What is ALM? How can ALM and Solution Manager help my organization?
ALM is not just another acronym
The understanding of ALM or Application Lifecycle Management often gets lost in translation or misunderstood as “just-another-techy-acronym” and is not taken seriously or given much thought. As such, ALM does not get the sort of attention it deserves compared to the other buzzwords or flavor-of-the-months like Blockchain, Digital Transformation or IoT.
For those that understand ALM, they might see it as an old term or “vanilla”, unlike the edgier or newer development terms like Scrum or Agile DevOps. In the case of most of our clients, they often confound it with “SDLC” or assume it is just another name for Software Development Lifecycle. They are not wrong and in fact, ALM might be something you are already familiar with, maybe just called by another name in your organization. If you use tools to create, plan, manage, monitor and test your software development, then you are already utilizing the methodologies of ALM.
The main difference between Application Lifecycle Management and Software Development Lifecycle is that the former encompasses the whole timeline and investment which an organization consumes from inception to retirement of an application’s life. On the other hand, SDLC primarily deals with the framework of defining tasks to perform or manage at each step of the software development process and may or may not follow through with the maintenance or retirement of the developed software. SDLC also does not necessarily have the right tools to track if the project is bringing value to the organization or if the project might be deviating from the project’s stated goals.
The three aspects of ALM
Now with a better understanding of ALM, we can define it as not just “a lifecycle” but “the whole lifecycle” which starts from a business idea to the inevitable end of life of that idea. Any development of software or inclusion of tools just supports this idea’s lifecycle. To achieve this, ALM can be divided into three specific aspects: governance, development, and operations.
Governance, Development & Operations
Governance can be argued as the most important aspect of ALM and the ability to properly accomplish this will translate to lower overall project costs and maximizing of business value. It spans across the whole lifecycle and includes the project management and decision planning from all stakeholders. It should cater to the business requirements and provide monitoring to the stakeholders to ensure that the project is well within the budgeted costs and delivering benefits to the organization. However, no matter how important this aspect might be, you still require development and operations to achieve the goals of governance.
Development can be described as the aforementioned SDLC, which is the framework for developing or managing the applications as planned. This process may reappear several times during the course of an application’s lifecycle for maintenance or upgrades. One of the major misconceptions is that with a strong SDLC toolset or methodology, ALM would be successful. This could not be further from the truth. A solid ALM strategy would require development to work in tandem with governance and operations.
Operations is conspicuously absent during the planning or core development stages but plays an important role when the application or tools are close to deployment. Operations is then heavily involved in the monitoring, upgrade or maintenance processes throughout the go-live stages of the application lifecycle. In traditional waterfall development, operations is often a separate stage from development but newer methodologies like DevOps integrates both operations and development.
To achieve a proper ALM strategy, mastery of each aspect and tightly connecting all three into a holistic approach is critical. With an effective strategy and the right toolset, management of these three aspects of ALM can allow businesses to extract the maximum value from their software implementations.
Benefits and why it matters to SAP customers
The benefits of proper utilization of the ALM methodology allows for key tasks throughout the lifecycle to be mandated, accounted, tested and managed. It also allows for any mistakes to be quickly identified and fixed which rapidly brings a project back to alignment. With the breakneck speed of development today, organizations may only have days to turn around a project with the same amount of stakeholders – creating situations where it is easy to lose track of progress or cause bottlenecks when you least expect them. The goal of ALM is to ensure that organizations and stakeholders are able to maintain the quality and control of their application development and deliver on stated goals in a timely fashion.
With all that said, you might think, “well, this sounds great and I believe my team already knows all of this”. Except history has shown time and time and time again that organizations do not. Most failures in system implementations are due to lack of oversight, over or understated business goals and unrealistic timelines – situations where an effective ALM strategy can mitigate or effectively overcome them.
SAP understands that a successful system implementation is highly dependent on the ALM strategy deployed and how it is used. It is also in everyone’s best interest to be able create a proper ALM strategy and be equipped with the appropriate tools to execute your strategy. With this in mind, SAP Solution Manager was introduced to assist with this objective and the latest version is the lifecycle platform for managing SAP processes, applications and systems. This update allows for generic third party interfaces and collaboration between customer, partners, and SAP. However, third party tools are often not required and everything you need for a cohesive ALM strategy works out of the box with SAP Solution Manager.
Furthermore, SAP understands the need such an important software and has included the license for SAP Solution Manager in your support contract when you upgrade to SAP HANA as a database. This means that you most likely already have the recommended tool for ALM free and ready for your utilization.
With a better understanding of what ALM is, we hope you are able to understand why it is important to your IT strategy. We think there is a definite appeal in the ability to completely extract the maximum value from your software and to ensure that projects are delivered on-time.
With the free SAP Solution Manager 7.2 as your ALM platform, we can see you accelerating your organization’s digital transformation. Use it today to manage all your business processes from Testing to Change Management to Documentation or reach out to us if you’d like to learn how.