Rethinking Application Life-cycle managment

Software has changed, end points have changed, even the role of the developer has changed. So, it only makes sense that the way developers and organizations manage the application life cycle would have to change too.

In the beginning, the ALM process was very independent, according to Robert Holler, CEO of VersionOne. “You kind of had your application life-cycle-management capabilities that supported requirement-management tools, design tools, coding tools, test tools, build source, deploy tools and project-management tools,” he said. “At first there was a lot of disintegration. Each one of those tools was completely independent.”

With the ever-increasing demand for better quality, better user experience, faster delivery and advanced technologies, the way in which tooling has worked together has evolved.

“Through the years, tool sets have become integrated,” said Holler. “All those tools are no longer independent tool sets; they are actually integrated tool sets that all work together to help manage the project, the product and the process, all at the same time.”

But it hasn’t just been the tool sets going through an evolution; the entire scope of ALM has changed. Where once testing had a definitive role at the end of the life cycle, or requirements took up a large part of the life cycle, the aspects of the life cycle are now linked together. “The life cycle starts with a business idea and doesn’t end with delivery of some value to a customer, but rather cycles around with feedback back to the business again to say did we actually meet the need,” said Kurt Bittner, Forrester analyst.

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SD Times 100: The Elements of Success

It’s that time of year again, when the editors of SD Times emerge from their lab to reveal their latest discovery: The 2014 SD Times 100.

A number of elements need to react in precise ways for an organization to attain its place atop the charts, each carrying a certain weight. First is innovation. To earn a seat at the (periodic) table, companies must demonstrate that their work advances the state of the art of software development. Hand in hand with that is leadership. Did the company show it was an industry leader through a lion’s share of its market, or by contributing more to an open-source project than anyone else? Did it establish leadership through the open exchange of its ideas with others? And finally there is the buzz factor. Was the work widely discussed in the industry? Was the technology considered must-have by those in the know? In short, did the organization have the right chemistry?

Displaying each of these elements in just the right proportions can be the difference between a winning formula or a dud. To determine that, the editors carefully consider each nomination in a process that involves debate, research and, ultimately, selection.

In the periodic table, elements are divided by their properties: noble gases are with noble gases, metals are with metals, and so on. In the SD Times 100, those properties are ALM & Development Tools; APIs, Libraries and Frameworks; Big Data and Business Intelligence; the Cloud, Database and Database Management; DevOps & SCM; Mobile; Quality Assurance & Security; User Experience; and Influencers.

What do you think of the 2014 SD Times 100 solution? Did we overlook any organizations that you feel are worthy of inclusion? Did we miss a leader or […]

…But the bugs remain

Published: February 26th, 2014– 

Software teams are under pressure to deliver higher-quality software faster, but as high-profile failures and lackluster app ratings indicate, it’s easier said than done. With the tremendous growth of agile development, finding bugs earlier in the development cycle has become an imperative, but not all organizations are succeeding equally well.

“Developers realize they need better tools to investigate problems, but we need to make sure we’re not creating problems in the first place,” said Gil Zilberfeld, product manager of unit testing solution provider Typemock.

Software teams are using all kinds of tools, including bug and defect trackers, SCM tools, testing suites, and ALM suites, and yet software quality has not improved generally, according to William Nichols, a senior member of the technical staff at the Software Engineering Institute.

“The data don’t suggest that the software being produced is any better than it was a decade or 20 years ago, whether you measure it by lines of code or function points and defects,” he said. “We’re seeing one to seven defects per 1,000 lines of code. We’re making the same mistakes, and the same mistakes cause the same problems.”

One problem is focusing too much on the speed of software delivery rather than software quality. Nichols said this is a symptom of unrealistic management expectations. Tieren Zhou, founder and CEO of testing and ALM solution provider TechExcel, considered it a matter of attention: what’s sexy versus what matters.

“Bug fixing is less interesting than building features,” said Zhou. “In the interest of acquiring new customers, you may be losing old customers who are not happy with your products.”

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SpecDD: The hybrid agile method

By Tieren Zhou – September 24, 2013

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Agile is the most widely accepted and practiced development methodology today. Interestingly, agile has gained its popularity not by replacing other methods, but by fusing with them. Real-world agile project success has proven the future of agile is going be a hybrid agile methodology.

SpecDD is a requirement-centric hybrid agile development methodology. It is designed to provide a single framework to manage both agile and traditional projects within a set of principles.

Requirements in SpecDD are represented with requirement epics, MS Word epics, specs, and document attachments. Specs are the normalized requirement items used to quantify requirements. Identical to Scrum, the development project implementation in SpecDD consists of a set of continuous iterations, with each iteration designed to convert a set of committed items to the working software.

Unlike pure agile, however, SpecDD includes models to represent the requirement and QA testing processes. Requirements are used to populate the product backlog and the development sprint workload. QA test cases are created before, during and after the development iterations. To make the QA testing practice scalable, an independent QA team is recommended to work with agile teams to perform testing within development sprints as well as total regression testing.

What is SpecDD?
SpecDD provides a framework for teams to practice agile, but with guidelines to mix agile functions with traditional project-management best practices.
• Requirements are represented as artifacts above the product backlog. Requirements are retained while product backlog items are consumed to generate the working software.
• Requirements are linked with QA test cases that can be created and improved before, during and after development sprints.
• A development sprint in SpecDD generates two deliverables: the improved working software, […]

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A Customer Support Portal to Rely On

IRely makes a wise choice with TechExcel’s CustomerWise

By Leonard Klie – June 2012

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An enterprise software provider for the management of commodities from farm to fork, iRely serves organizations that handle the origination, trading, manufacturing, and distribution of commodities. Headquartered in Fort Wayne, Ind., it has about 400 customers in the agribusiness, petroleum, trading, risk management, manufacturing, and retail industries. It has five other offices throughout the United States, one in the United Kingdom, two in India, and one in the Philippines.

