Fear factor: Improve ALM or suffer software failure

IDC and other experts say companies need to get their acts together on software development processes

High-profile software failures, which were in abundance last year, will push adoption of application lifecycle management in 2014, analyst firm IDC predicts.

In a recent presentation, IDC cited multiple software failures occurring in 2013 at major companies, including Nasdaq, Amazon.com, Goldman Sachs, and United Airlines. "Prior failures will spur change, and so will future failures," said IDC analyst Melinda Ballou. Public downtime of high-profile business apps will especially boost SaaS-based application life-cycle management (ALM) for cost savings, business, and speed benefits, IDC said. Also driving demand for collaborative ALM are application deployment complexity and reliance on mobile, social engagement, cloud, and big data.

Many companies cover a portion of the software life cycle but do not have a coordinated, end-to-end solution, Ballou said. "That's really problematic when you're dealing with the level of complexity that companies have to deal with right now." Problems begin with bad design, moving through to code development, then not doing proper analytics, she said.

Others in the ALM space concurred about a lack of completeness in ALM processes. "We're in a state right now where we've got pockets of very mature ALM adoption and a very connected life cycle, but most of the industry is not there yet," said Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop Technologies and developer of the Eclipse Mylyn task-focused interface. The problem-plagued HealthCare.gov rollout, for example, was an example of immaturity of large-scale software processes, he said.

Components of an ALM strategy should include project portfolio management, agile code development, testing of code, IT service desk management, application performance monitoring, and security provisions, Kersten said. He further noted that the last two are becoming more critical as data moves to the cloud.

A complete ALM process not only checks in source code, but also factors in configuration and deployment of applications, and deployments should be automated, said Laurence Sweeney, vice president of enterprise transformation at CollabNet. He cited the calamity faced by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2012, with customers unable to access accounts due to a deleted batch processing schedule. "The reality is, everyone has got an ALM process. For a lot of people, it isn't very good."

IDC concurred, saying that "shoddy ALM becomes a cost-prohibitive, competitive straightjacket in 2014." The analyst firm also advised that software quality analysis and measurement and ALM evolve with API and test management, security, and service virtualization. Agile adoption should be combined with portfolio prioritization, governance capabilities, and ALM workflow to improve management, collaboration, and business projects. User organizations, meanwhile, will face platform decisions for combining ALM capabilities in the cloud, with the junction of mobile/social apps and agile processes and speedy turnaround times presenting challenges.

The ALM prediction was part of an IDC presentation featuring other application development and deployment predictions for 2014 as well, such as HTML5 not replacing native development, enterprises "getting real about Hadoop," cloud software vendors continuing to favor DIY-run and managed hosting over IaaS, and APIs being redesigned.

This story, "Fear factor: Improve ALM or suffer software failure," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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