solutions for distributed/remote teams to streamline collaboration and ensure compliance with regulatory standards.
Feedback can be captured in one place, allowing for items to be quickly and efficiently categorized as approved or in need of work. Centralizing collaboration features with requirements management provides a solution to track which stakeholders are involved so that follow-up actions can be appropriately assigned as necessary. Moreover, it reduces the risks associated with protracted project times and personnel churn, as knowledge it retained in the system itself rather than in individual minds, making key insights readily available down the line.
Multiple platforms may be combined to handle all of the different aspects of ALM-PLM. Platform extensions are typically constructed through built-in integrations or through the use of open APIs that support custom work.
The integration of platforms is important to keep activities, such as software development, properly aligned with requirements. An ideal integration allows for essential information to synchronize between platforms, facilitating collaboration, and improving visibility across otherwise siloed teams and/or technologies. In many cases, a toolchain integration offers a solution for improved traceability to demonstrate compliance.
Testing tools, task, and bug tracking software, and automation servers have great potential for integration with application lifecycle management platforms. Overall, an integrated ALM toolchain will lower risk and lead to better quality and compliance. The integration between Jama Connect and Jira is a prime example of how pairing different best-in-class platforms can increase visibility and support the work of global teams.
To learn more about Jama Connect, visit the main product development page, or get in touch with a member of our team.
To learn more on the topic of requirements management, we’ve compiled a handy list of valuable resources for you!
- Infographic: Jama Connect™for Medical Device Development - July 7, 2020
- What to Look for in Application Lifecycle Management Tools - June 23, 2020
- Jama Software Announces Jama Connect™ for Medical Device Development - May 28, 2020