May 25, 2016

ALM Tools: What Do You REALLY Need?

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Application lifecycle management (ALM) systems built from several low-cost tools can end up costing you more than a single-vendor, end-to-end solution.CS quote ALM NEED (1) Let’s say you want to know if it’ll rain later today, and you decide to get a weather app for your phone. If you’re like most people, you’ll gravitate to the cheapest app. A 99-cent app looks better than one that costs two bucks, right? But what if you need to know the forecast for the week, and the 99-cent app only tells you today’s weather. Now it’s worthless, and you have to pony up for the $2 app anyway—which does deliver the extended forecasts you need. Essentially, you’ve just paid three bucks for that $2 app. Many companies go through a similar cycle when they buy ALM tools. They find a low-cost tool that meets their immediate needs, and they think they’re good to go. Maybe it has a weak workflow, no triggering capabilities, no traceability, can’t merge defects, etc.—but they don’t need all that right now. They figure when they do need more functionality, they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. In the meantime, they saved money today, and that’s what counts.

When Saving Money Costs Money

The problem with this approach is that it can end up costing more money than it saves. What if your growth explodes overnight? Or you win a project that requires more stringent auditing and compliance? Suddenly, that low-cost tool isn’t up to the task, and you have to scramble to find a solution. At this point, most companies start adding on other tools to fill in the gaps. It still seems cost-effective, because you’re only paying for what you need when you need it. The downside to this “à la carte” approach is that it creates a patchwork ALM system with multiple points of failure, multiple versions of the same information, and no one to help when the system breaks. What’s more, your home-built system still doesn’t meet your needs. Oh, it kind of does what you want, but it’s a real pain in the neck get information from one tool to the other. The longer you continue down this path, the harder it is for you to find tools that integrate with all the others you’ve already stuck together. In the end, you wind up paying more for all the disparate tools you had to cobble together than you would have paid for a single, flexible tool that covers your application lifecycle from end to end. But here’s the kicker. That patchwork system starts to cost you even more in lost productivity, development and testing delays, failed audits, missed opportunities, and other business problems.

Why Choose a Single-Vendor Solution?

Instead of building an ALM system out of low-priced tools from different vendors, consider the advantages of investing in a single-vendor solution:
  • A Single Source of Truth: The biggest advantage of a single-vendor solution is that you always have the most current information in one place. With a tool that manages and links all development artifacts, you know the test case linked to a requirement is always the current test case, the status of a fixed defect is always recent, and your reports are always accurate.
  • Seamless Integration: Because every part of the solution comes from the same vendor, it’s painless to move information from the requirements management tool, for example, to the test case management tool. Everything just works, with no duct tape required.
  • End-to-end Traceability: With all your information managed and linked within a seamlessly integrated suite of tools, end-to-end traceability becomes a snap. With a few clicks, you can trace from requirements through test cases, test results, resolutions, and source code.
  • Help When You Need It: Unlike a system made up of tools from different vendors, there’s only one support team to call when you have an issue.
Before you patch a gap in your ALM system with another low-cost tool, consider how much it will really cost you in the long run. You’ll almost certainly be better off with a single-vendor solution.