Enterprises juggle mixed ALM tools, survey says

More than half of all enterprises are juggling four or more application development tools and are finding it difficult to master the process of delivering software to users, according to a customer survey released by Borland on Monday.

Companies highlighted disconnected processes, lack of visibility to trace application lifecycle and poor interoperability between tools as their key pain points, the survey said.

Not surprisingly, 69 per cent said they work in a heterogeneous mix of both Java and .Net, and 44 per cent of respondents reported that they use two or more software development processes, including so-called Agile methodologies and custom approaches. Borland said it conducted the survey among 300 customers in May and June of this year. Executives were not available to comment on the results at press time.

The survey was designed to assess the state of application lifecycle management (ALM), a term used to describe the process of defining, designing, developing, testing, deploying and managing corporate software.

Borland offers its own ALM tools but earlier this year began touting a strategy called Open ALM whereby its products would work with any other platform or toolset. Microsoft has been making inroads in ALM through its Visual Studio Team Edition product line, while HP’s acquisition of Mercury Interactive Corp. last year was widely seen as a play for the ALM space.

Ellyn Winters-Robinson, vice-president of marketing with Waterloo, Ont.-based ALM vendor MKS Inc., said ALM is becoming more strategically regarded in IT organizations, moving from project-based initiatives to a more holistic program.

“It’s almost as though you needed an external force as an impetus for change,” she said, citing the Y2K bug as an early catalyst for the development of various ALM tools. “Now we have Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and Bill 198 now with Canadian companies. You’ve got to have good best practices, separation of duties, and you need to have a good process.”

A couple of years ago, San Mateo, Calif.-based Serena Software Inc. formed a consortium to work on the Application Lifecycle Framework (ALF) project through open source development platform Eclipse. Nathan Rawlins, director of product marketing, said ALF is nearing completion and Serena plans to launch a commercial product based on it that will allow universal communication between disparate ALM applications.

Although 58 per cent of those surveyed by Borland said “meeting the needs of the business/customer was a top priority, 44 per cent indicated they have trouble managing requirements. Rawlins said that wasn’t surprising.

“When you’re looking at the application lifecycle process, you’re dealing with a lot of different people in the organization that are involved, and a lot of different systems,” he said. “You need a unified approach to coordinating the activities.”

Winters-Robinson noted that most players in the market are attempting to compete by promising ALM “coverage,” which usually means acquiring point solutions rather than offering true extensibility. She pointed to Borland, which has bought itself modelling tools and other ALM pieces.

“You’re not solving the problems that way – you’re just buying them all from a single vendor,” she said. “They have an open ALM strategy because frankly they’ve never been able to integrate themselves internally.”

Nearly half of respondents to the Borland survey said they are planning to implement process improvement initiatives as their biggest ALM-related projects for the coming year, followed by integrating tools at 21 per cent and measurement initiatives at 17 per cent.

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