Agile Application Lifecycle Management - A Complete Guide

The modern software development company is under constant pressure to release high quality applications in shorter time frames. In order to meet these demands, they require robust management solutions. Agile Application Lifecycle Management is proving to be the go-to approach for modern developers as it allows for quicker delivery of software while maintaining high quality standards. Already, the global demand for agile software development and testing is growing at a CAGR of 18 percent and is predicted to hit 30 billion US dollars by 2026. This increase in demand is further evidence of the effectiveness of the Agile methodology

Understanding and being able to implement  Agile Application Lifecycle Management empowers your teams to work with better flexibility and satisfy the customer at every stage.

So what’s Agile Application Lifecycle Management and how can you best utilize it in your projects? We answer these questions in the post. 

What is Agile Application Lifecycle Management? (Agile ALM)

Agile Application Lifecycle Management, or Agile ALM, is the comprehensive monitoring of an application’s entire lifecycle. It involves a set of strategies, methodologies, and tools to manage the whole agile software development process. Agile lifecycle management begins when a user requests a new application and ends when the app is no longer in use, quite literally.  

This approach encompasses agile principles to deliver successful applications. It is flexible and robust, thus offering minimal processes that focus on communication and collaborative development. 

In the Agile ALM framework, teams apply Agile principles and values to drive decisions through all phases of the project. The emphasis is on transparent collaboration and fast response to changes with the goal of delivering high quality applications within timelines.

While the waterfall ALM follows a linear management process, Agile ALM is flexible as it does not stick to a plan but instead reacts to changes. It’s fluid. 

Related: Agile vs. Traditional Project Management

The key phases of Agile Application Lifecycle Management

Agile ALM combines application development and application operation to enhance efficiency. Application development includes client requirements, app design, and development, while app operation includes testing, deployment, and review. Agile development observes and continuously monitors all the key ALM processes or phases. They include:

Phase 1: Requirements from the client

This initial ALM process involves identifying and analyzing the client's needs. These requirements are essential to understand what the client wants the application to accomplish. It also helps to determine what features the application will have. The requirements will also include compliance and governance requirements.   

The requirement phase is critical to the strategic planning of the development process. It enables the software developers to create a specification sheet clearly defining the contents and the guidelines for implementing agile ALM. 

During this phase, all stakeholders and the project managers define all the requirements and assess their feasibility. This is the phase that enables the development team to create the first mock-ups and design drafts.  

Phase 2: Designing

The designing phase involves translating the specification sheet produced in the requirements phase into functionalities. It also includes identifying and selecting suitable agile frameworks and defining the required architecture. This phase will create the first mock-ups and draft designs as defined in the requirements stage.

The design phase produces a rough and detailed concept that may also incorporate other ideas, such as software architecture, testing techniques, and release management. This phase relies heavily on understanding the client's requirements, and any missing details could result in errors. 

Phase 3: The development

The development phase involves setting up the agile environment, which includes the development and acceptance environments. It also includes implementing the application and architecture, building the software, and documentation. During the development stage, the teams must follow the agile ALM principles and use ALM tools.  

The development stage produces the installation, administration, and operational manuals. The application moves from an idea to working software. It is essential to involve all the teams to ensure that the application satisfies all the requirements. The teams will break down all requirements and create a comprehensive development plan that covers all the needs.  

Phase 4: Testing

Testing usually overlaps with the development phase. Testers prepare their testing environments, and test cases before the application is released. They test the software on both the development and integration environments and provide feedback throughout the development process.

During this phase, testers verify if the software meets all the requirements defined in the client requirements phase. They conduct integration testing and check the stakeholder expectations the application should meet in its lifecycle. All bugs and errors are reported to the software developers for corrective action before deployment. 

The product marketing team defines the quality and stability level that is good enough for application release. Once this level is reached, the testing phase is considered complete. 

Phase 5: Deployment

The application roll-out and going live take place at the deployment stage,  also known as the product-release phase. The application is basically released to the end users. This phase also involves familiarizing all users with the app and if needed, training is done.

Versioning is also vital during the deployment phase, to ensure that every application version is maintainable and that bugs can be fixed in the future.   

Phase 6: Review

The final phase, review, involves continuous monitoring, maintenance, and optimization of the product. It requires planning and releasing new updates as well as fixing bugs to enhance the product's performance. 

Review is the longest phase of the agile application lifecycle management. However, if all the previous stages were effective, the review would require the least participation of software developers. 

Another vital element of the review stage is defining an application's retirement. At the retirement point, the team must shift to a newer version or move to an entirely different application. 

Related: What is Agile Capacity Planning?

Applying the key theories of the Agile manifesto in Agile ALM 

The agile manifesto provides values and principles that are fundamental to the success of the Agile Application Lifecycle Management process. Here are the four values. 

