Application lifecycle management (ALM) is the process of creating and maintaining a software application. Software applications are typically in use until they’re no longer supported. The ALM process involves multiple steps and tools to manage every stage of the life cycle, from brainstorming and design, to development, testing and production preparation.
What Are the 5 Stages of ALM?
- Define the idea and requirements of the application.
- Develop the application.
- Test the application and assure its quality.
- Deploy the application.
- Continually maintain the application.
Stages of ALM
ALM codifies the steps of software development, which helps each team manage the development process. The process of ALM has five distinct stages.
1. Defining the Product
The first step to the development of any software product is to brainstorm and settle on the product’s requirements. We complete this primary step by talking to the client and clarifying their expectations and demands or by considering whether or not the product idea matches the company’s mission.
Defining the application’s requirements may also include processes like resource management, user data and security, and any additional information needed to complete the application.
Having clear and concise application requirements makes the next four steps easier for everyone involved in the development process.
2. Developing the Application
Once you’ve nailed down the main requirements of the applications, the next stage is to plan the application’s development. The most commonly used approaches to software development are the Agile, waterfall and V-model methodologies.
3. Testing Application Software
As soon as teams build a full version of the application, it must undergo a series of tests to ensure it behaves as planned. This is a crucial step to uncover any bugs that will cause the application to break. We usually test by imitating all possible user interactions within the application and observing the application’s behavior. Testing the application is a common effort between the software development and DevOps teams.
4. Deploying the Application
After the software development and DevOps teams finish testing, the application is ready for user deployment. Simply put, this means putting the application on GitHub (if it’s open source) or making it available to users on the company’s website.
5. Maintaining the Application
The last step in the process is to maintain the application. This is not a one-and-done step but an ongoing one. Continuous integration is a central component of the maintenance process to keep frequent updates from crashing the application source. Another important part of the maintenance stage is retiring the application if the company no longer supports it.
Benefits of Application Lifecycle Management
Application lifecycle management (ALM) effectively integrates multiple disciplines and teams so they can work together effortlessly to deliver a good product. These are just a few of the many benefits of ALM.
1. ALM Provides a Clear Project Roadmap
The various ALM stages offer clear steps for application development, thereby making the entire planning process faster and more efficient. In addition, having a clear plan for the application makes it easier to estimate the time and resources required to develop an effective product.
2. ALM Increases Communication Efficiency
Due to the distinction between the ALM’s five stages, the division of tasks between teams is clear. Hence, communication between teams becomes more efficient because every team knows what to do to move the project forward.
3. ALM Makes Project Development Efficient
When teams follow different stages of ALM, managers, developers and testers collaborate together to improve the quality of the application. Because ALM offers a set of clear steps, the development process is more streamlined. Failure to follow the ALM process (e.g., not settling on requirements at the beginning or inconsistent testing practices) will lead to a low-quality product and a bad user experience.
Application Lifecycle Management Tools
Since ALM provides clear steps for the development process, there are several tools for each stage of the process. We often refer to these tools as project management tools or ALM tools. Each one serves a specific purpose to make one of the ALM stages more manageable in order to save time and resources.
The various tools for ALM fall under different categories, such as version control, team communication, requirements management, testing tools, code management and maintenance tools.
Some famous examples of ALM tools include:
- Jama Software: This tool provides a live, traceable tracking of the various steps in the ALM process. It offers one place for the entire team to keep track of the project’s development.
- MeisterTask: This secure tasks tracking tool is another great option for task management between different teams.
- Codebeamer: This tool offers a way to track the code additions, testing and quality assurance in order to maintain your codebase.
- Microsoft Azure DevOps: Microsoft offers a platform for all ALM steps so you can have a communication tool, a code tracking tool and traceability maintenance tool in the same place.
- Tuleap: This is a project management, task and code tracking tool you can use for a more efficient development process.
ALM vs. SDLC
Application lifecycle management (ALM) and the software development life cycle (SDLC) are sometimes confused or used interchangeably because they both address software development. The core difference between the two is that SDLC primarily focuses on the application’s development phase. In contrast, ALM deals with the entire application life cycle.
So, we can consider SDLC to be part of ALM. ALM may include several SDLCs for the same application.