The company was receiving, on average, about 1,600 technical support cases a month, but customers had no visibility into where their cases were in the queue and when they could expect them to be resolved. IRely’s own visibility wasn’t much better. Any changes or updates had to go through a complicated manual process with multiple phone calls, interfaces, applications, and departments involved.

So in January 2010, the company decided to replace its homegrown customer service and support system.

CustomerWise helps automate and streamline help desk activities with configurable workflows, process approvals, email integration, project management, integrated knowledge management, and the availability of customer self-service through a customer Web portal.

The system provides a single point of contact for customer requests and submitted incidents and the ability to automate reminders and review the approval of incidents and requests. It can be integrated into most CRM, help desk, defect tracking, and test management applications, and brings together Web, wireless, and client/ server technologies.

By switching to CustomerWise, iRely was able to integrate billing into the primary system and move from monthly to weekly billing. Additionally, the company reduced the number of agents from six to four, gained full visibility into the production […]

Charting the course to agile

By Victoria Reitano – March 30, 2012

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The software development life cycle is like a puzzle: Each piece fits into the other in order to create a complete product. When teams decide to adopt new methodologies, such as agile, or revise their current methodologies to be more agile, it is important to make a road map in order to determine what you’re doing and what you want to be doing, according to experts.

Jeff Amfahr, director of product management at Seapine (an agile application life-cycle management solution provider), said that to begin an agile adoption process, teams should assess what metrics will be used to determine if the transition was successful.

“Establish up front how you’re going to know if the adoption was successful. It could be productivity of the team, less software bugs or more customer satisfaction,” he said, adding that it is most likely the business value gained from adopting agile from adopting these new methodologies.

Amfahr said it is important to start with a team that is interested in agile (or the new methodology you’re interesting in adopting). The project should also be one that lends itself to being measured and can be released quickly, he said.

Alex Perec, senior product manager at TechExcel (a maker of application life-cycle management software), said that, based on his experience on a team transitioning to agile, the adoption process can be quite daunting.

He recommended going agile one piece of the process at a time. He said that being partially agile does not mean you are inefficient, it means you are slowly growing toward maximum efficiency.

For some teams and projects, Perec said it is important to realize that Water-Scrum-Fall […]

TechExcel updates DevSuite ALM

By Victoria Reitano – January 24, 2011

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TechExcel next week will release its new DevSuite application life-cycle management solution. DevSuite 8.3 allows developers to log in to the programs in the suite, such as DevSpec, DevPlan, DevTrack, DevTime and DevTest, via a Web-based user interface (DevSuite Web), which provides a single sign-on for all programs in the suite.

According to Tieren Zhou, CEO and chief software architect at TechExcel, the product suite also allows for agile and non-agile teams to work together throughout the application life cycle.

“All members of the team see the same Web-based user interface,” he said. He added that “development teams are blending practices from agile and traditional practices,” and that now this is something that can be tracked and monitored through DevSuite 8.3.

Scott Ambler, chief methodologist for IBM Rational, said agile methods are being used together during production by a variety of companies. These companies, he added, don’t even realize they are blending technologies at first.

“Some customers that have experiences [with agile] always combine into [a method] that looks similar across many companies. It’s usually ‘Scrum, but,’ ” Ambler said. He explained that “Scrum, but” is a term used many companies that aim to do the short sprints, daily stand-ups and other items explained in Scrum rhetoric as a way to move toward agile.

“You can do short sprints to produce something of value, and [a company] gets a clear benefit,” he said.

Ambler’s observations in the field show that many are combining a variety of agile and lean methods. Zhou added that traditional methods might be used with projects that have strict requirements or a strict flow, in which case some members of an otherwise agile […]

Agile and ALM: Banded together

By Jennifer deJong – January 19, 2011

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It hasn’t exactly advanced on all fronts, but ALM is inching its way forward, albeit by a circuitous route.

SD Times asked analysts and tool makers how Application Life-cycle Management—the tools and processes designed to track software projects from conception to deployment to retirement—has evolved in the last few years and where it is headed. Three major themes emerged.

First, the central promise of ALM 2.0—better integration between point tools for requirements, coding and testing—never really materialized. Second, tool makers are overwhelmingly positioning their offerings as “Agile ALM.” Second, the term is so pervasive, it’s difficult to separate the “agile” marketing message from actual support for agile practices. What’s more, opinions vary on what “Agile ALM” really means. Third, technologies such as application security and virtualized testing, among others, remain largely outside the ALM process today, even though they are widely recognized to play important roles in how applications are developed and managed.

About that ALM 2.0
The plug-in ALM frameworks designed to let application teams stitch together different tool makers’ offerings without having to code the connections between them did not happen, said Forrester principal analyst David West. These frameworks were a key promise of ALM 2.0, a Forrester Research set of principles that outlined ALM’s future and gained wide backing from ALM tool makers in 2008.

West noted that Eclipse projects such as ALF and Corona, aimed at tool and process integration, have failed. Unless application delivery teams are working in the Microsoft Visual Studio, or Eclipse IDEs, “plug-in support is limited today,” he said.

In the ALM 2.0 era, tool makers were talking about a standard way to link together tools for requirements, coding and […]