1. Prioritize persons and interactions over processes and tools 

This value recognizes that individuals drive the agile development process and respond to user needs. It emphasizes prioritizing individuals and interactions because the team becomes less responsive if we prioritize processes and tools and allow these to drive the process. In a case where processes and tools are given priority to the disadvantage of individuals and interactions, the application will less likely meet customer needs. 

2. Focus on working software over documentation

The waterfall or traditional ALM focused on documenting app development and delivery. Software engineers spent significant amounts of time on technical requirements, specifications, prospectus, test plans, and interface design documents. Furthermore, all these documents required approvals, which led to delays. 

In contrast, Agile ALM streamlines documentation, allowing developers to spend less time on documents and more time building working software that delivers more value to the end user.

3. Collaborate with customer instead of relying entirely on the contract

Relying so much on contracts involves negotiating with the client the details of delivery and deciding points for renegotiation. In traditional models, client engagement is before and after the development process rather than during development. However, Agile ALM encourages teams to seek customer feedback during development  rather than post release. This helps to ensure that the final product meets the needs of the customer, and reduces the chances of costly and time-consuming rework after release.  

4. Respond to changes instead of just sticking to a plan

Traditional ALM avoided changes because it considered it an expense. The process involved strictly following a highly detailed plan. However, Agile ALM focuses on responding to changes, which provides additional value. 

In addition, Agile ALM also follows the 12 principles of the Agile manifesto, which ensures efficient management throughout the application’s lifecycle. These are the principles

  1. Prioritize customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Be ready to adapt to changes in requirements as given by the customer, even when they come late.
  3. Deliver products frequently and timely (few weeks to a couple of months recommended).
  4. Encourage daily collaboration among business teams and developers.
  5. Ensure employees are motivated by supporting them and trusting them to deliver.
  6. Encourage face-to-face conversations.
  7. Measure progress based on working software. 
  8. Help teams and sponsors to maintain a sustainable and consistent pace, indefinitely.
  9. Enhance agility by paying attention to good design and technical excellence.
  10. Eliminate waste.
  11. Let teams be independent through self-organization.
  12. Host regular meetings and adjust accordingly to maximize efficiency.

These principles need to be accepted internally and entrenched through the right resources including talent, tools and culture. All critical processes such as engineering will have to be perfectly aligned with ALM if you are to deliver consistent releases. This is the ultimate way to guarantee consistency across the entire application lifecycle while overcoming barriers. All parties must respect the principles and embrace ALM at individual level.

Related: Agile Governance Best Practices

Pros of Agile Application Lifecycle Management

  • Faster time to market: One of the biggest benefits of agile ALM is that it enables organizations to get their products to market faster. By breaking projects down into smaller iterations and delivering new functionality incrementally, agile teams can respond rapidly to changes in market conditions and customer needs.
  • Improved quality: Agile ALM  helps to improve the application quality. By focusing on continuous testing and feedback throughout the development process, agile teams can identify and fix defects early, before they have a chance to impact the final product.
  • Greater customer satisfaction: Because agile teams deliver new functionality incrementally, customers can begin using new features and capabilities as soon as they are available. In addition, by involving customers in the management process through activities such as user story mapping and release planning, agile teams can ensure that the final product meets their specific needs and expectations.
  • High efficiency: By automating repetitive tasks such as build management and deployments, agile teams can free up time for more important activities such as coding and Test-Driven Development (TDD).
  • Cost reduction in the long term: Because agile teams deliver new functionality incrementally, organizations can avoid the costly mistakes that are often made when trying to develop an entire product at once. With agile ALM, teams are able to respond much more promptly to changes and make timely iterations. 

Cons of Agile Application Lifecycle Management

  • Teams can feel overwhelmed: In traditional project management, the requirements are defined upfront and then the team works on implementing them. However, in agile application lifecycle management, the requirements are constantly evolving based on continuous feedback from customers and stakeholders. This forth and back means that the development team has to continuously adapt their work, which can easily lead to fatigue and burnout if not handled well. 
  • Complexity: You might often need to use a mix of different lifecycles for perfect results. This can be quite complicated and consume a lot of time. In some cases, it might be necessary to use different lifecycles for different parts of the project. For example, one part might require a more waterfall approach while another might be better suited for an agile approach.
  • Resource intensive in the early stages: You'll need to allocate a lot of resources including hiring the right people, and this might require significant investment during the initial stages in order to get things moving.

Conclusion

Evidently, Agile ALM introduces the much needed efficiency into the software development process as teams get more tasks completed in less time. The constant communication between the application teams and customers ensures sustained quality throughout the life of the application. Agile ALM makes it possible to release applications that offer the most value to clients by riding on improved collaboration, better quality control and the ability to manage changes efficiently. This explains why it’s become the default approach that is now used widely in modern software development.

If you want to sustain a modern application that will work with negligible hitches throughout its entire lifetime, then Agile ALM has no equal.

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