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Should we stop using the term ALM?

by Thomas Murphy  |  December 2, 2011  |  7 Comments

For a long time, (a really long time) the term Application Life-cycle Management (ALM) has bothered me.  Why, because what we typically call ALM tools are tools that govern the development and delivery of a software project and that is only part of the life-cycle of an application.  To really be ALM you would need to talk about the portfolio of apps (APM) and the management of those assets from cradle to production to (a place more should probably get to sooner) the digital grave. 

During AADI we held a roundtable on ALM Practices and had a fairly quick conversation on this topic.  The nut of the conversation is that no-one in IT uses the term ALM.  Either SDLC (software development life-cycle) or more specific terms: requirements management, project management, defect management, etc. are used.  There is a slowly emerging convergence of APM and PPM tools with ALM and a convergence between ALM and Release Management in DevOps that at some point may deliver a real β€œALM” suite or solution set  but the reality at this point is we probably should modify our terminology to say ADLM.  I would love to get your input either here or tweet me @metamurph

Category: alm  

Thomas E. Murphy
Research Director
15 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Thomas Murphy is a research director with Gartner, where he is part of the Application Strategies and Governance group. Mr. Murphy has more than 33 years of experience in IT as a developer, product manager, technical editor and industry analyst. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Should we stop using the term ALM?

  1. Steve Denman says:

    Great topic! I agree. So, what does the ‘D’ in ADLM represent? Development or Delivery? I ask because that could be a significant difference in scope. Thanks!

  2. Matt Klassen says:

    I do agree with your analysis, and have been contemplating this topic since I invented it (this is a joke, my name is not Al Gore πŸ˜‰ ). Not to make this more complicated on purpose, but there is one facet you have left out of this discussion, the A in ALM stands for application and there is a rapidly growing segment in software that does not build applications…they build software embedded in devices. The prospective “ALM” users in this segment are not IT professionals, but engineers. It turns out their needs overlap with application developers significantly, although they do have some specific needs that go beyond typical IT development projects (SPL, Compliance, PLM Integration).

    So, should we change the A to an S? It seems that the term software covers both IT applications and software embedded in products. The D should then be for development, not delivery, IMO.

    SDLM – It has a nice ring to it and fits perfectly with SDLC.

  3. KMoraz says:

    Problem is, breaking the TLA rule is not very good for marketing… TFS sounds better than VSTS, right?

  4. Samuel Sarmento says:

    I agree about the ALM becoming practically deprecated and also the closer I’ve seen in general use is SDLC, which is way more specific.

    I’d say that in a broader scope we should contemplate the management of diverse systems life-cycle inside organizations and prior to software or even IT approach, something that is generic and catch the idea of a problem in the organization domain as a systemic solution.

  5. meera says:

    So, what are other views heard on this, are gartner reports getting modified

  6. We will have a stratification going on. In the near term we will break the TLA rule to be more cumbersome but more accurate by going to ADLM (Application Development Life-cycle Management). SDLM with the tie to SDLC or use of SDLC, we could have done SDLM but decided to make the variation from the commonly used ALM. SDLC to me is about the process not the tools.
    Now should it be Application Delivery versus Applciation Development that does make it more “open” for use in non-AD at least in the traditional sense like a package software installation but the reallity is these have a development component be it integration, customization, extension, etc.
    Could we have moved off Application afterall I may be delivering an “app” or a “service” that would just be getting too wrapped in current trends in verbiage. What about if it is software in an embedded landscape? Well the software is still an application, the delivery may be a Car or a Meter, etc. This is where you have the connection between Product Delivery and ADLM or the connection into PLM.
    That also leads to why I believe there is a need to define a broader S-PLM or Software Product Life-cycle Management strategy. The life-cycle has a begining a middle and most importantly an End. This was one of the reasons to say ALM really isn’t about the “life-cycle” of the Application but the Development Life-cycle. Once it is in production….
    This will continue to evolve but the ALM MQ this year will now be called the ADLM MQ. And we will iterate from there.


  7. While I agree with many of the observations, I disagree with the conclusions.

    As the owner of a consulting firm which provides ALM services, I promote ALM as a cradle to grave (more often conception to decomposition) view. So this includes all of the sub-domains of SDLC, RM, Ops.

    Portfolio management (an organization wide view of all applications) is related, but there is a (grey) boundary; many of the details critical to ALM do not need to be surfaced in order to perform the strategic goals of a coherent and effective enterprise view.

    Yes, the tooling started with a strong focus on development, but this is changing as ALM begins to mature. Rather than taking the position that ALM needs to be “phased out” as a term, I see us (As a community) still being on the growth part of the curve.

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