Motivated by market pressures such as the need for process improvement, regulatory compliance and web services adoption, IT organisations are increasingly turning to broader scope and more robust application lifecycle management (ALM) solutions to support software development and deployment. MKS Systems looks at the implications of investing in an enterprise-wide ALM solution.

Many companies today rely on technology as a strategic accelerator for business. Most large corporations, regardless of industry, have significant internal software development departments charged with the construction and maintenance of internal software systems.

These systems can include customer billing, point of sale transaction management or inventory management systems, and in some industries the software developed is actually embedded directly into a product such as a cell phone or car braking system. Indeed it is estimated that 70 per cent of the systems running corporations today are internally devised, developed and maintained.

The remaining 30 per cent of software used by organisations today is called 'commercial off the shelf software' and is created by independent software vendors. In every industry and every company, software is now a mission-critical part of day-to-day business operation, and information technology a vital corporate function.

Yet the IT organisation continues to lack reliable tools for decision support and visibility into new software projects and ongoing application maintenance activities. Senior IT executives seek a solution that provides them with real-time information on the status of change across their entire application portfolio, across geographic and team boundaries, and across the complete application lifecycle.

Through standardisation of tools and processes across the enterprise, CIOs can gain unprecedented visibility into the business of IT and support compliance objectives, managers and project leaders will be well-equipped to manage complexity and time to market pressures, and development teams will achieve new levels of efficiency, collaboration and productivity.

The team required to devise, develop and maintain software in the enterprise is significant in size. On average the IT group typically runs to 10 per cent of the total employee population. For a global corporation of more than 20,000 staff this constitutes a department of over 2,000 people. In addition a large organisation may have thousands of applications in active use, with many thousands of changes to those applications being made every day.

Traditionally the bulk of developers in these large organisations have operated in project or department-based groups - using desktop software tools such as Microsoft Visual SourceSafe or Serena PVCS - to build features into and make changes to individual applications. These desktop version control systems however do not typically support extensive communication or collaboration - capabilities that work hand in hand with process automation and control.

In order to achieve this higher degree of productivity, process and compliance, IT organisations are making a shift away from desktop version control, and are beginning to implement enterprise software change management systems that scale across their entire corporation, span their various computing platforms and offer enterprise-level capabilities.

To address these challenges IT organisations are increasingly turning to broader scope and more robust application lifecycle management (ALM) solutions to support the process of software development and deployment, motivated according to industry research firm IDC by the following market drivers:

  • the ongoing pressures on IT organisations to reduce spending and improve service accelerating the need for process improvement in the software development lifecycle;
  • compliance with regulatory requirements such as Basel II, the Sarbanes Oxley Act and FDA 21 CFR Part 11;
  • web services adoption, which deepens the complexity of the development process;
  • the growth of IT offshoring and outsourcing.

The decision made to invest in a standard solution for ALM across the enterprise, the selection process then turns to the capabilities of the tool itself and the pedigree of its vendor. In seeking your ALM solution it is important an enterprise buyer examines the scope of the tool.

An enterprise-level solution should offer software revision control and versioning capabilities, in addition to more sophisticated functions such as process management, change request tracking, requirements management and distributed team development support.

It is also important to review the architectural merits of the solution, including the level and depth of integration, whether the architecture is modern or dated, and aspects of architectural robustness such as scalability and performance in the hands of hundreds to thousands of developers. Finally one should examine the vendor and its:

  • expertise and experience in the market;
  • track record for innovation and customer service;
  • proven ability to serve the demanding needs of a large multi-national enterprise organisation;
  • ability to implement a solution that is easy to administer and deploy across large numbers of developers, project teams and geographic locations.

The implementation of an ALM solution within an enterprise IT organisation offers additional benefit to organisations in an environment of greater regulatory compliance rigour. In this world of heightened regulatory compliance, organisations who have previously neglected IT controls are for the first time being scrutinised and found wanting.

While it is true that most large organisations have IT processes, some have documented processes. Yet very few large organisations today can prove that their development process is followed as prescribed - a key requirement for successfully passing an IT audit. Companies have also found that manual efforts to meet compliance goals put tremendous financial and human resource pressure on the IT organisation - and may in some cases cause the delay or cancellation of other vital IT projects.

Addressing compliance on a manual level is not a sustainable or economically viable alternative. Through the implementation of an ALM solution organisations achieve new levels of productivity and visibility across their development process, and can systematise the compliance effort. Through broad-scale use of an ALM system, deployed to offshore and outsourced partners as well, they gain documented proof of the history of change to business systems - something that is inherent to the operation of the ALM product.

Evidence of successful compliance will magnify the value of the ALM system to the business, and will secure senior executive support for ALM standardisation initiatives across IT organisations.

Enterprise ALM may still be in a nascent growth stage however industry analyst firms see the wave of standardisation just around the corner. Leading analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2009, 50 per cent of large companies will have attempted to converge governance and rigorous processes for IT change management across application development and IT operations.

Gartner is urging Global 1000 companies to begin the journey today toward end-to-end IT service management by re-engineering core processes such as change management, as functional lines blur between development, IT operations, and management disciplines blend to provide CIOs with a cohesive and comprehensive view of all forms of change across their global operation.

About the author

MKS is a provider of enterprise technology management solutions for the Global 1000. MKS's solution spans the application lifecycle from requirements management through application development to server deployment, providing customers with greater visibility over software development activities, enhanced development productivity and improved IT controls for regulatory compliance.