What Is ALM (Application Lifecycle Management)?
A lot happens in the life of a product (or application or software).
Let’s say your organization has an idea for a product. There are processes that the idea needs to go through before it can become a product. ALM is used to manage those processes.
What is ALM?
ALM — application lifecycle management — is the process of managing the life of a product from initial concepts through end of life.
ALM helps you:
- Outline requirements.
- Design and build the product.
- Test it thoroughly.
- Resolve bugs.
- Deploy the product.
- Perform ongoing maintenance to improve the product.
ALM vs. SDLC: Are They the Same?
Application lifecycle management (ALM) is not the same as the software development lifecycle (SDLC). (Nor should it be confused with API Lifecycle Management.)
ALM covers the entire life of an application, from the initial idea until the end of life. SDLC only covers the development of an application. There's also testing in the SDLC. So, ALM inherently includes SDLC. But SDLC only covers a fraction of ALM.
Is ALM Only For Waterfall Teams?
ALM can be used with any development methodology.
That’s because ALM is the framework. It takes on the characteristics of whatever methodology you’re using. That means you can follow traditional methods, like Waterfall. Or you can do ALM using an Agile methodology.
No matter which methodology you use, the principles of ALM — integration, collaboration, and visibility — hold true.
What Are the Application Lifecycle Stages?
There are typically three stages of ALM.
1. Requirements Definition and Design
Requirements definition and design — sometimes known as governance — is an important stage of the application lifecycle. In DevOps, this covers the “plan” and “create” phases.
This is where you gather requirements. Requirements will include everything from business requirements from your stakeholders to compliance requirements from regulatory bodies.
It’s also where you design the application, based on those needs. It’s important to get this phase right in order to produce the best possible product.
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Development is where your idea transforms into a product or application. This is also where SDLC factors into ALM. In DevOps, this phase covers “verify” and “preproduction.”
In this stage, the product is built, tested, and deployed. Those efforts are repeated until the product is ready for release.
For Agile development, this is typically done in sprints. Features are continuously coded, tested, and deployed to accelerate the development lifecycle.
3. Operations and Maintenance
Operations and maintenance is the phase where you monitor and manage your deployed application. In DevOps, this phase covers “release,” “config,” and “monitor.”
In this stage, you find and resolve bugs. And you plan and prioritize the next updates to the product.
Why Is Application Lifecycle Management Important?
ALM is important for delivering quality releases on time.
It helps you set the right requirements — and make sure they are met. It helps you improve the development process — and make sure your product is thoroughly tested as you go. And, most important, it helps everyone on your team stay on the same page.
Using ALM tools is the most effective way to do it. The best ALM tools will cover your entire project lifecycle, from end to end. And integrating ALM tools into your development process will be the best way to get visibility — and traceability — across the development lifecycle.
Benefits of an Application Lifecycle Management Tool
ALM comes with several benefits for your development team — and your business.
Here are the top four you can expect if you do ALM effectively with a dedicated application lifecycle management tool.
One of the biggest benefits of ALM is faster releases. After all, the sooner customers get your product, the better.
By doing ALM with the right tools, you’ll be able to effectively plan your release and get the best possible product to market on time.
One of the biggest risks of fast-paced release cycles is that you’ll sacrifice quality in the process. After all, if you’re rushing a product out the door, you’re bound to miss a bug — right?
That’s not the case when you’re doing ALM well. Effective ALM comes with the benefit of quality products and faster releases.
Proving compliance is difficult if you try to create a traceability matrix after the fact. After all, proving that a requirement was met or a test was run is nearly impossible if you don’t have an audit trail.
Another top benefit of an application lifecycle management tool is the ability to create a traceability matrix as you develop. This ensures that you’re on track to compliance throughout development. (And it saves you from a lot of headaches later on.)
Many development teams lack comprehensive visibility across the project lifecycle. Using the right tools for ALM gives you that visibility.
You’ll know how many requirements have been met — and how many remain. You’ll know how far along your product development (or sprint) is and what has been tested. And that helps you keep up-to-date if or when things change.
Managing the Application Lifecycle
The best way to approach ALM is to use an effective ALM tool. With a better application lifecycle management tool, teams can have visibility into development status. They also have a single source of truth providing any relevant context they need to make the right decisions quickly. Find out how solutions designed to cover the entire application lifecycle will help you deliver quality software faster.
Note: This blog was first published in May 2018 and was updated for quality and accuracy in May 2023.