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8 Must-Have Tools for Your ALM Toolkit

by Kishore Bhamidipati | SAPinsider

April 1, 2010

Understand how application lifecycle management (ALM) practices apply to your SAP solution landscape. This article uncovers how to build a business case for ALM, which roles and tasks are associated with ALM, and which eight solution extensions you can implement to start your ALM journey.
 

Every IT organization wants to accelerate innovation, lower costs, and ensure the high quality of its services. Yet, each of these goals presents challenges:

  • Companies need to discover and evaluate the implications that business innovations may have on their system landscapes — and IT must work to minimize any system downtime these innovations may require.
  • Organizations are continually struggling with total cost of ownership, yet service level agreements still have to be met. This delicate balance between costs and service levels can only be achieved if IT standardizes, unifies, and automates its operations.
  • Companies need to ensure ongoing quality in terms of functionality, performance, availability, and security; the business simply depends on it.

To overcome these challenges, many organizations are adopting a strategy to efficiently manage the entire life cycle of their applications: application lifecycle management (ALM).

ALM: A Brief Background

ALM is a group of tools, processes, and methodologies used to run software solutions in a managed landscape, according to the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) standard. You can oversee the life cycle of your application or solution using a common framework with set standards that allow you to manage and maintain quality during design, implementation, and operation.

The ITIL standard adheres to six distinct phases (see Figure 1). Developers, administrators, and other users complete specific tasks throughout an application’s life cycle during the different phases (see sidebar).1

Figure 1 The six ITIL phases of ALM

Building a Business Case for ALM

IT organizations generally have a difficult time making a business case for improving software development processes. Their typical rationale, which encompasses arguments for improving efficiency or software quality, often does not resonate with C-level executives because IT has not translated its reasoning into business benefits. IT’s inability to present the business case for improving the application lifecycle process has proven to be a hurdle for ALM adoption.

To avoid this roadblock, I recommend that IT view software development stages as the business processes they really are. By positioning ALM processes as business processes, IT can incorporate the business impact of their proposals into their arguments and make commitments to track key performance indicators (KPIs) once the results enter production.

By adopting a business-process-oriented outlook, IT organizations can identify high-impact application development processes that are ripe for automation. When ALM goals are recast — for instance, by equating software development process consistency with improved predictability of business outcomes — ALM is no longer an outside enabling force but rather a part of the core business. ALM itself is then executed through business processes that span the complete application life cycle.

These ALM processes ensure the stable operation of an IT solution while enabling accelerated innovation. Optimizing these processes reduces costs (through lower software maintenance costs, for example) and ensures the highest quality of IT operations by enabling IT to identify and address problems faster.

SAP embraces ALM processes in-house and encourages its customers to consider them. To that end, SAP provides 10 best-practice processes for ALM, including Solution Documentation, Test Management, and Application Incident Management, among others, that support both projects and solutions throughout the entire life cycle.2 These best-practice processes take a holistic view of the ALM process; organizations should choose and apply them based on their specific needs.

Solution Extensions: Key Components of Your ALM Toolkit

SAP provides not only best-practice processes, but also the tools you need to adopt an ALM strategy within your organization. SAP Solution Manager is the cornerstone of these tools. This application management solution is the core SAP offering that has the features and functions necessary to assist development teams in almost every ITIL phase. For more details about SAP Solution Manager, visit www.sap.com/usa/platform/netweaver/components/solutionmanager.

To complement the ALM capabilities of SAP Solution Manager, SAP also offers targeted solution extensions (see Key Term box) that add value to IT departments across the SAP installed base. As we will see later in this article, these solutions map to the ITIL phases.

