What is ALM?

Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) is the creation and maintenance of a software application until it is no longer used. It involves multiple processes, tools, and people working together to manage every aspect of the life cycle, such as ideas, design and development, testing, production, support, and eventual redundancy.

ALM is also known as integrated application lifecycle management because various software experts, like developers, analysts, testers, and change managers, work together throughout the application life cycle. Collaboration among teams and the use of various supporting tools ensure that application development meets business goals and that the project succeeds.

Why is ALM important?

Under traditional software development, the different areas of the software development process were completely separate. Such fragmentation led to process inefficiencies, delivery delays, unexpected scope changes, and cost overruns. Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) effectively solves these problems by integrating multiple disciplines, practices, and teams under one umbrella. Working together makes it easier to create, deliver, and manage complex software.

ALM delivers several benefits throughout the lifetime of a software application.

Provides clear project direction

ALM processes and tools help development and testing teams to plan and implement their project strategy. They can estimate project requirements more accurately and better map out the application’s future. They can also make real-time decisions and adjust the plan effectively as situations change.

Increases visibility across teams

The tools and techniques used in ALM create a consistent project view for all teams. Everyone knows the work that has been done so far and the tasks that still need to be picked up. Different teams can work together to prioritize the next steps in application development. 

Improves team satisfaction

Teams communicate better and collaborate more effectively. This communication improves productivity and increases employee satisfaction and workplace engagement.

Boosts development speed and quality

When a software development team follows ALM principles, developers and testers collaborate efficiently to improve software quality. They can use automation to test source code frequently and troubleshoot coding errors early. By testing the entire code for every change, teams can deliver new software features faster and more confidently.

What are the stages of ALM?

There are five stages in an application’s lifecycle:

Application requirements gathering

In the initial stage, relevant stakeholders define what they require from the application. They analyze how the application will support them to meet their business goals and regulatory compliance requirements. Requirements management typically involves writing user stories that show how different users will interact with the application.

Application requirements gathering example

A bank is looking at building a mobile banking application. It defines two users: customers and administrators. The requirement management team identifies two user stories:

  • A customer user story that states that customers use the application to submit a request to open a new bank account. 
  • An administrator user story that states that administrators use the application to approve customer documents. 

Also, the requirement management team identifies that the application’s software system should comply with security standards that meet data privacy laws.

Application development

In the development phase, various teams work together to convert the requirements into a working application. These steps are an example:

  • Project managers estimate the time and development cost. 
  • Developers identify the design tasks and programming activities.
  • Quality analysts add review tasks and checkpoints for quality and progress checks. 

The development and testing teams also plan a timeline for their software projects. They identify any interdependencies among the requirements and decide the order in which to complete and release new features.

Application development example

The bank’s IT team makes a development plan for the mobile application. The team members identify that they need to complete the customer’s user story first, then test it thoroughly before starting on the administrator’s requirements. However, they know they have to complete both requirements before launching the new product. They code the application and release it to a beta group in two months.

Application testing 

In the software testing phase, quality analysts assess the application to verify it meets requirements. They identify and prioritize any software errors or bugs, which the software development team then fixes. Application testing and development often proceed simultaneously during the application’s lifecycle. For instance, agile development methodologies use automated testing tools to test the entire code base every time developers make a software change.

Application testing example

The bank’s quality assurance team verifies the business case of opening accounts for its mobile banking application. They find that a customer can select only a driver's license as ID proof. Since the bank also accepts passports as ID proof, they ask the development team to update the application to include this information.

Application deployment

During deployment, the developers release the application to end users. Release management also includes planning how the team deploys software changes over time. Agile development teams automate deployment to speed up the release of new features and updates. Tools and services like AWS CodeDeploy provide better deployment control and minimize errors in production.

Application deployment example

The bank’s mobile application team uses a cloud server to host the application code so that administrators can access it from a website. They also deploy the code in the app stores of popular mobile platforms so customers can download it directly.

