How to Accelerate Application Delivery with Agile ALM


The Continuous Treadmill Is Getting Faster, Are You Feeling the Heat?

If you have been in any way involved with, or in charge of enterprise applications’ lifecycle management over the past 10 years, you must have noticed the growing pressure organizations are currently under to bring back-end applications and Systems of Engagement into the DevOps lifecycle.

These applications, once synonymous with monolithic and rigid business processes, now – due to heated global competition driven by software innovation – must support a flexible anyplace, anytime (AKA, cloud-based) customer experience across platforms and screens to enable big data analytics and social technologies.

Everybody Must Get ‘Lean’

In a recent Webinar, IDC Research Director, Melinda Carol Ballou explains that in this new reality “Organizations innovate,” as they “must do more with fewer resources and efficient approaches to create timely product software, leveraging ALM.” Again, this is something you must have been feeling, as the business processes you once had to support not only multiplied but also became more dynamic and complex with a multitude of new steps and variables. For example, the process of selecting a shipping supplier, which was once strictly pertinent to pricing, now has so many dependencies, such as the result of an automated comparison of recent delivery times, customer preferences and satisfaction ratings.

Doing More, Faster, With Fewer Resources? Easier Said Than Done

But what would be the right approach to take in face of this growing complexity on one hand, and the growing demand to deliver faster, higher quality applications? Becoming ‘lean’ and ‘agile’ seems to be the new mantra for application lifecycle management. What this really means is doing more (changes, releases, testing) faster and with fewer resources. While some IT leaders are left scratching their heads and pondering how this may be achieved, Enterprise Agile Delivery is becoming less of a contradiction-in-terms and more of a bon ton.

To achieve enterprise agility, Melinda goes on to recommend the DevOps methodology, where unified, lean teams “consisting of business leadership, development, testing, deployment, and operations [are] responsible for the creation and delivery of business capabilities.” She explains that this methodology must be implemented “end-to-end, not merely encompassing release management but a continuous delivery strategy from inception through to service management and retirement.”

Below are two examples of how Enterprise Agile Delivery could be implemented; incorporating diverse stakeholders in lean teams that operate fast, thanks to full, real-time visibility and automated orchestration.

Value Stream Management – Your Secret Remedy for Portfolio Debloating

Value Stream Management or Mapping (AKA Application Portfolio Program, Project Portfolio Management, or PPM) provides the Big Picture view that sets the objective criteria for identifying, ranking, prioritizing and selecting new application and change delivery projects. PPM solutions help organizations manage IT projects and release cadences with better control.

If you are in the business of application delivery, PPM is your secret remedy against the many ailments of frequent releases and too many business requests dominating resources. To deliver strategic value to your organization, you must enact and follow a rigid and fact-based prioritization process for business requests. In theory, any program or project delay can incur costs due to the loss of business or market share to competition. However, using the right PPM solution can flash out the high-risk projects as well as the high-ROI ones.

Consider this scenario, for example, you have committed to deliver a new compliance standard, applicable to your entire Digital Transformation portfolio. A critical release KPI for this new standard is meeting 100% test coverage execution and ZERO defects.

Your PPM solution can offer actionable program-based insights on overall risk of not meeting the release calendar quality gate KPIs. It can help you identify on-time, that critical defects were found within the regression cycle. You can then pinpoint the exact project and epic owners, for a fast call-to-action.

Next, use your PPM tool to have your developers and testers respond fast, fix it and test defects, within the set timeline. If your team is out of capacity, further actions can be applied, like reallocating team members involved in other, less strategic projects, to meet the program release calendar.

To recap, a PPM solution is designed to eliminate portfolio bloat, reduce complexity, overlap and redundancy. In other words, if you’re doing PPM right, you’re definitely lean.

Release Management – Death to Meetings and White Board Planning

Going back to the compliance standard scenario and your Q-Gate Readiness KPIs, to be able to monitor release status and act on potential risks with sufficient agility, your release management practices need a cross-project, multi-dimensional risk view and mitigation plan.

Release management agility cannot be based on ad-hoc reporting. The truly agile release manager has a complete and ongoing visibility into the status of each release and every requirement’s level of risk.

Release management is about having multiple balls up in the air at all times. A release schedule is made up of projects originating from different demand streams, like incidents fixes, small enhancements and big, new product launches.  For those who still engage in whiteboard planning, this means having to schedule multiple meetings and manually dispatch multiple requirements to multiple projects and releases.

How can you meet an agile framework if you do not have business agility? With a visual aid that supports real time business “change” demand planning, you – the release manager as well as business owners and PMOs – can easily operate in a more agile mode.

Agile Release management requires a single point of truth to all change projects across the organization so that you are always up to date and can be proactive – as opposed to reactive – on where resources need to be allocated or changes need to be made.

An agile release management solution should feature easy to use, out-of-the-box progress and risk dashboards for monitoring project planning and execution status. Another key feature is a drag-and-drop project creation UI, for requirements assignment and release scheduling.

Learn in our blog How to Structure Your Release Management Process for Better IT Agility 

The Roadmap Is Clear – Where Does Your Organization Stand?

IDC expects that within the next two years, 50% of Global 1000 organizations will have a dedicated DevOps (Center of Excellence) team. The research firm has further developed a maturity scope matrix to help map organization’s readiness in terms of agile DevOps and ALM strategies. Watch our Webinar as we host IDC Research Director, Melinda Carol Ballou to find out where your organization stands in relations to this matrix and learn more of the latest strategies for agile software development, QA and testing.

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