Here is a brief overview of the eight solution extensions relevant to ALM:

  • The SAP Enterprise Modeling application by IDS Scheer: This solution enables SAP customers to model their business, enterprise, and information architectures.
  • The SAP Central Process Scheduling application by Redwood: This tool can help your organization orchestrate the IT workload that modern business practices generate. You can efficiently manage multiple applications by providing a central point of control.
  • The SAP Quality Center application by HP: This tool offers a fast, easy, reliable way to test a new software application. Its comprehensive, automated, and accurate test procedures lower testing costs and ensure that your new software delivers the results you paid for.
  • The SAP LoadRunner application by HP: This solution helps you deliver high-performing business processes and execute, upgrade, and modify existing processes on time and within budget. SAP LoadRunner enables you to optimize quality, performance, and scalability of end-to-end business processes that run on SAP and non-SAP software.
  • The SAP Extended Diagnostics application by CA Wily: This solution helps customers identify bottlenecks, eliminate unplanned outages, manage service levels, optimize resources, and lower the costs associated with maintaining Web applications. It complements the capabilities of the SAP NetWeaver technology platform by monitoring Java and .NET Web applications, application servers, portals, enterprise service buses, process se rvers, and other service-oriented architecture (SOA) infrastructure components to help IT ensure that key Web applications and Web services meet business and performance goals.
  • The SAP Process Performance Management application by IDS Scheer: This solution enables process measurement, monitoring, and analysis of as-is processes.
  • The SAP User Experience Management application by Knoa: Through comprehensive reporting and metrics, this application gives you the data you need to optimize the performance of both your SAP software and the people who use it. It provides detailed reports that enable you to identify, prioritize, and take action on end-user experience and performance issues.
  • The SAP Productivity Pak application by RWD (also known as RWD uPerform): This solution can help you turn your organization into an active center of learning, consistently growing and supporting user performance. SAP Productivity Pak lets you create a collaborative partnership among end users, content authors, and training administrators.

These eight solution extensions work well with SAP Solution Manager and other SAP offerings and services, including SAP Test Acceleration and Optimization and SAP Test Data Migration Server, to enable IT organizations to derive the maximum value and return from their SAP investments.

Incorporating Solution Extensions into Your ALM Strategy

Now that you have an idea of the relevant IT tools in the solution extension portfolio, let’s look generally at how some of these applications can help you accomplish your ALM goals to accelerate innovation, operate at a lower cost, and assure quality.

For example, let’s consider the SAP Quality Center application by HP. The integration on the SAP Solution Manager side is realized via the SAP Solution Manager Adapter for SAP Quality Center by HP, which provides an interface between SAP Quality Center and SAP Solution Manager. SAP Quality Center extends the testing capabilities of SAP Solution Manager — together, the solutions achieve full integration of test people, test processes, and test data in the SAP Solution Manager application management platform.

As we saw in Figure 1, the ITIL standard defines ALM as having six phases. SAP Solution Manager and several of the solution extensions enable you to implement each of these ALM phases in your specific SAP environment.

Figure 2 maps the solution extensions to their corresponding ALM stages. As a high-level example, during the Requirements phase, a business analyst can use SAP Enterprise Modeling by IDS Scheer to define a business process, which gets translated into requirements. At the Design phase, a technical architect can use SAP Enterprise Modeling to translate the business requirements into a technical design. And at the Build and Test phase, a quality assurance engineer can use SAP Quality Center by HP and SAP LoadRunner by HP to test the application for functional accuracy and performance.

Figure 2 Solution extensions in ALM

Conclusion

As part of their application lifecycle management efforts, SAP customers can incorporate solution extensions into their ALM strategy roadmap to achieve their unique business objectives. In this article, I have identified the various solution extensions that fit into ALM in the SAP context. Look for upcoming articles on how specific solution extensions add value throughout the different ALM phases.

Kishore Bhamidipati (kishore.bhamidipati@sap.com) is an enterprise software products professional with experience defining and driving product and marketing strategy at large companies like Oracle, Mercury, and HP, as well as startups. At SAP, Kishore is responsible for defining and driving the global marketing messaging and strategy for the IT-oriented SAP solution extensions.

1 For a detailed discussion of ALM, please see “Application Lifecycle Management for Everyone: Lifecycle Topics for Developers, Development Topics for Administrators” by Karl Kessler in this April-June 2010 issue of SAPinsider. [back]

2 You can find information on these processes on SAP Community Network. [back]

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