Orchestrated ALM: The Secret to Developing "Killer Apps"

Speed and efficiency in app development and delivery are critical to building a winning enterprise.

By David Hurwitz, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Marketing, Serena Software

No doubt about it, we live in an app-driven world and iPhones are not the only environment where apps make a difference. Today, banks service customers online and via teller machines far more than through human tellers. Airlines sell tickets, check-in customers, and promote frequent-flier loyalty through apps. Governments provide transparency and constituent services through Internet apps. These are just some business-to-consumer examples; today's uses of apps are essentially limitless.

With so many apps already in production, it would be tempting to say that app-driven innovation is mature, with little room for additional competitive advantage, but that would be wrong. The evolving mix of devices, Internet communications, and markets create a constantly shifting playing field from which new winners and losers regularly emerge.

Speed and efficiency are key to winning in this world. Those enterprises that develop and deliver apps faster and more efficiently than their competitors are guaranteed a competitive advantage, no matter how entrenched their competition may be. But how can enterprises accomplish this, and what are some of the challenges that get in the way of developing killer apps?

The solution lies in the ability to manage application demand, development, and delivery as an end-to-end business process. In simple terms, we must "orchestrate" the application life cycle management (ALM) process.

Orchestrated ALM is based on the idea of creating open lines of communication between everyone involved in the application life cycle. The goal is to help software developers work more effectively and reduce the challenges of siloed project teams working with multiple development tools and methodologies.

Why Orchestration?

According to research from Gartner's Jim Duggan (Key Issues for Application Life Cycle Management), "As teams grow larger or have to deal with larger volumes of software, siloed paper-based practices for the management of each stage of development and operations are evolving to more automated interconnected processes." This evolution to a more orchestrated approach to application development does not mean throwing out all your existing tools and solutions. Instead, companies should leverage what they already have.

To understand the need for orchestration, let's look at some of the key challenges that development organizations face today:

  • The traditional "business versus developer" argument: Although some organizations do not "get" IT or development, the number is shrinking rapidly. At the same time, developers have had to learn how to express themselves in business terms and think through how requirements are managed in more detail. This trend of the "consumerization" of IT can naturally make it easier to bridge the gap between developers and business users as they begin to speak the same language.
  • The handover between different stages of the development process: Although many businesses have invested in automating their development, few have the ability to actually connect all of the critical components of the application life cycle and bridge the gap between application development and operations. Gaining confidence in application delivery requires organizations to marry the creation of better apps with improved processes to get this software into the hands of users.
  • Manual processes are still in place: Today, developers are focusing on how applications can streamline their business services, but they are not taking advantage of this technology themselves. Release management (RM) is a prime example. Instead of automating the process so that each application is distributed properly, RM relies on either manual distribution or scripts written from scratch each time. Either way, release management makes it more likely time and effort will be wasted in the release process, and you have a greater potential for errors or botched deployments.

Orchestration in Action: Western & Southern Financial Group

Very few businesses today are able to actually connect all of the critical components of the application life cycle and bridge the gap between application development and operations. One such company working to do so is Cincinnati-based Western & Southern Financial Group, a family of diversified financial services companies providing life insurance, retirement planning, and investment products and services.

As changing business requirements and more frequent requests for new applications and updates impact developers, release management became a process problem for Western & Southern. End-to-end, process-driven application development is helping the company transform its application life cycle processes into a streamlined system -- from initial request to software deployment to the tracking of the programming hours spent on the change. Starting from a work request, Western & Southern can make updates automatically to its portfolio management system, which is tied to the actual release of software in an integrated manner. For developers, the work request becomes part of their time sheet, where they enter time spent against actual work items.

Going beyond workflow benefits, orchestration will provide Western & Southern with a high degree of business intelligence, allowing the company to collect data at every step of the life cycle and make decisions based on that data. This element is especially helpful for creating project updates and trend reports--based on real, accurate data--to senior management.

Conclusion

Killer apps don't just emerge magically from development; the most successful innovations emerge when development works closely with the business. An enterprise development organization that develops great apps by successfully and regularly collaborating with the business can still fail, however, if the app doesn't get released into production quickly or with confident precision.

Effective deployment relies on the ability to gain end-to-end connectivity between and among people, processes, and tools. This can be a complex and expensive undertaking. Compliance issues, evolving requirements, diverse platforms, and distributed development teams make it all the more challenging. Enterprises must begin to view developing and delivering applications as any other business process in order to achieve competitive advantage, and this is where orchestration really shines. By creating a "software supply chain" that involves all stakeholders, enterprises can increase efficiencies for globally distributed software and provide an end-to-end, integrated approach to software development.

David Hurwitz is senior vice president, worldwide marketing, at Serena Software. He has a quarter century of experience in the enterprise software industry, the last decade of which was in marketing. Immediately prior to joining Serena Software, Mr. Hurwitz served as vice president of corporate messaging and solutions marketing at CA, Inc., joining the company upon its 2005 acquisition of Niku Corporation (and its Niko Clarity product), where he was chief marketing officer.