Application maintenance

In the maintenance phase, support and development teams work together to resolve remaining bugs, plan new updates, and improve the product further. They incorporate user feedback and release new features that are relevant to customers. The teams also use tools like AWS X-Ray and AWS CloudTrail to monitor application performance and usage in the maintenance stage. Over time, as technology progresses, they might also decide to create a new application on modern systems and stop using the current one.

Application maintenance example

The bank’s IT team monitors their mobile application performance and finds that it slows down when customers upload documents. They make system changes and improve the design before releasing the next update.

What are ALM tools?

ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) tools are software that developers, analysts, and other stakeholders use for application management. They provide a standardized environment that everyone can use to communicate and collaborate. We give some common features of an integrated ALM suite below.

Project management

Most ALM tools are essentially project management tools. You can view the project status during all phases of ALM. The tools show detailed tasks and include features for estimation and project planning. 

Requirements management

An ALM tool acts as a central repository for your application user requirements. You can link the user stories along with technical and functional specifications. For instance, the application requirement for user access can have the technical requirement of password encryption.

Source code management

Many ALM tools provide options for developers to track code changes. Different developers can work on a single code base, make and combine changes, and efficiently manage the development process.

Test management

Analysts use ALM tools to write and maintain software tests for continual integration. This development approach automatically tests every code change to the application. It improves quality assurance and supports the continual delivery of new application functionality to your customers.

Additional features

ALM tools can include several other features for effective management, such as:

  • Real-time chat support
  • Project portfolio management
  • Visualization tools, such as charts and graphs

How does ALM compare with other lifecycle management methodologies?

Lifecycle is frequently used in technology to refer to the entire process of technology innovation and support. We give other similar terms below.

Software development lifecycle

The software development lifecycle (SDLC) is a systematic methodology that you can use to produce quality software cost effectively. Software development teams use the step-by-step approach of the SDLC to effectively design, develop, test, and deploy software. 

ALM vs. SDLC

SDLC describes the application development phase in greater detail. It is a part of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM). ALM includes the entire lifecycle of the application and continues beyond SDLC. ALM can have multiple SDLCs during an application’s lifecycle.

Product lifecycle management

Product lifecycle management (PLM) manages the design, production, and sale of physical products, especially in the manufacturing and engineering industries.

ALM vs. PLM

ALM primarily refers to software components, while PLM indicates the presence of some hardware, electronics, or other physical components in the product. While the underlying principles of both PLM and ALM are the same, the application of these principles differs.

For instance, the development stage of PLM includes manufacturing specifications, and the product marketing stage includes packaging design. Due to these differences, PLM has its own separate set of tools. You can adapt and set up certain ALM tools for your specific PLM.

What is application governance in ALM?

Application governance is the set of policies, procedures, and rules that organizations use to efficiently allocate resources during the application lifecycle. It helps shorten delivery times and establishes clear accountability and control throughout the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) process. Strong governance ensures that the application meets the organization's data security, regulatory, and compliance requirements. 

Application governance includes the following:

  • Data security and user access
  • Application reviews, audits, and rollbacks
  • Central management of resources
  • Performance and system monitoring

What is application governance in ALM?

Application governance is the set of policies, procedures, and rules that organizations use to efficiently allocate resources during the application lifecycle. It helps shorten delivery times and establishes clear accountability and control throughout the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) process. Strong governance ensures that the application meets the organization's data security, regulatory, and compliance requirements. 

Application governance includes the following:

  • Data security and user access
  • Application reviews, audits, and rollbacks
  • Central management of resources
  • Performance and system monitoring

How can Amazon help with your ALM?

AWS Management and Governance services support organizations so you can innovate faster and still maintain control over cost, compliance, and security. These services manage highly dynamic cloud resources at a massive scale while offering a single control plane for management. You can also use AWS Management and Governance services to assess resource use and identify ways to reduce costs.

For example, you can use these services:

  • AWS Budgets to plan cost control and budget your resources on AWS.
  • AWS Organizations to support central governance and management across AWS accounts.
  • AWS CloudFormation to model and provision your cloud infrastructure resources.

Get started with Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) by creating an AWS account today.

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