Application Lifecycle Management

The goal of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) is to make the development and operation of applications as efficient and business oriented as possible. Recent studies and analyses reveal the ever-increasing significance of the ALM topic for businesses. But what is behind this big interest? 

Software development and operation are often not core business, but still need to be implemented in an agile and cost efficient manner. What actually differentiates Application Lifecycle Management from the already familiar Application Management, is that with ALM the entire life cycle of an application is encompassed – from the initial idea to its decommissioning. A really thought-out and realised approach to ALM must therefore also be equally comprehensive.

But these are not the only reasons for increased interest, and changes are urgently needed. IT managers are finding increasingly that their own application landscapes are based on outdated technology. The applications no longer meet the requirements of the business, functions of individual applications overlap completely or partially with those of others, and coordination between teams is difficult. In particular, problems in the area of maintenance and adaptation are coming to light, which are leading to unreasonably high costs. 

Why isn’t everyone focused on Application Lifecycle Management?

This question is quite justified, considering the current problems and needs in the Enterprise IT sector. One reason is probably that ALM is not considered to be particularly prestigious for IT managers. It belongs to the rather unloved routine tasks and is afforded little attention by users or management. Quick results are not to be expected, and the implementation of an ALM approach requires settling in for the long haul, because the entire company has to develop a sustainable understanding of the changing processes.

The consequence of neglecting ALM is considerably greater than is generally supposed. A large part of daily business is spent on supporting, maintaining and troubleshooting the application landscape. IT resources are thus almost completely bound up, whereby much needed new developments or modernization inevitably falls to the wayside. From a monetary point of view the need for action is very clear, if you are made aware that the costs are not an inevitable side effect of an application landscape that has become heterogeneous, but are rather a direct result of inadequate ALM. Thus this results in a completely different starting point for profitability calculation. In this respect ALM is the perfect tool for breaking out of the vicious circle of high maintenance and support costs, poor adaptability, and lack of agility within the application landscape.

Many roads lead to the goal

ALM 1

If the decision has been made to introduce ALM, there are several common concepts available in terms of implementation. Probably the most well-known is the ITIL approach (IT Infrastructure Library), which was already introduced in the 90s. Basically with ITIL it involves a best practice collection for IT Service Management. Numerous companies and publishers provide training and documentation that to a degree is freely available on the Internet. In essence, this approach focuses on the development and deployment of services that can be used for ALM. There is a sort of adaptation of the concept of ITIL to ALM. Many service providers also work according to the ITIL principle, thus enabling smooth outsourcing of development and / or operation. Since 2007, ITIL is now available in version 3 and consists of five main documentations.

However, particularly in the area of application management, ITIL has gaps that are mainly due to a focus on service.

Developed in the Netherlands, Application Services Library (ASL) picks up where ITIL leaves off. As the name makes clear, ASL focuses on application management. Specifically, this approach governs the contractual responsibility for implementing and managing development and maintenance for existing applications, through the utilization of service levels. Application development in the strict sense, i.e. the initial development of applications, is given less importance and therefore is not considered in detail in the ASL approach. In the application of ASL, an important factor is the maturity of the organization and the services, thereby establishing a certain minimum standard. ASL is composed of six process clusters, which are divided into three levels.

ALM 2

Regardless of which concept is applied, as an integrated platform of the complete application development process, the solution must be linked with requirement, development, quality, performance and service management. As such it is not surprising that a combination of ASL and ITIL offers the best chances of success. The specific advantages of each approach are realized into a larger whole.

Identify and utilize success factors

In practice the implementation requires a lot of patience, but it is well worth it. In implementing ALM several factors have emerged as strong contributors to success or failure. In a company almost every sector will be affected by ALM. The different perspectives and information needs must be considered in introducing it.

At the beginning, it makes sense to put to the test all processes related to software development, testing, implementation and operation. In the frequently encountered heterogeneous and historically ingrown network, the related application processes do not take a backseat to the application confusion. Simplifying, standardizing and summarizing processes is an important step in the context of ALM, in order to save costs. 

From the perspective of software developers reservations may be associated with this process. Standardization in development is one of the key elements for implementing ALM. What at first looks like a restriction in freedom and creativity, is in fact precisely what provides the freedom developers need for creative and productive work. 

It is crucial to actively engage and eliminate the reservations of the persons concerned. 

Savings arise not only from saving time in everyday life, but also from the fact that processes and their results are verifiable and controllable. Especially if service providers are on board, processes and KPIs need to be installed to allow for effective control. Establishing an end-to-end monitoring of basic processes and systems is essential. Priorities and responsibilities, as well as escalation paths need to be established within the monitoring. This way you can quickly analyse and resolve causes in case of an issue. Both the monitoring and the defined KPIs are used for controlling and should not be used for "finger-pointing". The aim is an open and constructive relationship that is used to improve the applications and their operation. 

ALM offers an excellent opportunity not only to involve external partners in the development and operation of applications, but also to control them. Each party is always aware of the tasks and responsibilities. This sounds so simple, but especially with external partners it requires a lot of experience and an approach that is as structured as possible. An important factor at this point is the establishment of integrated service workflows.

Another important element of ALM is to take the experience acquired in the operation, directly into the redevelopment and modernization of applications. The better prepared an application is for the subsequent operation, the more costs can be saved in the operational phase. 

However, all of these things can be difficult to implement if no one feels responsible for the management of the overall ALM work. The role of the Application Manager is therefore of great importance in this regard. 

Conclusion - ALM is worth it

Regardless of whether you opt to take the big plunge, or to introduce individual elements. The decision for a careful analysis of your own applications and processes is useful and provides a great potential for increasing efficiency, reducing costs and for employee motivation, since the latter are no longer faced with redundant or complicated processes.

Contact: Sarah Midderhoff; Turn on Javascript!

 

(Quelle: "Standards und Best Practices für das Application Management" von Michael Rohlhoff aus dem Buch "Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik: Application Management", Herausgeber Susanne Strahringer, Heft 278, April 2011 )