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Defining application lifecycle management (ALM) isn’t easy. Different people (and different vendors) take quite different perspectives. Still, ALM is important, and so understanding what it encompasses is also important. It’s common to equate ALM with thesoftware development lifecycle (SDLC). Yet this simple approach is too limiting; ALM is much more than just SDLC. In fact, an application’s lifecycle includes the entire time during which an organization is spending money on this asset, from the initial idea to the end of the application’s life. To be both accurate and useful, our view of application lifecycle management should take an equallybroad perspective. Anything else just isn’t right.

ALM can be divided into three distinct areas: governance, development, and operations. Figure 1 illustrates this, showing each of these three aspects on its own horizontal line.

Figure 1: ALM can be viewed as having three aspects. Like a human life, an application’s lifecycle is demarcated by significant events. Itbegins with an idea: Why don’t we build something that does this? Once the application is created, the next big event is deployment, when the application goes into production. And finally, when it no longer has business value, the application reaches end of life and is removed from service. Governance, which encompasses all of the decision making and project management for an application, extends overthis entire time. Development, the process of actually creating an application, happens first between idea and deployment. For many applications, the development process reappears again several more times in the application’s lifetime, both for upgrades and for wholly new versions. Operations, the work required to run and manage an application, typically begins shortly before deployment, thenruns continuously

Like a human life, an application’s lifecycle is demarcated by significant events.


until the application is removed from service. Each of these three areas is important, and so each is worth examining in more detail.

In ALM, the purpose of governance is to make sure the application always provides what the business needs. Figure 2 gives aclose-up view of ALM governance, providing a bit more detail on what it entails.

Figure 2: Governance extends over the entire application lifecycle. The first step in ALM governance is business case development. As Figure 2 shows, this analysis happens before the development process begins. Once the business case is approved, application development starts, and governance is now implementedthrough project portfolio management. In some organizations, this is simple: A project manager might be attached to the development team, or one of the technical people on the team might take on this role. Other organizations use a more formal approach, relying on a centralized project management office to enforce established procedures. And with some processes, such as Scrum, the development teammight not even have a formal project manager. However it’s accomplished, some kind of project management is all but unavoidable. Once the completed application is deployed, it becomes part of the organization’s portfolio of applications. An application is an asset like any other, and so the organization needs an ongoing understanding of its benefits and costs. Application portfolio management (APM)provides this, offering a way to avoid duplicating functions across different applications. APM also provides governance for the deployed application, addressing things such as when updates and larger revisions make business sense. In fact, examining the APM section of the Governance line in more detail would show that it contains business case development and project portfolio management for...
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